Fifty years ago, Elihu Katz and Paul F. Lazarsfeld published the seminal work Personal Influence: The part played by people in the flow of mass communications at Columbia's Bureau for Applied Social Research.
A conference on Friday, Oct. 21, supported by the Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy (ISERP) and co-sponsored by the Columbia Sociology Department and the Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, will honor the reissuing of Personal Influence by Transaction Publishers.
"Personal Influence reports the results of a pioneering study conducted in Decatur, Illinois, validating Paul Lazarsfeld's serendipitous discovery that messages from the media may be further mediated by informal 'opinion leaders' who intercept, interpret, and diffuse what they see and hear to the personal networks in which they are embedded. This classic volume set the stage for all subsequent studies of the interaction of mass media and interpersonal influence in the making of everyday decisions in public affairs, fashion, movie-going, and consumer behavior" (Transaction Publishers).
Three interdisciplinary panels at the conference will unpack relevant historical contexts of the 1940s and 1950s, chart the book's influence on thinking and research afterward, and extend Katz and Lazarsfeld's ideas into contemporary discussions of politics, social networks, and influence. Speakers include Michael Delli Carpini, Elihu Katz, Charles Kadushin, Kurt and Gladys Lang, Michael Schudson, and Duncan Watts, among others.
The conference, Re-Reading Personal Influence: Retrospects and Prospects 50 Years Later, will be held at the Italian Academy at Columbia University, 1161 Amsterdam Avenue, on Friday, Oct. 21, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, visit http://www.iserp.columbia.edu/news/calendars/conferences/personal_influence.html.