John Durham Peters

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John Durham Peters (born 1958) is an American academic and the A. Craig Baird professor of Communication Studies at the University of Iowa. A media historian and social theorist, he is probably best known for his first book Speaking into the Air: A History of the Idea of Communication which traces out broad historical, philosophical, religious, cultural, legal, and technological contexts for the study of communication. He has held fellowships with the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Fulbright Foundation, and the Leverhulme Trust.

Peters grew up in Brookline, Massachusetts, pursued studies at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, and graduated with a B.A. in English from the University of Utah, where he also earned his M.A. in Speech Communication. He received a Ph.D. in Communication Theory and Research from Stanford University in 1986 before accepting a faculty appointment at the University of Iowa.

"Dialogue and dissemination"[edit]

In chapter one of Speaking Into Thin Air, Peters (1999) compares two forms of communication to find out which one is more effective. Even though dialogue tends to be viewed as the better means of communications, Peters believes that it can be cruel and destructive. Dissemination is fair because unlike dialogue it does not force individuals to understand certain ideas. The lack of interaction provided by dissemination leaves the audience to interpret meaning themselves. Peters explains that communications can be achieved even if it is one way.[1]

Selected works[edit]

  • The Marvelous Clouds: Toward a Philosophy of Elemental Media (2015)
  • Courting the Abyss: Free Speech and the Liberal Tradition (2005)
  • Canonic Texts in Media Research: Are There Any? Should There Be? How About These? With co-editors Elihu Katz, Tamar Liebes, and Avril Orloff (2003)
  • Mass Communication and American Social Thought: Key Texts, 1919-1968. With Peter Simonson (2004).
  • Speaking into the Air: A History of the Idea of Communication (1999) - Excerpt about the Dead Letters Office
  • “‘The Marketplace of Ideas’: A History of the Concept.” Toward a Political Economy of Culture: Capitalism and Communication in the Twenty-First Century. Eds. Andrew Calabrese and Colin Sparks. Boulder: Rowman and Littlefield, 2004. 65-82.
  • “Space, Time, and Communication Theory.” Canadian Journal of Communication 28 (2003): 397-411.
  • “Witnessing.” Media, Culture and Society, 23.6 (2001): 707-724.
  • “Public Journalism and Democratic Theory: Four Challenges.” The Idea of Public Journalism. Ed. Theodore L. Glasser. New York: Guilford Press, 1999. 99-117.
  • “Distrust of Representation: Habermas on the Public Sphere.” Media, Culture and Society 14.3 (1993): 441-471.
  • “Institutional Sources of Intellectual Poverty in Communication Research.” Communication Research 13.4 (1986): 527-59.


  1. ^ Peters, John Durham (1999). Speaking Into Thin Air. University Of Chicago Press. ISBN 9780226662770. 

External links[edit]