50 Years of Communication in Wageningen

In 2014 we celebrated 50 years of Communication Science in Wageningen. It all started at September 15th 1964 when Anne van den Ban was appointed as the first chairholder Agricultural Extension, 'Voorlichtingskunde' in Dutch.

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Anne and his group studied adoption and diffusion processes. They studied why and how people would adopt the innovations that were developed by technology experts in Wageningen and elsewhere. Insight was needed in what would influence decision-making. Understanding the role of communication therein, Anne van den Ban argued, requires integrated insights from many disciplines, including sociology, social psychology, communication science, innovation studies, didactics and marketing studies. This inter-disciplinary approach is still  characteristic for the Wageningen Communication Sciences.

In 1992 the name of the group was changed into Communication and Innovation Studies, emphasizing an interactional, inter-disciplinary and life science issue related approach to communication.

In the early nineties the group started to take into account that the informal social networks people are part of, have a major influence on the decisions people take. The focus on discursive strategies that people use in their conversations in order to pursue certain aspirations, including the effects of these, typically  became  an important  theme that since then has been extensively studied in Wageningen.

As a result of a growing popularity of the Wageningen communication our courses and an expansion of communication research the group had grown considerably and therefore extended with another chair.  Cees Leeuwis took over the Communication and Innovation chair and Cees van Woerkum started the Communication Strategies group.

In line with societal developments also the domain of study has gradually expanded. In addition to agricultural settings, communication was studied in relation to natural resource management, food, nutrition and health issues, biotechnology and climate change. 

The last big change took place two years ago. Both communication groups became part of the new section Communication, Philosophy and Technology, consisting of three chair-groups: Strategic Communication headed by Peter Feindt, Philosophy, headed by Marcel Verweij and Knowledge, Technology and Innovation, headed by Cees Leeuwis.

The uniting ambition of this new alliance is to combine new approaches to communication, ethical deliberation and research into the implications of technology and innovation, for a better understanding of the relations between life sciences and societal change.

This is what Wageningen Communication Sciences is about today, studying communication processes from an interdisciplinary and interactional perspective, focussing on innovation and change for improving the quality of life.