Theory or Theories? Based on: R.T. Craig (1999), Communication Theory as a field, Communication Theory, n. 2, May,

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1 Theory or Theories? Based on: R.T. Craig (1999), Communication Theory as a field, Communication Theory, n. 2, May,

2 To begin. n Is it possible to identify a Theory of communication field? n There is no canon of general theory to which they all refer n ONE specific Theory doesn t exists yet 2

3 To begin. n Scholars of communication apparently neither agree nor disagree about much of anything n For the most part, they simply ignore each other n There is no consensus on communication theory as a field 3

4 Interesting research. n Anderson (1996) analyzed the contents of seven communication theory textbooks and identified 249 distinct theories 195 appeared in only one of the seven books 22% appeared in more than one book 7% were included in more than three books 4

5 Numerous disciplinary fields. n Budd and Ruben s (1972) anthology of communication highlights 24 several disciplinary fields: from anthropology to zoology 5

6 Some observations n The difficulty in building a specific communication theory is to connect with the attempt to summarize fragments of various disciplines forgetting that the whole is more than the sum of its parts 6

7 Some observations n All communication theories are relevant to a common practical lifeworld in which communication is already a richly meaningful term 7

8 One hypothesis. n The potential of communication theory can best be realized, not in a unified theory of communication but in a dialogical-dialectical disciplinary matrix 8

9 One hypothesis. n Robert T. Craig observes that a tentative reconstruction of the multidisciplinary traditions of communication theory may be proposed 9

10 One hypothesis. n Robert T. Craig identifies 7 traditional alternative vocabularies for theorizing communication as a social practice n A common awareness of certain complementarities between different types of communication theory 10

11 The 7 theories n Rhetoric n Semiotic n Phenomenology n Cybernetic n Socio-psychology n Socio-cultural n Critical 11

12 Rhetoric 12

13 Rhetoric n Littlejohn observes: The primary source of ideas on communication prior to this century, dating back to ancient times was rhetoric (1996) 13

14 Rhetoric n Having originated with the ancient Greek sophists, communication has typically been theorized as a practical art of discourse n Useful in explaining and understand notably public discourse n In the past used also to solve social exigencies 14

15 Rhetoric n Also in modern times, we all know that rhetoric is a powerful force in society n It is important to understand how rhetoric works and to cultivate our abilities as critical consumers as well as effective producers of rhetoric 15

16 Rhetoric n We know that some people are better communicators than others n Communicators: skill or wisdom? n It challenges the commonplace idea that mere words are less important than actions 16

17 Rhetoric n Problems bring into question Which places may be attributed to emotion and logic in persuasion? Is rhetoric inherently good/bad or just a neutral tool? 17

18 Rhetoric n Rhetoric can be in part connected to real problems that all of us face in our every-day life n For example: how are we swayed by the emotional appeals that pervade political and commercial advertising? 18

19 Rhetoric n In modernist thought, rhetoric has often been cast as the enemy of communication n For modernists Communication is all about reason, truth, clarity, and understanding Rhetoric is all about traditionalism, artifice, obfuscation, and manipulation 19

20 Semiotic 20

21 Semiotic n The study of signs. It has ancient roots, but can be said to have originated in the language theory of John Locke ( ) n In the semiotic tradition, communication is theorized as intersubjective mediation by signs 21

22 Semiotic n Problems of communication in the semiotic tradition are primarily problems of (re)presentation and transmission of meaning n Locke argued that we cannot take it for granted that people ordinarily understand each other 22

23 Semiotic n Semiotic seems plausible and practical when: It appeals to the commonsense beliefs that communication is easiest when we share a common language The words can mean different things to different people so miscommunication is a constant danger 23

24 Semiotic n Semiotic can seem implausible when it challenges commonplace beliefs such as: ideas exist in people s minds words have correct meanings meanings can be made explicit communication is a voluntary act we use signs and media of communication as tools to represent and share our thoughts 24

25 Phenomenology 25

26 Phenomenology n Communication is theorized as dialogue or experience of otherness n Communication theorized in this way explains the interplay of identity and the difference in authentic human relationships 26

27 Phenomenology n Communication, or dialogue, is founded on the experience of direct, unmediated contact with others n Direct contacts are essential to prevent the risk of behaviors based on non-authenticity 27

28 Phenomenology n It supports the dialogue as an ideal communication method, and underlines the inherent difficulties n Considering the gap between transmission and reception of messages, Peters argues that No distance is so great as that between two minds 28

29 Cybernetic 29

30 Cybernetic We have decided to call the entire field of control and communication theory, whether in the machine or in the animal, by the name of Cybernetics (Wiener, 1948) 30

31 Extension to diverse areas of interest n Systems and information science n Cognitive and artificial science n Functionalist social theory n Network analysis n The Batesonian school of interpersonal communication 31

32 Cybernetic n Communication in the cybernetic tradition is theorized as information processing n It explains how all kinds of complex systems, whether living or nonliving, macro or micro, are able to function, and why they often malfunction 32

33 Is Cybernetic plausible? n No, if we consider the commonsense view: it points out analogies between living and nonliving systems it challenges commonplace beliefs about the significance of consciousness and emotions 33

34 Is Cybernetic plausible? it questions our usual distinctions between mind and matter, form and content, the real and the artificial 34

35 Unquestioned positive aspect n Cybernetics points out that communication process can be enormously more complex than commonsense may be able to understand 35

36 In summary n Cybernetics cultivate a practical attitude that appreciates the complexity of communication problems and questions many of our usual differences between human and nonhuman information processing systems 36

37 Sociopsychology 37

38 Sociopsychology n Experimental social psychology theorizes communication as a process of expression, interaction, and influence or, in short, n Communication is the process by which individuals interact and influence each other 38

39 Sociopsychology n Communication may occur: face-toface 39

40 Sociopsychology n Communication may occur: one to many and many to one 40

41 Sociopsychology BUT n In all formats it involves interposed elements that mediate between individuals 41

42 Sociopsychology and Semiotic n For semiotics communication is mediated by signs and signs systems n For social psychology communication is mediated by psychological predispositions (attitudes, emotional states, personality traits, unconscious conflicts, etc.), and by the effects of social interactions 42

43 Sociopsychology, Rhetoric, Cybernetic n Sociopsychology requires rigorous experimental evidence n It criticizes Rhetoric for lacking proof that its persuasive techniques really work Cybernetics for reducing all communication to information-processing algorithms that ignore the vagaries of motivation, personality, and emotion 43

44 Sociocultural 44

45 Sociocultural theory n Communication is a symbolic process whereby reality is produced, maintained, repaired, and transformed (Carey, 1989) n Wherever activities or artifacts have symbolic values that articulate individuals into positions vis-à-vis each other or their collectivities, the communicative is present (Rothenbuhler, 1993) 45

46 Sociocultural theory n Communication in sociology and anthropology is typically theorized as a symbolic process that produces and reproduces shared sociocultural patterns 46

47 Sociocultural theory n The word reproduce suggests the reflexivity of this process that is, n Our everyday interactions with others depend heavily on preexisting, shared cultural patterns and social structures n From this point of view, our everyday interactions largely reproduce the existing socio-cultural order 47

48 A central problem of Sociocultural theory is n to find the right balance that is, n to sort out the complex relations between production and reproduction, particular local culture and universal natural law, in social life 48

49 Communication problems in the sociocultural tradition n Problems are thought of as gaps across space - sociocultural diversity and relativity time sociocultural change 49

50 Communication problems in the sociocultural tradition n Conflicts, misunderstandings, and difficulties in coordination increase when social conditions afford a scarcity of shared rituals, rules, and expectations between members 50

51 Sociocultural theory and perturbations * technological change * breakdown of traditional social orders * urbanization and mass society * bureaucratic rationalization * postmodern cultural fragmentation and globalization, etc. are disruptive/creative perturbations that produce new meanings of communication 51

52 Connections between sociocultural theory and the other communication theories n Hybrids are quite common n A relatively pure exemplars of sociocultural communication theory may be hard to come by 52

53 Some examples n Social action media theory melds a range of sociocultural, phenomenological, and semiotic perspectives n Conversation analysis has interactionist, phenomenological, and semiotic roots 53

54 Some examples n Rhetorical theory has also taken a strongly sociocultural turn in which rhetoric has quite often been conceptualized as an instrument for improving human relations 54

55 a distinct sociocultural voice n It is the voice that criticizes social psychology for its excessive individualism, and insensitivity to cultural differences classical rhetoric for its naïve assumptions semiotics for abstracting signs from the larger sociocultural context 55

56 From a lay point of view n Sociocultural theory is plausible in part because individuals are products of their social environments groups develop particular norms, rituals, and worldviews social change can be difficult and disruptive 56

57 Sociocultural theory.. n cultivates communicative practices that acknowledge cultural diversity and relativity value tolerance and understanding emphasize collective more than individual responsibility 57

58 Critical 58

59 Critical communication theory n The origins: Plato s conceptions of Socratic dialectic n This theory emphasizes a certain instability that inheres in every act of communication 59

60 Critical communication theory n Communication that involves only the transmission-reception of ritual sharing of meanings is inherently faulty, distorted, incomplete n Authentic communication occurs only in a process of discursive reflection 60

61 Critical communication theory n For this theory, the basic problem of communication in society arises from material and ideological forces that preclude or distort discursive reflection 61

62 From a lay point of view n the critical tradition is plausible when (e.g.) it appeals to commonplace beliefs about the omnipresence of injustice and conflict in society the ways in which power and domination can overcome truth and reason 62

63 Critical communication theory n Critical theory runs from Marx ideas, and is associated with new social movements n In the tradition of Marx, its point is not to understand the world, but to change it through praxis, or theoretically reflective social action 63

64 Critical communication theory n Critical theory is criticized for politicizing science and scholarship for asserting a universal normative standard for communication based on a priori ideology 64

65 Concluding reflections 65

66 n Each traditional communication theory is internally complex and open to multiple interpretations n Each of them, when magnified, displays a dialogical-dialectical field structure of multiple traditions much like a communication theory as a whole 66

67 n The field of communication theory is not a repository of absolute truth. It claims no more than to be useful. 67

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