Conceptual foundations: What is Communication?

September 6, 2008 at 11:00 pm (Uncategorized)

Paulina Pérez niño

5 de septiembre 2008

Universidad Ánahuac México sur

Reporte de lectura 4


                                                      What is Communication?

         In today’s society a failure of communication would be fatal due to the fact that most of the central concerns in our lives are connected to the concept of communication, it is the key to relationships and central to our everyday ideas about what makes life worth living. The study of communication started with the sophists back in the 5th century but was not established as a discipline until the 20th, the thoughts of communication now a days has different roots.

People define terms in different ways, and those differences can have a great impact in the way we understand each other, that is the reason we are in a constant search for the “right” definition of a term, but the reality is that there is not always a right way to define a concept still, that did not stop the scholars to propose some; “ The process by which an individual transmits stimuli to modify the behavior of other individuals” (Hovlad, Janice and Kelle 1953), this definition defines communication as a one-way activity that embraces mostly verbal signs used to modify another’s behavior, another one is “Communication is the procedures by which one mind can affect an other (Weaver 1949),this definition being as broad as it is, can include almost everything which makes it hard to conceptualize. I personally like the definition given by Emery, Ault and Agee in 1963 “ Communication among human beings is the art of transmitting information, ideas and attitudes from one person to another” it’s simplicity pleases me and I find it concrete, but because no one settled specifically on any of those, it is important to understand the elements of contention to get the concept of communication: 

Communication is a process, it is continuous and complex and cannot be isolated, it unfolds over time; a process does not have a beginning or an end, it is never static and all the ingredients in it constantly interact.

Communication is Transactional there for highly complex, it cannot be considered to be strictly an action because there is a reaction of an audience after being presented with a message and from an interaction perspective there will be “feed back” to consider; not only do participants influence each other, they are also influenced by the context in which they interact.

Communication is symbolic; a sign is the relationship of a signifier (a book) and a signified (the word book), it is something that signals the presence of something else. On the other hand symbols “are not proxy of their objects, but are vehicles for the conception of objects”, a symbol has not an inherent meaning However, with most symbols it exists some shared meaning between the people that interact because their symbols are developed through share experience, although there will always be gaps due to the imperfect relationship between symbols and referent, this will be smaller for those who share a culture, a generation a profession etc, these symbols can be verbal or not verbal.

In summary communication can be conceptualized as a process that is symbolic and transactional but the social nature of communication processes remains questioned, ¿Should it be conceptualized as a purely intentional behavior?

As a social activity, the act of communicating is pragmatic, we don’t jus seek to communicate but to do specific things in communicating -through communication we seek to have an impact on the people around us-

The issue on intentionality has been brought up, it has been said that you cannot not communicate, any behavior that is received counts as communication; there are verbal behaviors (intended for receivers), symptomatic behaviors (stomach growls) and analogic behaviors (intentional imitations of symptomatic’ s); which means that a wide range of consciousness is possible in communication, it appears that we will never have an undisputed definition however; this lack of a singular definition makes it important to understand the varying ways that scholars approach communication.

According to Craig, the transmission model of communicating is a process of sending and receiving messages, whereas the alternative is a model that conceptualizes communication as a constitutive process that produces and reproduces shared meaning where communication itself is the primary, constitutive social process that explains all these factors, we do not often think of communication as the creation and recreations of social realities. So Craig proposes the view of communication rather than a definition, as a metamodel where there are seven different conceptual traditions: rhetorical, semiotic, phenomenological, cybernetic, sociopsychological, sociocultural and critical. They all stand within the larger metamodel o communication as a constitutive process. These are different ways of constituting and talking about communication, the fragmentation can be seen in the way we label ourselves and talk about our selves; some divisions are defined in terms of level, some in terms of process and others in terms of contexts, we see that wide differences exist between those who look at the development of speech communication and those who consider it as the discipline that developed from sociology and social psychology.

Communication is also characterized by a high level of interdisciplinary pursuits since its development, was shaped bye very different fields such as journalism, sociology, theater etc. so all of the above leaves us with a broad terrain for challenging exploration that I consider to be wide as far as the possibilities go, to shrink that horizon would be a mistake as we would loose so mucho of the thoughts and ideas that communication can bring up.

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