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Communication Theory


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Communication Theory

  1. 1. Communication Theory COMS 2901 Tara Wilkinson Media + Communication Lecturer
  2. 2. What is Communication?
  3. 3. Importance of Messages  Messages are at the core of communication study.  Communication theories deal specifically with messages.  The term text is synonymous with a message.  Communicators usually make conscious choices about a message’s form and substance.  Messages are symbolically encoded and decoded by people based on the meanings they assign.
  4. 4. Communication is a Process  Communication is an on-going relational process between two or more people, which both affects their interpretation of the messages as well as the nature of the connection between the people.
  5. 5. Communication involves Participation  Communication has an effect upon the people who receive it, provoking or eliciting a response.
  6. 6. What is Theory?  “A set of systemic hunches about the way things operate.”
  7. 7. What is Theory?  Set of hunches  If a theory is a set of hunches, it means we aren’t yet sure we     have the answer. Theories always involve an element of speculation or conjecture. A theory is not just one inspired thought or an isolated idea. A theory offers some sort of explanation. A theory offers some indication of scope.
  8. 8. What is Theory?  Informed hunches  A theorist’s hunches should be informed.  A theorist has a responsibility to check it out.  A theorist should be familiar with alternate explanations and interpretations.
  9. 9. What is Theory?  Hunches that are systematic.  A theory is an integrated system of concepts, laying out both relevant terms and their relationship to one another.  A theory ties together ideas into a unified whole.
  10. 10. Behavioural Science vs. Humanities Approach Behavioural Science  Theorists grounded in behavioral science approach communication using the scientific method. Humanities  Theorists grounded in the humanities approach communication through interpreting texts.
  11. 11. Ways of knowing Scientists  Epistemology is the study of the nature of knowledge.  Scientists assume that truth is singular.  Collectively, scientists can understand the world.  Good theories are mirrors of nature, true as long as conditions remain the same.  Interpretive scholars also seek truth, but they are more tentative about the possibility of revealing objective reality.  Truth is largely subjective; meaning is highly interpretive.  The knower cannot be separated from the known.  Multiple meanings are acceptable.  Successful interpretations are those that convince others. Reality is accessible through our senses.  Interpretive Scholars
  12. 12. Human Nature Determinism Free Will  Free will proponents maintain that human behavior is ultimately voluntary.  Interpretive scholars endorse this position.  Scientists favor this stance.  They focus on conscious choices of individuals, not on why choices are made.  They stress behavior shaped by  forces beyond our control or individual awareness. They believe that significant decisions are value laden.  As individual freedom increases, predictability of behavior decreases.  Determinists argue that heredity and environment determine behavior.  Behavior is the response to a prior stimulus.
  13. 13. The Highest Value: Objectivity or Emancipation? Social Scientists  Social scientists value objectivity; personal values should not distort human reality  Scientists seek effectiveness Interpretive Scholars  Interpretive scholars seek to expand the range of free choice; knowledge is never neutral.  Interpreters focus on participation.
  14. 14. What is the Purpose of Theory? Scientists  Scientists seek universal laws  Scientists test theories  Scientists seek prediction Interpreters  interpreters strive to interpret individual texts.  interpreters explore the web of meaning constituting human existence.  interpretive scholars strive for meaning.
  15. 15. Methods: Quantitative or Qualitative? Scientists Scientist  Scientists favor quantifiable experiments and surveys.  Through experiments, scientists seek to establish a cause-and-effect relationship by manipulating an independent variable in a tightly controlled situation in order to determine its effect on a dependent variable. Results are measured. Interpretive Scholars  Use qualitative textual analysis and ethnography.  Textual analyses describe and interpret messages.  Increasingly, textual analyses expose and publicly resist dominant social ideologies.  Through ethnography, participant- observers experience a culture's web of meaning.