Communication Theory (Critical Approaches II)


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  • Robert Craig suggests that communication should be viewed as a practical discipline; theory is developed to solve real world problems.Craig identifies seven established traditions of communication theory. Description, what questions do they ask about the process of communication, variations in field
  • Sign relation is dyadic, consisting only of a form of the sign (the signifier) and its meaning (the signified)Saussure saw this relation as being essentially arbitrary motivated only by social convention.
  • Iconic: resemble object in some way (portrait, map)Symbolic: signify through a law or arbitrary social convention. (languages are symbolic systems that use conventions to establish meaning)Indexical: signify by means of a direct relation of contiguity or causality between sign vehicle and sign object. (finger prints indexical signs of a person)
  • (portrait, a cartoon, a scale-model, onomatopoeia, metaphors, 'realistic' sounds in 'programme music', sound effects in radio drama, a dubbed film soundtrack, imitative gestures)
  • Smoke = fireTracks = vehicle
  • Semantics – How signs relate to their referents or what do signs stand for (dictionaries are semantic reference books)Syntactics –Signs are apart of larger groups of signs organised in particular ways. Syntactics is consists of rules people use to combines signs in complex waysPragmatics – How signs make a difference in people’s lives. Practical use and effects of signs and their impact on social life
  • The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis of linguistic relativity states that the structure of a culture’s language shapes what people think and do.Their theory counters the notion that languages are neutral conduits of meaning.It is through language that reality is produced, maintained, repaired, and transformed. 
  • Focuses on patterns of interaction rather than individual characteristics (socio-psychological tradition)
  • Critical tradition moves beyond the sociocultural tradition from the descriptive to the critical
  • Critical theory derives from the German Frankfurt School.The Frankfurt School rejected Karl Marx’s economic determinism, but embraced the Marxist tradition of critiquing society.Frequently align themselves with the interest of marginalised groups
  • Seeks to understand the taken for granted systems, power structures, beliefs, ideologies that dominate society, with a particular focus on whose interest are served by those power structuresInterested in uncovering oppressive social conditions and power arrangements in order to promote emancipation or freer and more fulfilling societyMake conscious attempt to fuse theory and action.
  • Who does and does not get to speak, what does and does not get said
  • Refers to group of German scholars – Max Horkheimer, Theodor AdornoAssociated with the Institute for Social Research, Frankfurt 1923
  • Cultural Studies is most often associated with postmodern variation of the critical tradition
  • Jacques Derrida, Roland Barthes, Jean Baudrillard
  • Communication Theory (Critical Approaches II)

    1. 1. TRADITIONS OF COMMUNICATION THEORY 1. Socio-psychological Tradition 2. Cybernetic Tradition 3. Rhetorical Tradition 4. Semiotic Tradition 5. Socio-cultural Tradition 6. Critical Tradition 7. Phenomenological Tradition 8. Ethical Tradition
    2. 2. SEMIOTIC TRADITION • Semiotics: The study of verbal and nonverbal signs that can stand for something else, and how their interpretation impacts society. • Words are a special kind of sign known as a symbol. • Meaning doesn’t reside in words or other symbols; meaning resides in people.
    4. 4. CHARLES SAUNDERS PIERCE ON ‘SIGNS’ Iconic Signs Indexical Symbolic
    5. 5. SYMBOLIC • A mode in which the signifier does not resemble the signified but which is fundamentally arbitrary or purely conventional • So that the relationship must be learnt
    6. 6. ICONIC • A mode in which the signifier is perceived as resembling or imitating the signified (recognizably looking, sounding, feeling, tasting or smelling like it) • Being similar in possessing some of its qualities
    7. 7. INDEXICAL • A mode in which the signifier is not arbitrary • Directly connected in some way (physically or causally) to the signified • This link can be observed or inferred • Refers to a 'genuine relation' between the 'sign' and the object which does not depend purely on 'the interpreting mind’ • The object is 'necessarily existent’ • The index is connected to its object 'as a matter of fact’
    8. 8. SAME SIGN DIFFERENT MODES Iconic Indexical Symbolic They resemble grapes They look like what they depict Point to and have a natural relationship with vineyards and wine Symbolise/signify/connot e freshness
    9. 9. VARIATION IN SEMIOTIC TRADITION • Semantics? • Syntactics? • Pragmatics?
    10. 10. SOCIOCULTURAL TRADITION • Words don’t reflect what actually exists. • Communication produces and reproduces culture. • Our understandings, meanings, norms, roles and rules are worked out interactively in communication. • Reality is not an objective set of arrangements outside us but constructed through a process of interaction in groups, communities and cultures. • Culture forms the context for action and interpretation. • Focus largely on how identities are established through interaction in social groups and cultures.
    11. 11. VARIATIONS IN SOCIOCULTURAL TRADITION 1. Symbolic Interactionism 2. Social Constructionism 3. Socio Linguistics 4. Philosophy of Language 5. Ethnography 6. Ethnomethodology
    12. 12. VARIATIONS IN SOCIOCULTURAL TRADITION SYMBOLIC INTERACTIONSIM SOCIAL CONSTRUCTIONISM • People act toward things based on the meaning those things have for them; and these meanings are derived from social interaction and modified through interpretation. • Human knowledge is constructed through social interaction • The nature of the world is less important than the language used to name, discuss and orient that world.
    13. 13. VARIATIONS IN SOCIOCULTURAL TRADITION SOCIOLINGUISTICS • People use language differently in different social and cultural groups. • Language is not a neutral vehicle. • Influences who we are as social and cultural beings. PHILOSOPHY OF LANGUAGE • Meaning of language depends on its actual use.
    14. 14. VARIATIONS IN SOCIOCULTURAL TRADITION ETHNOGRAPHY ETHNOMETHODOLOGY • Observation of how actual social groups come to build meaning through their linguistics and non-linguistic behaviours • Careful observation of microbehaviours in real situations • Looks at how, in social interactions, we manage or mesh behaviours at actual moments in time.
    15. 15. CRITICAL TRADITION • Critical theorists challenge three features of contemporary society. 1. The control of language to perpetuate power imbalances. 2. The role of mass media in dulling sensitivity to repression. 3. Blind reliance on the scientific method and uncritical acceptance of empirical findings.
    16. 16. CRITICAL TRADITION - COMMUNICATION 1. Interested in how messages reinforce oppression in society 2. Focus on discourse and texts that promote particular ideologies, establish and maintain power and subvert the interest of particular groups and classes. 3. Communication is not separated from the overall system of oppressive forces
    17. 17. VARIATIONS IN CRITICAL TRADITION 1. Marxism 2. Frankfurt School of Critical Theory 3. Postmodernism - Cultural Studies 4. Poststructuralism 5. Postcolonialism 6. Feminist Studies
    18. 18. MARXISM • Original branch of Critical Theory. • Karl Marx argued that the means of production determine the nature of society. • In capitalist systems, profit drives production, a process that ends up oppressing the labour of the working class. • Only when the working class rises up against dominant groups can the means of production be changed. • Marxist Critical Theory argues that the language of the dominant class makes it difficult for working class groups to fully understand their situation. • Work of Marxist Critical Theorists to create new forms of language that expose the dominant ideology.
    19. 19. FRANKFURT SCHOOL • Largely responsible for the label ‘Critical Theory’ • Inspired by Marxism, but the failure of the working class movements, lead many members to abandon their belief in the proletariat as the agent of change in favour of intellect and reason. • Criticised for elitism.
    20. 20. ‘POST’ CRITICAL TRADITION • Marxism & Frankfurt School fall within a modernist paradigm • Marxism - Reliance on individual as agent of social change • Frankfurt School - Reliance on reason established through science • Break with modernity – Postmodernism, Poststructuralism, Postcolonialism • Plurality and instability of meaning • Distrust of the scientific • Questioning of grand narratives
    21. 21. POSTMODERNISM • Originates in 1970s • Characterised by break with modernity and the enlightenment project • Jean-Francois Lyotard • Rejection of grand narratives • Jean Baudrillard • Separation of signs from referents • Lyotard & Baudrillard call into question traditional notions of reality
    22. 22. CULTURAL STUDIES • Originates in the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies, Birmingham, 1964 • Interested in the dominant ideologies in culture • Focus on social change from the vantage point of culture itself • Emphasis on marginalised concepts – gender, race, age, sexuality • Populist in orientation in contrast to the intellectual bias of Frankfurt School
    23. 23. POSTSTRUCTURALISM • Attributes to Jacques Derrida, 1966 • Reject modern interest in universal truths, narratives, methods and meanings by which to know the world • Rejection of universal meaning determined by structuralist constraints, conditions and unstable symbols • Advocate a historical and social approach to nature of the world and the human being • Interested in differences
    24. 24. POSTCOLONIAL THEORY • Study of all cultures affected by the imperial process from colonization to present day. • Colonising, creates ‘othering’ which is responsible for stereotypical images of non white peoples • How cultures create identities after colonization? • The use and misuse of knowledge about colonised peoples • Creative ways colonised/formerly colonised people respond to their oppression
    25. 25. FEMINIST STUDIES • From movements to secure women’s rights to efforts to end all forms of oppression • Early studies focus on the sex/gender division • Current studies question gender categories all together • See gender as an ongoing performance on a dynamic and fluid continuum. • Seek to understand ways that women and other marginalised groups are kept from full participation in the public sphere