Most scholars agree there are five facets or elements to communication that come together to define communication as roughly a social process in which individuals employ symbols to establish and interpret meaning in their environment. Let’s see if we can enhance our understanding of a couple of those terms!Activity
Before you tackle this discussion, please make sure you have reviewed the definitions of communicationon pages 295-299 in the Encyclopedia of Communication Theory, these divisions or contexts of communication, and the other assigned readings in this week’s learning resources.
1. Communication is “social” in that it involves people and interactions, whether face-to-face or mediated. Can you think of a few more categories for the social patterns of human communication?
2. Communication uses symbols, arbitrary labels or representations of phenomena that are sometimes concrete in that they represent an actual object, and sometimes abstract because they can represent ideas and thoughts. Explain a time when you did not understand a “symbol” — what was it, and how did you realize you did not understand what was being communicated?
3. Communication is a process that is an ongoing, dynamic, and unending occurrence. It also is complex and continually changing. Much can happen in the process; if communication were not dynamic, then compromise and resolution were not possible. Communication is irretrievable, irreversible, and unrepeatable; as such, every communication episode is unique. Describe a type of communication interaction that exemplifies how people can end up in a very different place once a discussion gets underway.
4. Meaning is what people extract from what researchers might call a communication episode. What are some examples of situations in which communication may succeed even without shared meaning?
5. The term “environment” is used by communication scholars to describe the situation or context in which communications occurs, and can include time, place, method (that is, whether the communication is mediated by technology), historical period, relationship, and the participants’ ages, genders, education, and cultural backgrounds. All of these elements influence our perspectives and perceptions. For Bob Dylan, for example, the context was the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s. What are some major contemporary media messages for which the context has changed in recent years?
As you can see, communication is both vast and highly particular; ambiguous and exact. What are some of the challenges in studying “communication”? Please use the questions above to help you formulate your response.