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Communicative Decisions in Families  

Rudy C. Pett, Kristina M. Scharp, and Yueyi Fan

Families represent a central relational unit within society and a formative context of interdependence throughout one’s life. How family members individually and collectively navigate communicative decisions therefore illustrates a process offering implications for each member within a family. Although various forms and contexts of decision-making might emerge, decisions guiding how family members communicate remain inevitable. Thus, particular importance emerges in understanding the processes and considerations that guide communicative decisions in families. Some decision-making processes might remain implicit, but several communication theories and models illuminate explicit considerations guiding family members’ communicative decisions. The first set of theoretical perspectives provides insights regarding communicative decisions relevant in contexts of uncertainty. The theory of motivated information management, for example, suggests that family members must make decisions regarding how they wish to manage a lack of information and any resulting uncertainty. However, those decisions likely remain guided by how family members assess their individual (or collective) ability to obtain the desired information, as well as cope with the outcomes of obtaining new information. Relatedly, uncertainty management theory illustrates the ways that family members experiencing uncertainty likely face decisions regarding if, as well as to what extent, they wish to acquire more information related to the source of uncertainty. Communication often serves as an information-seeking behavior family members decide to either enact or avoid, depending on how interested they are in reducing their uncertainty. A second set of theoretical perspectives illustrates the decisions family members face regarding if (and how) they communicate “private” information, as well as secrets. When managing private information, communication privacy management theory outlines decisions family members likely confront related to privacy ownership, privacy control, and privacy turbulence. In terms of secrets, the revelation risk model explicates considerations guiding if (and how) individuals decide to reveal secrets to their family members. These considerations include assessments of potential risk, perceived communication efficacy, and the relational closeness between the family members. The cycle of concealment model also examines decisions to reveal secrets, but this model suggests that these decisions also consider elements such as family interaction histories and, similarly, the quality of the relationship shared between the family members. A final theoretical perspective illuminates how health contexts introduce unique considerations that might dictate if (and how) family members decide to communicate about health-related information. Specifically, the disclosure decision-making model proposes that these types of communicative decisions remain guided by more unique considerations, such as (a) the type of information to be disclosed, (b) the relationships among the family members, (c) how a family member is likely to respond to the disclosure, (d) perceived disclosure efficacy, and (e) available strategies to disclose the information. Collectively, these six theoretical perspectives provide a multifaceted understanding of the central processes and considerations that guide communicative decisions in families.

Article

Identification and Parasocial Relationships With Video Game Characters  

Arienne Ferchaud

The field of game studies rests on how video game players use their relationships with their avatars to fulfill the goals of the game. From studies on the effects of violence in video games to examinations of serious games for entertainment and/or education, all areas presume a level of connection between player and the avatar they control. This relationship is first defined by the type of play style—that is, the approach the player takes when sitting down to play. Next is the avatar—the graphical representation of the player—that will differ drastically from game to game. Based on these two individuals, one actual the other simulated, a relationship of some sort is built. This relationship can be monadic, meaning the player fully identifies with the avatar to the point that they are the same being. In contrast, it could be dyadic, in which a separation exists between player and avatar more akin to a parasocial relationship (PSR). Further, some scholars have suggested that the relationship between player and avatar exists on a continuum known as player-avatar relationships. Concepts like presence and empathy can be used to predict the strength of the relationship between player and avatar. This bond is incredibly important and can be used to predict both enjoyment of the game and cultivate story-consistent attitudes. Future research should examine more closely the nature of PSRs between avatar and player, as this context is relatively unexplored.

Article

Flow Experiences and Media  

Paula T. Wang, Kylie Woodman, and René Weber

“Flow” originated in the field of positive psychology and describes an optimal psychological state obtained when skilled individuals face challenges that leave them creatively stimulated, attentionally immersed, and flourishing. It was introduced into the communication literature at the turn of the 21st century, when media researchers began to revisit enduring questions surrounding media use, selection, and behavior. At the time, the established uses and gratifications (U&G) framework offered limited explanatory power to address newer questions arising from the emergence of interactive media such as the proliferation of video game consoles and advent of early social media. Flow has since become increasingly adopted within the field of media research as an alternate approach that addresses many of the criticisms of the U&G framework. Flow is characterized by a single key antecedent—that participants engage in an activity that maintains strict balance between task challenge and user skill. Video games in particular offer the ideal vessel for flow because they most easily fulfill the required challenge–skill balance due to their interactive and adaptable nature. Attempts to advance the development of the flow construct have faced challenges stemming from conceptual ambiguity and operational inconsistency, resulting in findings that are difficult to consolidate across studies. Despite these contentions, nascent research has been largely focused on identifying the correlates and predictors used to measure flow across new behavioral, psychophysiological, and neurological avenues. The development of more robust measures of flow will allow researchers to resolve lingering conceptual ambiguities and answer new and emerging questions, such as the length, depth, and stability of flow episodes and the role of flow in promoting problematic gaming behavior and behavioral addictions.

Article

The Knowledge Deficit Model and Science Communication  

W.J. Grant

The Knowledge Deficit Model represents a key boundary concept in the modern discussion of science communication. In essence, the model asserts an epistemic priority for science and scientific information: that scientific knowledge should be paramount in making decisions on science-related issues, that this knowledge should be communicated from scientists to audiences who do not have this knowledge, that scientists should be in control of this communication flow, that the nonscientific audiences receiving this knowledge will be grateful for this, and that they will make better decisions as a result. To state it simply, the model assumes that nonscientific audiences are in some senses empty vessels suffering from a deficit of scientific knowledge, waiting to be filled with the wisdom of science. Among science communication researchers and those concerned with the relationship between science and society, this model of communication is often considered essentially flawed, in that it affords politically problematic privileges to scientific knowledge and leaves scientists ignorant of the needs and knowledges their audiences, ignorant of the contexts in which decisions will be made, less likely to be viewed as trustworthy by those audiences, and less likely to do good science. The end result of such an approach is only likely to be a greater distrust between science and society, and flawed science. Yet despite these critiques—and a near total absence of evidence in its favor—the model perseveres. Many scientists and science organizations continue to communicate their work in a deficit model style. Understanding why it persists—and what to do about it—remains a key challenge in science communication research.

Article

Rhetorical Field Methods/Rhetorical Ethnography  

Roberta Chevrette, Jenna Hanchey, Michael Lechuga, Aaron Hess, and Michael K. Middleton

Rhetorical scholars have recently taken up rhetorical field methods, rhetorical ethnography, and other participatory methods to augment textual approaches. Following critical rhetoric, field researchers engage emplaced and embodied perspectives, thereby gaining an immediate understanding of rhetoric and its effects on audiences. Rhetorical field methods/ethnography challenge key assumptions and ethics about rhetorical research, including conceptions of text, context, the critic, the rhetor, and audiences. Although antecedent work at this intersection exists, only recently have rhetorical scholars given full attention to how fieldwork orientations and participatory approaches challenge the project of rhetoric. Rhetorical field methods/ethnography have been applied in a wide array of topic areas, including social movement research, public memory, environmental/ecological rhetoric, digital rhetoric, international contexts, and audience studies. Tensions that have arisen as a consequence of taking up participatory perspectives include whether such research engages in critical/cultural appropriation or can effectively be conducted within groups that researchers ideologically oppose. Moreover, incorporating participant perspectives, non-textual elements, and affective considerations opens rhetoric to forms of expression that span well beyond traditional, logos-centered criticism. Such a move may dilute rhetorical research by flattening expression, making nearly all elements of human life open for critical consideration. Finally, rhetorical field methods/ethnography have emerged in a larger context of disciplinary reflexivity, with many questioning rhetoric’s racist and colonial histories and legacies. To this end, we offer anti-colonial landmarks, orienting toward multidimensionality, liquidity, queering, and community, while disorienting from citizenship. These landmarks trouble rhetoric’s legacies, and invite scholars to engage more deeply with de/colonial possibilities of rhetorical fieldwork.

Article

Propaganda and Rhetoric  

John Oddo

Propaganda was first identified as a public crisis following World War I, as citizens discovered that their own governments had subjected them to deception and emotional manipulation. Today, it seems no less disturbing. Accusations swirl decrying fake news, spin, active measures, and, again, propaganda. But with nearly every accusation there is also a denial and, more important, a counteraccusation: that propaganda is merely a label applied to messages one dislikes, a slippery word that says more about the accuser’s politics than it does about supposed defects in communication. The slipperiness surrounding propaganda has fascinated scholars for over a century, as they have grappled with whether and how it can be distinguished from other kinds of rhetoric. One crucial sticking point concerns propaganda’s means of persuasion. It is commonly supposed that propaganda relies on falsity, emotion, and irrational appeals. However, adjudicating what is true and reasonable is not as clear-cut as it may seem, and much work attempts to differentiate manipulation from legitimate persuasion. Another key concern is the morality of propaganda. Some theorize that it is intrinsically wrong because it seeks its own partisan agenda. But others argue that partisanship is characteristic of all advocacy, and they wonder whether propaganda can and should be employed for worthy democratic purposes. Finally, scholars propose different models for how propaganda works. One model features a propagandist who deliberately targets a passive audience and attempts to move them for selfish ends. But other models see propaganda as a more collective activity, something that audiences pass around to each other, either purposefully or without any design. Difficult as it is to define propaganda, however, scholars do agree on two things: It is enormously powerful, and it shows no signs of slowing down.

Article

Relational Dialectics Theory  

Kristina M. Scharp

Relational dialectics theory (RDT) is a postmodern critical theory of meaning. Based on the writing of Russian philosopher, RDT attunes researchers to the ways that discourses (i.e., ideologies) compete to make meaning of particular semantic objects (e.g., identities, phenomena, processes, etc.). Of note, not all discourses hold the same amount of power. Some discourses are dominant (i.e., centripetal) whereas others are marginalized (i.e., centrifugal). RDT researchers, then, are primarily interested in exploring how these discourses, with unequal power, compete. This focus on the competition of discourses for power and the ability of RDT to call out the ideological forces that disenfranchise some groups while enfranchising others holds promise for practical applications such as debunking misconceptions and better understanding where privilege comes from and how it is perpetuated. When discourses compete, they might do so within or across a set of utterances. Utterances are turns in talk and serve as the primary unit of analysis in RDT research. Utterances, however, are not standalone entities. Rather, they are connected by different links to form an utterance chain. Some links of the utterance chain pertain to time (what has been said before and what response an utterance can anticipate) whereas the other links of the utterance chain pertain to the relationship level (some pertain to the culture at large whereas other only to an idiosyncratic relationship). Overall, discursive competition takes place across a continuum of interplay. At one end of the continuum is monologue. Monologue represents the absence of meaning. Next are discursive enactments (i.e., closure) that reinforce the dominant discourse and shut down alternatives (see entry for complete list). Diachronic separation occurs when the dominance of a discourse changes across time. Diachronic separation can take two forms: (a) spiraling inversion or (b) segmentation. Synchronic interplay is next and occurs when two discourses compete within a given utterance. When RDT researchers examine a text for synchronic interplay, they often look to see how a marginalized discourse (a) negates, (b) counters, or (c) entertains the dominant discourse. Finally, on the other end of the continuum of interplay, is dialogic transformation. Dialogic transformation occurs through either (a) discursive hybridity or (b) an aesthetic moment whereby discourses suspend their interplay to create new meanings. Conducted using RDT’s corresponding method, contrapuntal analysis, researchers using this theory work to disrupt hegemonic, taken-for-granted assumptions about how things are and call attention to voices overlooked in the past. To date, this theory has been taken up primarily by family, interpersonal, and health communication scholars, although many scholars have used this theory throughout the discipline.

Article

Relational Turbulence Theory  

Jennifer A. Theiss

Transitions are pivotal junctures in close relationships that have the potential to transform relational roles and disrupt interpersonal routines in ways that contribute to upheaval and turmoil for relationship partners. Relational turbulence theory identifies the mechanisms and processes that account for challenging relational circumstances emerging during relationship transitions. This framework was initially articulated as a model that was applied to relationships at moderate levels of intimacy when couples transition from casual to serious involvement. The model asserted that relational uncertainty and interference from partners are heightened during this transition and intensify emotional, cognitive, and behavioral reactivity to relationship events, creating a climate of turbulence in the relationship. As research on the relational turbulence model continued to evolve, scholars moved beyond transitions to intimacy within dating relationships and began to apply the model’s logic to a wide range of transitions across various types of relationships. The theorists sought to clarify and refine the theoretical mechanisms underlying the associations that had been documented in empirical tests of the model and advanced relational turbulence theory. The theory advances axioms around five core processes that occur in relationships during transitions. First, the theory proposes that relational uncertainty corresponds with biased cognitive appraisals due to its deleterious effects on message processing, and that interference and facilitation from partners are associated with emotional reactivity due to the arousal that is generated by interrupted routines. Second, the theory articulates the processes underlying associations between emotions, cognitions, and the engagement and valence of communication behavior during interpersonal episodes. Third, the theory explains how repeated interpersonal episodes marked by polarized emotions, cognitions, and communication accumulate over time and coalesce into a global sense of the relationship as turbulent. Fourth, the theory illuminates how relational turbulence affects various personal, relational, and social processes due to restricted relational construal levels and disrupted dyadic synchrony under these relationship conditions. Finally, the theory highlights the potential for reciprocal effects between features of communication episodes and the relationship mechanisms that create conditions for turbulence. The theory continues to evolve and be thoroughly tested through a variety of methods and measures.

Article

The Body in Social Interaction  

Leelo Keevallik

Communicative action can be carried out by not only verbal but also embodied means. People regularly use multimodal resources to make sense for each other. Consider a mundane activity, such as a greeting. In addition to the choice of lexical items to fit the relationship, such as “hi,” “yo,” or “good morning, Mister Smith,” extreme prosody featuring high pitch, increased loudness, and extensive lengthening on a “hi” may be necessary for your friend to feel recognized and truly appreciated. In some contexts and relationships, a handshake, a bow, or a hug may be mandatory, while the appropriate duration of those behaviors, the adequate spatial distance, and the exact positions of touch are culturally significant. Across activity settings, bodily behavior is regularly treated as meaningful by coparticipants, as it plays a role in action formation alongside the use of lexicon and grammar. Qualitatively different semiotic resources are juxtaposed so that they mutually elaborate each other and constitute actions within the locally emerging interactional sequences, as understood by the current participants. Aspects such as gaze, gesture, posture, objects, and movement are all potentially recruited to achieve social action, depending on the praxeological context. It is, for example, crucial to pay attention to a specific area in the surrounding space when someone does a pointing gesture or to adjust one’s pace when interacting on the go. We are held socially accountable for our embodied behavior, be it designed for others or not, and the body is constantly interpreted in regard to its action import. Social actions can furthermore be exclusively carried out by the bodies within their spatial, material, and praxeological settings.

Article

Queering the Study of U.S. Military Family Communication  

Erin Sahlstein Parcell and Danielle C. Romo

Military families in the United States reflect diverse family forms. They include not only “traditional” families but also single service members, women service members, dual-career couples, service member mothers, single-parent service members, service members of color, cohabitating military service members (i.e., nonmarried couples), LGB service members, and transgender service members. However, the research primarily reflects white, heterosexual, cisgender, different sexed, married couples who are able-bodied with biological children as well as postpositivist and interpretivist perspectives; trends that parallel interpersonal and family communication studies broadly speaking. Given calls for new approaches within these areas, and in particular military family communication research, scholars should consider “queering” the study of military family communication by including individuals who identify as queer but also varying the research theoretically. Studies that bring attention to different types of military families (e.g., LGBTQ+ military families) would make significant contributions to the scholarship and make these families as well as their unique experiences visible. Informed by calls for critical military studies and the critical interpersonal and family communication framework (CIFC), recommendations are offered for future queer military family communication inquiry. First, a brief history of queer families in the military as well as the current state of military family communication scholarship are presented. Next, the CIFC framework, discourse dependence, and relational dialectics theory are discussed as conceptual paths for engaging in critical military family communication studies.