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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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Queering Colonialisms and Empire  

Roberta Chevrette

Scholarship engaging queer theory in tandem with the study of colonialism and empire has expanded in recent years. This interdisciplinary area of research draws from queer of color theorizing and women of color feminists who made these links during queer theory’s emergence and development in social movements and within the field of women’s and gender studies. Together, queer of color, (post)colonial, transnational feminist, and Indigenous scholars and activists have highlighted the centrality of gender and sexuality to colonial, settler colonial, and imperial processes. Among the alignments of queer and (post)colonial inquiry are their emphases on social transformation through critique and resistant praxis. In the communication discipline, scholarship queering the study of colonialism and empire has emerged in critical/cultural studies, intercultural communication, rhetoric, media studies, and performance studies. Two broad thematics defining this scholarship are (a) decolonizing queerness by identifying how queer theory, LGBTQ activism, and queer globalizations have reinforced Whiteness and empire; and (b) queering decolonization by identifying how heteropatriarchal, binary, and normative systems of sex, sexuality, and gender contribute to colonial processes of past and present.


Goals, Plans, and Action Models  

Janet R. Meyer

The messages spoken in everyday conversation are influenced by participants’ goals. Interpersonal scholars have distinguished two types of goals thought to influence the wording of a message: instrumental goals (primary goals) and secondary goals. An instrumental goal is related to a speaker’s primary reason for designing the message. Instrumental goals would include goals such as to ask for a favor, seek information, apologize, give advice, or change the other person’s opinion. Secondary goals pertain to more general concerns. They include goals such as to manage one’s impression, avoid offending the hearer, and act consistently with one’s values. The ability to design a message that pursues an instrumental goal effectively while also addressing (or at least not conflicting with) relevant secondary goals is associated with greater communication competence. Considerable research has sought to explain differences in the ability to design messages that effectively address multiple goals. One such factor appears to be the extent to which a speaker can adapt the language of a message to the communication-relevant features of a specific situation or hearer. If a speaker’s primary goal is to seek a favor, relevant situation features may include the speaker’s right to ask, expected resistance, and qualities of the speaker–hearer relationship. A second behavior associated with the ability to produce multiple-goal messages is suggested by research on cognitive editing. The latter research indicates that the likelihood of producing a message that addresses relevant secondary goals will sometimes depend upon whether a speaker becomes aware, prior to speaking, that a planned message could have an unwanted outcome (e.g., the message may offend the hearer). When such outcomes are anticipated in advance, the message may be left unspoken or edited prior to speaking. The ability to produce a message that achieves a speaker’s goals may also depend on the type of planning that precedes the design of a message. The plan-based theory of strategic communication views plans as hierarchical structures that specify goals and actions at different levels of specificity. The theory holds that a person pursuing a goal first tries to retrieve from memory a preexisting plan that could be modified for the current situation. When that is not possible, speakers must formulate a novel plan. Research employing indicants of fluency suggests that formulating a novel plan (which requires changes at a higher, more abstract level of a plan) makes heavier demands on limited capacity than does modifying an existing plan at a lower level of the hierarchy (e.g., speaking more slowly). Insight into how persons plan what to say has also come from research on imagined interactions, conflict management, anticipating obstacles to compliance, and verbal disagreement tasks. In an effort to better understand the design of messages in interpersonal settings, a number of scholars have proposed models of the cognitive processes and structures thought to be involved in designing, editing, and producing such messages. Action models of this sort, which generate testable hypotheses, draw from work in artificial intelligence, cognitive models of language production, and research on social cognition. Three such models are action assembly theory, the cognitive rules model, and the implicit rules model.