COM 270
Introduction to Theories of Human Communication

Lecture 1: Nature of Communication

"What we have here is failure to communicate"

I. Origin of the word "Communication"

A. Derived from two latin words: "Communis" = to have in common or to share; and "Communicare" = "to make something in common."

B. In English, the word "communication" is related to the word "community," which refers to a group of people who share things in common with each other.

C. As we will discover later when we talk about Symbolic Interactionism, schokars argue that "communication" is the foundation for "community" because "communication" is the means by which people form communities (or share things in common).


II. Three Ways Of Thinking About Communication

A. Communication as ACTION -- Communication involves the successful transmission of (interior) feelings and ideas (information) from one person to another through the use of symbols and their accompanying meaning.

Ex: "Communication" occurs when Jack sends an e-mail message to Jill, or vice versa.

The problem with the action-view of communication

B. Communication as INTERACTION -- Communication is the exchange of (interior) feelings and ideas (information) between two (or more) individuals through the use of symbols and their accompanying meaning.

Ex: "Communication" occurs if Jack sends Jill an e-mail, and Jill replies to his e-mail.

C. Communication as TRANSACTION -- Communication is the creation of shared or common understandings of (interior) feelings and ideas between two or more individuals. By this definition, communication is always imperfect because we can never truly arrive at perfectly shared or common understanding -- the best we can hope for is ostensible ("close enough") understanding.

Ex: "Communication" occurs if Jack and Jill, through their e-mail exchanges, both arrive at the shared understanding of what each person means when s/he says "I love you. "



III. Basic Properties of Communication

A. SYMBOLS: A symbol is an object, movement, sound, picture, etc. that represents something other than itself.

B. MEANINGS: Meanings are what symbols represent.

C. PRESUMED INTENTIONALITY: Before we can treat another person's behaviors as meaningful (and therefore symbolic), we must first assume that the behavior was produced consciously and deliberately.

Ex: If you are at an intersection wanting to make a left-hand turn into traffic, and you see a car approaching in the opposite lane with its right-turn indicator light have to be sure that the right-turn indicator is intentionally turned on before you can interpret the meaning of that signal.





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