The cultural view of communication

For my Principles of Media class, I read Communicating for Life by Quentin Schultze, a Professor of Communication Arts and Sciences at Calvin College. Here, I’ll reflect on a key idea that I uncovered in Schultze’s work.

In chapter 3 of Communicating for Life, Schultze explains that there are two views of communication: the transmission view and the cultural view. The transmission view involves a scientific/objectivist approach to communication.

Schultze writes, “According to the transmission perspective, the purpose of communication research is to predict what factors will determine the effect of a given message on particular persons in specific situations” (p. 50). Schultze argues that the transmission view is too simplistic: it tends to paint a picture of people as machines that automatically respond to their surroundings.

I agree with Schultze. There are times for quantitative research, but I don’t think communication can always be measured.

Schultze prefers to approach the study of communication from the cultural view, which some might describe as constructivist or subjective. “According to the cultural view,” Schultze writes, “the study of communication is the art of subjectively interpreting the meaning and significance of people’s shared cultural activities” (p. 54-55). This is the worldview through which I have studied communication, and it tends to be the view with which I agree.

I started to embrace that view under the influence of the Communication professors at my college. My own experiences with traveling and studying world cultures have led me to agree with the cultural view of communication.

I need to heed Schultze’s warning that the cultural view can slide into cultural relativism. I believe in objective truth, but I also think that, as he writes, “human beings do create versions of reality” (p. 56). With discernment and a critical mind, I can gain a more holistic understanding of how humans communicate.

Do you agree about the cultural view of communication? Do you prefer the transmission view?


24 hours without media (sort of)

Have you ever wondered what would happen if you tried to function as normal without interacting with any form of media? I tried it. It was impossible.

I participated in a 24-hour media fast last week as part of an experiment for my Principles of Media class. Here were the rules:

For 24 hours… do not engage with the media. No newspapers, books, television, radio, movies, magazines, computers. You can complete course assignments using essential media tools. Otherwise, fast!

I broke the media fast in relation to schoolwork and my on-campus jobs. I wouldn’t be able to do my jobs or complete my class assignments without email or the Internet. That showed me how dependent on media the first-world realms of education and work are.

I’m fine without social media. Sure, I scroll through Facebook and Instagram, but I didn’t feel like I was missing anything important by abstaining from social media all day.

However, I realized that I don’t normally go a day at college without using messaging apps to keep in touch with my friends and family. I was out of the loop with the people about whom I care the most. I missed out on the pictures and little messages that my family sends throughout the day. I wasn’t able to find out where my friends were unless I saw them. As part of a circle of friends with an active group chat, that was strange. I was glad that that lasted only for a day.

The media fast showed me that I use media mostly when I’m by myself. I put on music to fill the air while I’m working. I keep in touch with friends when we’re apart. I answer emails and read articles when no one else is around. I wonder how I’d be if I were to fast for more than 24 hours.

How do you think you’d do with a media fast?

This blog was made for you and me

This blog was made for you and me

Since we’re all here, I might as well tell you where I’m thinking of going with this blog. That way, everyone knows what to expect from each other, and you don’t have to question why you’re reading this.

Through this blog, I’ll explore media in a mix of abstract and practical ways.You won’t find movie reviews or links to pieces I’ve created here. Instead, you’ll find musings on the role of media in the life of a college student and in the lives of people in general. I’ll reflect on videos, articles, books, and other pieces of media that I encounter in my Principles of Media class.

These posts are in response to specific prompts from my professor. However, I’ll write them in such a way that they transcend the end of this semester and perhaps even contribute to human knowledge.

I’ll share how my thoughts about media and the media change. If my ideas change, I won’t delete my old posts. Instead, I’ll link back to them so you can see how my thoughts have progressed. Hooray for the advancement of knowledge!

Finally, I’d like this to be a conversation. But conversations aren’t one-sided! Please comment and tell me what you think. Ask questions, answer questions, and share your thoughts. Let’s do this!

What is the media?

I think of media and the media as different phenomena. To me, adding that definite article changes the meaning of “media.” I wanted to see what others thought, so I asked 15 of my friends and family, “What is the media?” You might agree with how they think of the media.

Entertainment and the media are different

Most people with whom I spoke saw the media as something separate from entertainment. They emphasized sharing news as the main purpose of the media. A friend of mine said, “I don’t think of the media as books and music. When I think of the media, I think of news and events.”

On the other hand

For some people the media and entertainment may be the same thing. One person initially mentioned the media as a source of news, but he also included social media and entertainment in his view of the media. Another person brought up social media as a new form of media, but not part of the media.

Tendency of the media to be manipulative

The majority of the people with whom I spoke emphasized the manipulative capabilities of the media. Some people were particularly vocal about the one-sided nature of large news organizations with political agendas.

Some friends said that people can use the media in good ways, such as sharing the stories of traditionally underrepresented people. However, people should be aware of biases. One friend said, “Use discernment about who’s producing your sources and pay attention to what their sources are.”

My parents spoke about how the media used to be versus how it is now. My mom said, “When I grew up, everybody took the media to be the authority on the truth. Nowadays, it’s not like I feel like the media has lost all credibility, but I think it can be manipulative when it wants to be.” My dad called the modern media “an avalanche of TV, radio, newspapers, and blogs.”

How I view the media

I think of media as anything that people use to communicate with each other. However, I think of the media as sources of news, usually with a negative connotation. Do you differentiate between media and the media?