Communication Theory Framework

Theory of communication: It is helpful to examine communication and communication theory through one of the following viewpoints:
1.     Mechanistic: This view considers communication as a perfect transaction of a message from the sender to the receiver.
2.     Psychological: This view considers communication as the act of sending a message to a receiver, and the feelings and thoughts of the receiver upon interpreting the message.
3.     Social Constructionist (Symbolic Interactionist): This view considers communication to be the product of the interactants sharing and creating meaning. The Constructionist View can also be defined as, how you say something determines what the message is. The Constructionist View assumes that “truth” and “ideas” are constructed or invented through the social process of communication. Robert T. Craig saw the Constructionist View or the constitutive view as it’s called in his article, as “…an ongoing process that symbolically forms and re-forms our personal identities.” (Craig, 125). The other view of communication, the Transmission Model, sees communication as robotic and computer-like. The Transmission Model sees communication as a way of sending or receiving messages and the perfection of that. But, the Constructionist View sees communications as, “…in human life, info does not behave as simply as bits in an electronic stream. In human life, information flow is far more like an electric current running from one landmine to another” (Lanham, 7). The Constructionist View is a more realistic view of communication because it involves the interacting of human beings and the free sharing of thoughts and ideas. Daniel Chandler looks to prove that the Transmission Model is a lesser way of communicating by saying “The transmission model is not merely a gross over-simplification but a dangerously misleading representation of the nature of human communication” (Chandler, 2). Humans do not communicate simply as computers or robots so that’s why it’s essential to truly understand the Constructionist View of Communication well. We do not simply send facts and data to one another, but we take facts and data and they acquire meaning through the process of communication, or through interaction with others.
4.     Systemic: This view considers communication to be the new messages created via “through-put”, or what happens as the message is being interpreted and re-interpreted as it travels through people.
5.     Critical: This view considers communication as a source of power and oppression of individuals and social groups.
Inspection of a particular theory on this level will provide a framework on the nature of communication as seen within the confines of that theory. Theories can also be studied and organized according to the ontological, epistemological, and axiological framework imposed by the theorist.

  • Ontology essentially poses the question of what, exactly, it is the theorist is examining. One must consider the very nature of reality. The answer usually falls in one of three realms depending on whether the theorist sees the phenomena through the lens of a realist, nominalist, or social constructionist. Realist perspective views the world objectively, believing that there is a world outside of our own experience and cognitions. Nominalists see the world subjectively, claiming that everything outside of one’s cognitions is simply names and labels. Social constructionists straddle the fence between objective and subjective reality, claiming that reality is what we create together.
  • Epistemology is an examination of how the theorist studies the chosen phenomena. In studying epistemology, particularly from a positivist perspective, objective knowledge is said to be the result of a systematic look at the causal relationships of phenomena. This knowledge is usually attained through use of the scientific method. Scholars often think that empirical evidence collected in an objective manner is most likely to reflect truth in the findings. Theories of this ilk are usually created to predict a phenomenon. Subjective theory holds that understanding is based on situated knowledge, typically found using interpretative methodology such as ethnography and also interviews. Subjective theories are typically developed to explain or understand phenomena in the social world.
  • Axiology is concerned with how values inform research and theory development. Most communication theory is guided by one of three axiological approaches. The first approach recognizes that values will influence theorists' interests but suggests that those values must be set aside once actual research begins. Outside replication of research findings is particularly important in this approach to prevent individual researchers' values from contaminating their findings and interpretations. The second approach rejects the idea that values can be eliminated from any stage of theory development. Within this approach, theorists do not try to divorce their values from inquiry. Instead, they remain mindful of their values so that they understand how those values contextualize, influence or skew their findings. The third approach not only rejects the idea that values can be separated from research and theory, but rejects the idea that they should be separated. This approach is often adopted by critical theorists who believe that the role of communication theory is to identify oppression and produce social change. In this axiological approach, theorists embrace their values and work to reproduce those values in their research and theory development.
  • Contexts. Many authors and researchers divide communication by what they sometimes called "contexts" or "levels", but which more often represent institutional histories. The study of communication in the US, while occurring within departments of psychology, sociology, linguistics, and anthropology (among others), generally developed from schools of rhetoric and from schools of journalism. While many of these have become "departments of communication", they often retain their historical roots, adhering largely to theories from speech communication in the former case, and from mass media in the latter. The great divide between speech communication and mass communication becomes complicated by a number of smaller sub-areas of communication research, including intercultural and international communication, small group communication, communication technology, policy and legal studies of communication, telecommunication, and work done under a variety of other labels. Some of these departments take a largely social-scientific perspective, others tend more heavily toward the humanities, and still others gear themselves more toward production and professional preparation.
  • The Constitutive Metamodel. Another way of dividing up the communication field emphasizes the assumptions that undergird particular theories, models, and approaches. Robert T. Craig suggests that the field of communication as a whole can be understood as several different traditions who have a specific view on communication. By showing the similarities and differences between these traditions, Craig argues that the different traditions will be able to engage each other in dialogue rather than ignore each other. Craig proposes seven different traditions which are: Rhetorical: views communication as the practical art of discourse.  Semiotic: views communication as the mediation by signs. Phenomenological: communication is the experience of dialogue with others. Cybernetic: communication is the flow of information. Socio-psychological: communication is the interaction of individuals. Socio-cultural: communication is the production and reproduction of the social order. Critical: communication is the process in which all assumptions can be challenged. Craig finds each of these clearly defined against the others, and remaining cohesive approaches to describing communicative behavior. As a taxonomic aid, these labels help to organize theory by its assumptions, and help researchers to understand why some theories may seem incommensurable. While communication theorists very commonly use these two approaches, theorists decentralize the place of language and machines as communicative technologies. The idea (as argued by Vygotsky) of communication as the primary tool of a species defined by its tools remains on the outskirts of communication theory. It finds some representation in the Toronto School of communication theory (alternatively sometimes called medium theory) as represented by the work of Innis, McLuhan, and others. It seems that the ways in which individuals and groups use the technologies of communication — and in some cases are used by them — remain central to what communication researchers do. The ideas that surround this, and in particular the place of persuasion, remain constants across both the "traditions" and "levels" of communication theory. Some realms of communication and their theories: universal communication Law: Universal Theory, Dynamic-transactional Ansatz. Message production: Constructivist Theory, Action Assembly Theory. Message processing: Elaboration Likelihood Model, Inoculation theory. Discourse and interaction: Speech Acts Theory, Coordinated Management of Meaning. Developing relationships: Uncertainty Reduction Theory, Social Penetration Theory, Predicted Outcome Value Theory. Ongoing relationships: Relational Systems Theory, Relational Dialectics. Organizational: Structuration Theory, Unobtrusive and Concertive Control Theory. Small group: Functional Theory, Symbolic Convergence Theory. Media processing and effects: Social Cognitive Theory, Uses and Gratifications Theory. Media and society: Agenda Setting, Information deficit model, Spiral of silence, Symbolic Convergence Theory. Culture: Speech Codes Theory, Face-saving Theory. Making social worlds: Coordinated Management of Meaning, Symbolic Interactionism.