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Communication Theory

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The purpose of this paper is to examine two theoretical approaches from communication theory. Two theories I have selected to inform the reader are Technological Determinism and Genderlect Styles Theories. To my knowledge the reader has no idea of how these two communication theories operate. I will use the knowledge from class lectures and materials such as scholarly articles and online research to inform the reader of how these two theories can be effective in their communication skills. To gain a better understanding of technological determinism and genderlect styles theories it is appropriate to include examples from my research topic of Women and Information Technology However, Women and Information Technology. I will include a description of what makes a good objective/interpretive theory and the seven communication theory traditions, as well (this material will be included at end of the paper). The aim of this paper is to provide the reader with a better understanding in the area of communication theory.

I will begin by offering the reader a brief description of what theory is. Theory: a working definition-an approach to a given phenomenon or set of phenomena that aims to: describe, explain, predict, or prescribe (Kelshaw, 2004, notes from class). Most people do not stop and think about how we communicate with each other (groups included too) and its meaning, as well. The average person views communication theories as useless, dull, boring, and insignificant in their everyday lives. Communication theory is pragmatic and is hard to describe by many scholars. However, according to the textbook, A First Look at Communication Theory, Em Griffin, (2003) "we cannot avoid using theories in our lives and theories do make our lives better (Griffin, 2003, p. 2)." Another example that describes communication theory comes from the textbook, Communication Theories: Origins * Methods * Uses, Werner J. Severin and James W. Tankard (1979). "Communication theories realistically puts into perspective the pragmatic uses to which communication theory and research can be put and the methods by which it can be applied" (Severin and Tankard, 1979). The aim of communication theory is to improve the quality of communication between humanity.

In our efforts to improve the quality of communication in society we can first take a look at the theory of technological determinism. What is the meaning of technological determinism and how does this theory improve the quality of communication between humanity? The theory of technological determinism was presented by Marshall McLuhan, director of the Center for Culture and Technology at the University of Toronto. "Marshall McLuhan, is considered by many to be the first father and leading prophet of the electronic age. A Canadian born in 1911, McLuhan became a Christian through the influence of G.K. Chesterton in 1937. He wrote his monumental work, one of twelve books and hundreds of articles, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, in 1964. The subject that would occupy most of McLuhan's career was the task of understanding the effects of technology as it related to popular culture, and how this in turn affected human beings and their relations with one another in communities" (Kappelman, 2001).

Marshall McLuhan, divided human communication inventions into four periods, a tribal age, a literate age, a print age, and an electronic age. McLuhan, recognized that we were entering the electronic age and electronic media alters the way people feel, act, and think. "According to McLuhan, the crucial inventions that changed life on this planet were the phonetic alphabet, the printing press, and the telegraph" (Griffin, 2003, p. 343). It is significant to realize in Marshall McLuhan's theory of technological determinism, inventions in technology cause cultural change. "McLuhan concluded that it is specifically changes in modes of communication that shape human existence" (Griffin, 2003, p. 343). According to McLuhan, nothing remains untouched by communication technology including our family life, the workplace, schools, health care, friendships, religious worships, recreation, and politics. Each new media invention is an extension of some human faculty. For example, "the book is an extension of the eye, the wheel is an extension of the foot, clothing is an extension of clothing, and electronic circuitry (especially the computer) is an extension of the central nervous system" (Griffin, 2003, p. 344).

Marshall McLuhan's surveyed the history of media technology and observed that we shape our tools and they in turn shape us. "While technology is often described as the most important influence upon society, it remains a subject which has undergone little study. This situation is gradually changing, however, with politicians, sociologists, industrialists and educationalists alike recognizing that technology lies at the very heart of society. Indeed, technological determinism, effectively the opposite of social determinism, is a theory which points to technology as being the force which shapes society" (John Bilton, 1996).

Another key point in this theory is the medium is the message. How something is said (and the channel through which it travels) is more important than what is said (Kelshaw, 2004, notes from class). According to McLuhan, the medium changes the person more than the message itself. In other words the same words spoken face-to-face, printed on paper, or presented on television provide three different meanings. McLuhan also believed that the medium is the massage, and the medium is the mass-age. McLuhan had fun with the play on words with this idea however; he was very serious in the meaning he applied to them. In the massage, McLuhan uses the image of a masseur giving a client a rough back rub instead of a relaxing claming one=television roughs up the viewer. In the 1960's (a period of radical changes) he changes the word to fit the times we were living in (mass-age). Simply put, oral, written, or electronic, the channel of communication changes the way society views the world (Griffin, 2003, p. 345).

A significant point in this theory is McLuhan's classification of media being either hot or cool. McLuhan explained hot media as being high-definition channels of communication and are aimed at a single sense receptor. Cool media is explained as being low-definition and drawing a person in, requiring high participation to fill in the missing holes. For example, print and photographs are considered a hot media, where as, a lecture is also hot but followed by a discussion would be considered cool media (discussion-need to fill in the blanks). By describing Marshall McLuhan's theory of technological determinism the reader has gained knowledgeable and valuable information about this theory.



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