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Demonstrate familiarity with the theoretical discourse in one's substantive area - What is ones

substantive area? What are the theories in ones substantive area?


Medium is the Message The medium that contains the content is just as important as or sometimes
even more important than the content itself. To elaborate on this, here is an example - We enjoy
watching movies because of the way they are presented (linear fashion). We need not do anything else
but sit, watch and enjoy. A story is presented through a movie (the medium). It is safe to say that many
people enjoy watching a story.
Now what if the story were presented on a website (another medium) as text with hyperlinks? It may be
the exact same story (with dialogue even) but the experience of its user would be so different from the
experience of a movie audience. This example illustrates that the medium may even be more important
than the message (the content). People may not enjoy a story as much if it is not in the medium that
they prefer.
The Global Village McLuhan views technology as an extension of our senses. A telephone for instance
becomes an extension of our ears and a movie becomes an extension of our eyes. Through these
electronic technologies or mediums we hear and see things that we may not be able to experience
otherwise. The world has become smaller. McLuhan writes Time has ceased, space has vanished. We
now live in a global village.
McLuhan died in 1980 way before the internet has been made available for common people. How right
was his global village concept. Now we are all connected and the world has become much smaller.
We can now see and hear what is happening on the other side of the globe whenever and wherever we
choose to do so.
Technological Determinism Technology is responsible for the development of the social structure and
cultural values of a society. Media technology shapes how people in a society think, feel, and act. It also
describes how a society moves from one technological age to another.
I think the operative word here is determinism. Technology is determined to force itself upon
people this is my very own interpretation of technological determinism. People are forced to keep
abreast of the times. For example - Not so long ago, mostly everyone engaged in business had pagers
and then the cellphones came. Most people abandoned their pagers and bought cellphones. It was
more practical to call or text people straight rather than call an operator, dictate a message and have
that operator send the message. The pager companies closed down and so everybody who wanted to be
connected had to get a cellphone.
How are the theories positioned along the seven traditions?
All three theories/concepts that are used in my area deal with mediums and technology. They are
related to each other. To simplify things I am saying that in my area, mediums and technology are
important because they have qualities that affect the content that people consume and are therefore
responsible for social and cultural developments in a society that is part of the global village.
Since these three theories/concepts are connected, I shall position them as one (McLuhan Theories)
along the seven traditions of communication.

The Rhetorical Tradition Communication as a Practical Art of Discourse


Main Idea: In the rhetorical tradition, communication is viewed as the practical art of using language in
order to hopefully move, influence, persuade or even stir other people into action. It is commonly used
by leaders that want to resolve problems or express concerns that are political in nature through a
public address rather than using other means such as force. According to this tradition, it is language or
speech that distinguished humans from other living things.
McLuhan Theories as positioned in the Rhetorical Tradition: There is disregard for the medium used in
communication. As pointed out by McLuhan, the medium can affect the content being communicated.
Public address was mentioned and perhaps this is the most effective medium as far as the rhetoric
tradition goes. However, let us not forget that there are other mediums that can also illicit change.
An example of this is the recent INC rally on EDSA that many people condemned due to the traffic it
caused. It seems the INC did not get what they wanted anyway. It was reported that there were no deals
made with the government prior to the dispersal of the crowd. An alternative medium that could have
been used are online petitions where a certain number of signatures can pave the way for change.
Semiotic Tradition Communication as Intersubjective Mediation by Signs
Main Idea: The semiotic tradition puts in focus the importance of signs and symbols and how their
meanings may be different from person to person. Meaning dwells in people and not in the signs and
symbols themselves therefore the same sign or symbol can have totally different meanings for totally
different people.
McLuhan Theories as positioned in the Semiotic Tradition: Again there is disregard for the medium that
carries these signs and symbols. An simple example to explain this is the color red. The color red can
mean different things depending on where it is. If it is on a heart in a greeting card then it could mean
love, if it is on a cross outside a building then it could mean red cross - donate blood.
In the same way, the McLuhan Theories also do not recognize that the signs and symbols carried by
various mediums may convey different messages from person to person. The red heart could leave a
person either happy or sad depending on his love life. The red cross could simply remind people to
donate blood or it could be a reminder of a death of someone in the family who used to need blood.
Phenomenological Tradition Communication as the Experience of Otherness
Main Idea: The phenomenological tradition puts emphasis on how one interprets messages based on
ones subjective experiences, perceptions, values and own understanding. The direct conscious
experience of a person and how he relates to various things in this world is important for this is how he
determines what things mean for him.
McLuhan Theories as positioned in the Phenomenological Tradition: Once again there is a disregard for
the medium and technology used to carry messages for interpretation. The McLuhan theories also do
not give importance to ones experiences, values and perceptions in the interpretation of a message.

As an example, lets us talk about text scams. Lets say you receive this message - Congratulations! You
now have a chance to win a brand new car! To join send only 20 pesos to 09221234567 to confirm your
entry. Based on experience, sending money will not result to anything because it is a scam BUT what
if the same message came out on national TV? Clearly the change in medium would change the
interpretation of the message.
Cybernetic Tradition Communication as Information Processing
Main Idea: The cybernetic tradition relates communication to a system wherein the elements interact,
influence and are interdependent on one another. In this system, the information transmitted ideally
should be what is received with minimum distortion or loss. When the information received does not
match the information sent, it is most probably due to noise, a concept introduced in Shannon and
Weavers Mathematical Model of Communication which has been described as the best way to
understand the cybernetic tradition. This noise is considered a bug in a system and the objective is to
get rid of this bug.
McLuhan Theories as positioned in the Cybernetic Tradition: The concept that elements interact and
influence each other in a system reigns true in the McLuhan theories. There are mediums that process
and interact with certain content better than others. Using my earlier example of how all pagers were
replaced by cellphones, people preferred cellphones because it enabled them to communicate directly
with others as opposed to passing through an operator (noise) to get the message sent. The bug in the
system has therefore been eliminated by moving on from the age of pagers to the age of mobile
phones.
Socio-Psychological Tradition Communication as Expression, Interaction and Influence
Main Idea: In the socio-psychological tradition, communication is seen as the process by which
individuals interact and influence one another. This process involves the psychological predispositions as
effects of social interaction whether this may be face to face or at a distance, one to one or in groups.
Here, the causes and effects of social behavior are explained and practices to control them are
cultivated in order to produce certain outcomes. This tradition is interested in studying the individual as
a social being.
McLuhan Theories as positioned in the Socio-Psychological Tradition: The McLuhan theories are
grounded in the study of media and technology while the socio-psychological tradition is grounded in
the study of individuals with focus on interpersonal interaction and influences. The McLuhan theories
disregard the fact that meaning can also be created through interpersonal interaction (among other
things). Similarly, the socio-psychological tradition disregards the fact that mediums contribute to the
meanings of certain communicated things.
For example, a text message persuading a person to join a rally may not be as powerful as asking
someone to join in person. It can be argued that interpersonal interaction/communication uses no
medium but guess again. We are forgetting how sound waves travel. They travel through mediums
(solid, liquid and gas). In this case they travel through gas (air).
Socio-Cultural Tradition Communication as (Re)Production of Social Order

Main Idea: In the socio-cultural tradition, communication is the means by which culture is passed on.
Culture and reality is produced (and reproduced), maintained, transformed and repaired as people
continue to communicate and share pre-existing cultural and social patterns. This tradition is interested
in studying ones relationship to a culture and how culture affects him. Problems arise when there is a
shortage of shared patterns between people.
McLuhan Theories as positioned in the Socio-Cultural Tradition: The fact that we are talking about
culture being passed on through communication and moving from one technological age to the next
shows that they agree with each other. A change in culture may be observed as a society moves from
one technological age to the next. Similarly as people continue to communicate using various mediums,
culture is also being passed on from one generation to the next.
Critical Tradition Communication as Discursive Reflection
Main Idea: The critical tradition seeks to study the systems, ideologies, and power structures in society
and particularly, who benefits from them. Theorists are interested in exposing oppression in order to
promote a freer society. They are interested in how control of language contributes to oppression and
imbalance of power. They believe that mass media dulls sensitivity to reflection, and reliance on
scientific method blunts critical thinking. Real communication is not merely a transmission of
information but rather it is an exchange which involves reflection and critical discourse. The goal is to be
able to articulate and question things in society that are deemed to be unjust and untrue.
McLuhan Theories as positioned in the Critical Tradition: While the critical tradition is interested in how
control of language is used and abused, media can also be used and abused. This issue of control gives
the McLuhan theories a good position in the critical tradition. The power is in the hands of those who
control the media. A very good example of this is what happened during the EDSA revolution. The
Marcoses tried to cease control of the TV and radio stations so that the opposition could not expose
what was really happening and call people to the streets. Much reflection and critical discourse about
the importance of communication and the broadcast mediums came about after this event.
References:
Craig, Robert T. (1999). Communication Theory as a Field, Communications Theory, 9(2), May 1999,
pp.119-161.
McLuhan, M. Powers, B. (1992). The Global Village: Transformations in World Life and Media in the 21st
Century
McLuhan, M. Fiore, Q. (1967). The Medium is the Massage.