Sunday, March 2, 2014

Thinking about Thinking

Don't turn your head away quite yet! Though I would not be ashamed if it were, this is not just another post about feminism or feminist theory.

It's more than that. This video gets you thinking about the world around you. It stimulates though about how we act, who has power, the things we do. In that same way the video makes you awake to what's happening in the world; so does communication theory.

Communication theory serves the purpose of describing and predicting human behavior; in organizations, education, health, mass, interpersonal. Life is a lot better when you have some clue of what's going on.

In the final blog post for this class, we were asked:

In your opinion, do these theories actually perform the task they are said to perform? Basically, as a whole, do you believe that these theories are an actual useful tool to understand human behavior? Why/why not?

The first thing I would say is, yes I absolutely believe this. If I didn't, how could I be a comm major?

I do think that humans are very surprising creatures. Every instinct could tell us to do something, yet people constantly go against that. There is no perfect way to predict what people are going to do. But, communication theory sure gives you a good chance of guessing.

Take the social exchange theory, it describes the way that we calculate pure relationships with others. Or, take for example, agenda setting theory. It shows the way that the media and people both influence the direction of society (something very important to note in relation to our video post above).

With each of these theories, you peel away another layer to be able look into people. These theories fulfill their purpose in trying to explain and describe. Each may work in its own particular circumstance or situation and for that, they are useful.

We were asked another question:

Is there any kind of practical value to these theories? Basically, do you believe that the world would be a better place if these theories were taught to a much broader audience? Why/why not? 

My answer is once again yes, they do have practical value. If you remember my first post for this particular class, I described what comm majors do. They are able to help understand people and their communication so that they can try and better the world. I believe if more people understood the world in this way and were able to critique it, that we would all be in a much better place.

Some of the more specific theories may not be enough to change the masses. But, major theories I think are important to share with others. It helps to understand people on a different level, it could change conflict resolution and even business.

You never going to regret educating yourself and learning more about the way people function. It only will help us all.

So yes, to everything we were asked! Comm theory rocks.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Online Romeo

If you didn't already get this from the trailer, this TV show "Catfish", is about people trying to figure out if their online love is actually who they say they are.

Online love?! This wouldn't have been said 20 years ago, but in this day and age, their are countless couples that are developing relationships just from chatting over the internet. Just look at all the sites meant for online dating. They range from the general (Eharmony) to the specific (Farmers Only).

Do these relationships, Computer Mediated Relationships as they are often called, share the same intimacy as relationships that develop face to face? That was the question that we were asked. The following is my answer (Warning: please don't hate me if you have an online relationship)

We can answer this question in terms of Social Information Processing Theory. This theory details the development of online relationships. There are a few assumptions that I think both explain this theory and explain my own answer.

Now let me first say, if you have an online relationship and it's working for you, go for it. Who am I to judge, I've never been in one. This is just my own opinion.

Anyways, here they are:
1. It provides unique opportunities to interact with people.
2. You are more likely to develop a favorable impression of yourself.
3. They require more time and more interactions to become intimate.

As far as the first assumption, it totally is a good way to meet people. But, that's exactly it, meet people. I think that eventually you need the connection of sharing a personal space.

The second assumption, you are more likely to develop a favorable few. Yes, this is totally true. And sure, even in face to face dating, you tend to put on a front till you get to know someone. But I think that it is our flaws and the quirks that make someone know the real us and like those things, I don't believe you can learn that from someone that can calculate their answers. It works with the picture above!

The third assumption, they require more to develop intimately. While it may be easy to reveal more behind the screen, that is not the only sign of intimacy. After a while, there will need to be more forms of intimacy.

You could look at this a totally different way. There is even something called hyperpersonal perspective which suggest that online relationships can become even more intimate than those that are face-to-face. 

And there is no reason that couldn't be true, but you need to eventually move it to a face to face interaction. You need to see the person, get feedback, be vulnerable and not think through every move. 

I would always be worried personally about warranting. A part of this theory that says, "the perceived legitimacy and validity of information about another person that one may receive or observe online". 

Now, it may not always be cat-fishing situation, but when people can calculate their answers, the information doesn't always reveal itself in the way it should be. 

I don't want to seem like a devils advocate, I think that all relationships are unique but as far as relationships becoming intimate, I think that we are wired to want to be with someone face to face.

But who knows?! Maybe I'll look back at this post years from now and wonder how I could think this way.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

No... I'm sorry to tell you that this post has little to do with Beyonce. She's just there to get you to click the link! Also, she is totally the fiercest person on the planet so she had to make it on a blogpost.

But really, click the link! That has a little more to do with the post that you're about to read. 
                ....and yes, it does have to do work #sorry.

So let me get to the point, we're going to talk about Organizational Culture Theory. In addition to hearing all about this theory, you also get to hear about my work life (yay you!).

I've been working as part of International Services for close to a year and I am very lucky to do so.

My work is considered an organization and thus it has some basic assumptions we can follow according to this theory. 

1. The people in the organization create and maintain a shared sense of organizational reality, making it easier for them to understand the values of the organization.

2. The use of interpretation of symbols is super important to understanding the organizations culture.
(more on this below!)

3. Each organization has their own and unique culture and interpretations within these cultures can vary.

So these symbols we mentioned are important to the organization. They define the culture and help understand it as a whole.

Ill give you an example of each and compare it to my own work culture. 

Physical symbol- includes such things as building/decor and dress. The dress of our work is on the casual side. Most of the full-time employees wear business casual, while the student workers can more informal styles. I personally wear yoga pants 4/5 days! This makes the office as a whole more approachable and relaxed.

There are also behavioral symbols- ceremonies/rituals/customs. This is like when someone leaves or office, they always get their own lunch to say goodbye. Usual fit with ice cream! 

Verbal symbols- jokes/names/metaphors. My favorite student worker is called Simon (his name is Trevor) because his sassy nature reminds us of Simon Cowell.

In addition, one big part of the office culture is performance. West and Turner (class text, check citation below) suggest that this is "a metaphor that suggest a symbolic process of understanding human behavior in an organization". 

These performances can include rituals which mean they are performances that are regular and reoccurring. Such as personal, task, social, and organizational. Other performances are passion, social, political and enculturation. Obviously you don't want to read about all of them so let's go through a few and you'll get an idea of how they operate!

Social performances- these show cooperation and politeness. My personal job entails mostly individual work on the computer. I'm in an area most people don't pass. But, if anyone walks by, it can be guaranteed that both of us will wave hello and say general greetings.

Then there are passion performances, stories that we tell. Every time we come back from checking immigration documents of 1000 students, you can guarantee that we will have stories to share.

Working on the computer makes a lot of my work checking different programs and emails. Making some of these personal rituals. My boss and I often participate in task rituals together, going to Immigration Check ins, Visa checks and other projects.

My job as you can see, is a more approachable and casual environment, as far as a student worker goes. These rituals and performances and symbols all help to dictate that and dictate the culture of the organization. 

I'm sure you're about done hearing about my own job. But, if you want to learn more about these rituals and performances, check them out for yourself. I bet that they can apply to your own organization or work!

Credit to Richard West and Lynn H. Turner for their book "Introducing Communication Theory: Analysis and Application" for helping me out with the assumptions and quotes! 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

I am a Feminist. Don't be Afraid.

Let me please introduce you to Liz.

Liz Lemon is a character on the tv show 30 Rock. As her boss describes her, she is a feminist. 

Does that scare you?! Because most people are afraid of feminism(ists). Most (not all) people still believe that feminists are men-hating, bra-burning, no shaving, yelling monsters. 

Be honest, this is probably what you thought of.

Yes, feminists tend to be outspoken. But, to me, it is what the theory and practice of feminism needs. 

We were posed a series of questions about Feminist Standpoint Theory in our class. The first was this to analyze the following statement.

Dominant groups in society have little motivation to understand non dominant group.
I believe that in accordance with the Feminist Standpoint Theory (FST) that this would be true. Let me explain why.
There are five assumptions in FST are assumptions that they believe dictate the way the world works. I will try and explain them in basic terms, so both you and I are on the same page.
1. Having social classes makes it hard to understand how people interact.

2. When the classes (groups) are different, they will believe the others lives are opposite of their own. Trying to understand the dominant group can be negative and often not the whole story.

3. Whatever the dominant group believes, the rest of society is expected to follow.

4. The lesser of the groups have a vision that represents struggle and achievement.

5. Understanding the lesser group can open your eyes to the inequality and can help us create a better world.

Doesn't seem too complicated, right?! Yet, I believe it almost perfectly answers the question we were first asked.

The dominant group are living in the world that they want. They create it, while everyone else just lives in it. Often, their motivation for understanding, would come from a selfish standpoint of trying to improve their own world.

Otherwise, what motivation would the dominant group have? Now, this is making some large assumptions. But, unless they have some underlying drive or passion for the lives of others, they wouldn't have a reason to understand the other groups.

Even though this statement is true, it is what Feminists are trying to fight against. Another major part of FST is that knowledge we gain, is mostly produced by our place in society. We walk and talk like those around us.

The dominant group is talking in their own way, their communication is different. But, understanding how others communicate can be monumental. It can change our world and as feminists believe, it can change it for the better.

There was one last question we were asked...

Does this statement lead to the common belief that feminism is inextricably linked to activism?
My answer is yes, and I believe that other feminists would feel the same (yes, I just admitted to being a feminist). It may not be activism in the protesting, yelling and chaining yourself to buildings way. But activism in making a concentrated effort to have people understand your world and in turn, understanding theirs.
The dominant group may have little motivation to understand the lesser, but that doesn't mean that the war is loss. Make the subordinate group the dominant one.
Be a Liz Lemon, don't be ashamed. 

Credit to Richard West and Lynn H. Turner for their book "Introducing Communication Theory: Analysis and Application" for helping me out with the assumptions.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Let me take a minute, just sit right there.

No, I'm not the Fresh Prince. 

But, if you let me take a minute (and just sit right there) I will re-introduce myself. 

If you have read my blog before, you already know my style and if you scroll down to my first post, you can learn more about me. 

But if you need a quick refresher, here are the basics:

Senior studying Communication with a minor in Public Health.
I work at International Programs on Campus.
My family is my number one, always.
I have an insane desire to travel the world.
I can't live without sushi.
I like to laugh.
and Elephants are practically the reason for my existence. 

But anyways, let's get back to some COMM (aka Communication). I am enrolled in a new course and in our first assignment, we were posed the question, "What does it mean to be a communication major?"

Well, let's start with this.

I think that this basically sums it up! (Not really)

To me, being a Communication student, is to observe and dissect human interaction in hopes of mastering techniques of language that can help you to solve issues.

In other terms, I believe that many of the problems that we face in the world are because we A) aren't communicating or b) aren't communicating well. Most people approach a situation with a one track mind, not clued in to ways in which humans tend to interact.

I think being a Communication major is tapping into those clues. When you study communication, you learn not just about problem solving, but about so much else. You learn about media, ethics, rhetoric, history, public speaking, argument, theory, interpersonal communication, etc. 

Studying Communication teaches you about why humans interact, how they interact, predicting how they may interact, and how to critique it. When you become a Comm major, you aren't putting yourself in one category, you are learning so much in so many subjects really. 

I think what this gives you is an opportunity to better the world in some way. If you want to go into advertising, you can tap into what you learned about desires and persuasion. If you choose to go into public relations, you can use your skills in human interaction and public speaking. Communications is giving, whatever you can get out of it, it is more than willing to give.

So, that to me, is what being a communication major is.

We were asked another question, "What is communication?"

To break it down to its very core, I think that it's this:

A message between a sender and a receiver.

This message can contain nearly anything and do nearly anything. It can be used to persuade, to express, to narrate. The sender and the receiver are on a balance beam, always shifting between power. What comes with this message is also interference and noise; things that are affecting how the message gets to the receiver. Communication is using symbols and language.

Now, even that explanation is just breaking the tip of what we could describe Communication as. But, for now, it is the term we will work with. 

As we develop into this course on theory, my answer may change. But that's the thing about Communication, it's always evolving.

Till the next time.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013


Everyone, please say hello to Sheldon. Sheldon is one of the best tv characters ever made.


Sheldon is a character played by Jim Parsons in the Big Bang Theory. He is a genius but he is also extremely socially awkward as proven by the video posted above.

But maybe his awkwardness comes from the fact that he doesn't know how to read people? Have you ever been told in your life that you read people well? ...That you always know what to say or how to handle a situation?

Well, you may be operating on a different end of a spectrum called Cognitive Complexity than Sheldon is. Cognitive complexity is just one part of a communication theory called Constructivism.

This theory in a nutshell works like this: If you have a higher cognitive complexity, you are better able to communicate in a social situation than your peers with low complexity.

Seems pretty simple, right?! Well let's take a moment to understand more about it, it will make you think about how "awkward" you may be ;)

First, lets start with the core of constructivism. That is, people look at the world through their own constructs. The constructs are learned from their own experiences and help them make sense of what is happening around them. 

Once you start to develop your own construct, you also start to develop a sense of cognitive complexity.

Would you know how to respond to someone with this look on their face? Well, then you would most likely have a higher cognitive complexity. That is, the ability to distinguish the subtle differences in personality and behavior between people. If you rank higher, you are more likely to be able better social skills because of your ability to read people.

Sheldon clearly in the video doesn't know how to react in social situations. He always says the wrong thing at the wrong time and doesn't really see how the other person is reacting. He probably doesn't have an ability to craft person-centered messages. Though somehow he has an ability to develop a friendship formula! Figure that one out...

Okay, back to comm theory. What are person-centered messages you may ask, well since I have your attention, I will explain in its three parts:
1.Tailor your messages for the situation and the person(s) you are speaking with.
2. The ability to predict how a person may respond to your message.
3. Being able to adjust your messages based on the direction that the conversation is headed.

Clearly, Sheldon doesn't really do any of these things. He will say anything to anyone. He REALLY can't read people. When you aren't as well adapted to tailoring your messages, you may find that your communication is running into more problems. You most likely (not always) will not have as successful communication as someone that has this skill.

This skill doesn't just happen to certain people and not others, typically there is reasons for people having higher cognitive complexity. 

Such as:

 Education- Through what you have learned, you can gain experiences to help you in social situations.

Age- you are more likely to have a higher complexity as you age and gain experiences.

Girls vs. Boys- Girls are more likely to have a higher cognitive complexity. Possibly because of how society teaches us about how to act and react.

Culture- You can pick up the cognitive complexity skills of others in your culture and learn to use it the same way.

As we saw in the video and have talked about, Sheldon doesn't have a high complexity but seems to manage. But having a higher complexity is actually something you should strive for, it can really help you in social situations. When you can predict how people are going to react and tailor your messages, you are more likely to obtain results that are consistent with your goals.

You may have friends who don't have a high complexity and it can make communicating with them sometimes awkward, they may at times be offensive on accident! They may be a Sheldon. So help them out! For those of you that are suave speakers and charming, use your skills.

I hope my cognitive complexity was high in relating this theory for those of you that are just learning it! It's a fun theory and makes you think about your own skills, I know I'm going to work on being a more successful communicator.

In the meantime....

Sunday, December 1, 2013


#JimmyFallon #JT #besties #funny #lol #latenight #comedy #singer #comedian #lol 

Okay, this is a blog about communication theory, right? So what the heck do JT and Jimmy Fallon have to do with that?! I mean they're funny and all, but like hashtags are just something to people do on twitter... right?

Well, you're in for a little surprise, because hashtags do have a place in comm theory! Specifically, the Symbolic Convergence Theory. Ill explain to you through this post how they work and you'll see their purpose is a little more than just something to put at the end of your tweet.

Everyone is part of a group in some way or at some point. Group communication is based on task functions  (ex. just a regular office scene, communicating for purpose) or in social function (ex. PARTY, communicating just because).

When you communicate as a group, cohesion is the part that makes the team work #teamworkmakesthedreamwork. Cohesion is important, it makes people feel bonded, they enjoy being part of the group, and they share an identity. 

This SCT (Symbolic Convergence Theory) explains just a little bit of that cohesion! Let me help you understand with an example.

Hashtags and their part of this theory couldn't be better explained, then a story with my two best friends. 
<------This is them!

One of us in the middle of the car ride, started speaking in hashtags. The hashtags were dramatizing messages according to SCT. This theory says that dramatizing messages are comments made by a group member that is imaginative, show a new scene, or relate to other situations. These could be things like; jokes, puns, figures of speech etc. Things like HASHTAGS.

This hashtag thing became a #realthing. We ALL started speaking in hashtags. I mean like having entire conversations just in our own hashtag language. This dramatizing message turned into a fantasy chain. You're probably like, "Okay Amanda, what term are you making up now?" I'm not! A fantasy chain is part of this theory. This is when a dramatizing message is picked up and used by the whole group. They keep adding layers, it's a next step.

Every time we were talking, texting or messaging it wouldn't be long until someone started a hashtag. It could be triggered by something we saw, something one of us said, something we wanted to share. These triggers are known as a symbolic cue. It started the fantasy chain all over. It happens so often sometimes, that other people around us get annoyed (#sorryimnotsorry).

When you start sharing these fantasy chains and continue sharing them, you create symbolic convergence. It brings people all on the same level, sharing a consciousness, it becomes a we and the group becomes more cohesive. You work better together, because you're all sharing this thing that bonded you in the first place.

You heard my story with hashtags, but hashtags are a global thing! Or even a community thing!

That's because these fantasy chains have the ability to move past a small group to the public at large. Hashtags created a shared symbolic reality. Enough so, that they inspired that video for Jimmy Fallon and JT. That's why they are the perfect example of this theory! Experiencing these fantasies bonds the group, whether large or small, because it is something you can all share. It brings in group cohesiveness and all goes back to how the group communicates!

So go on and share those hashtags, tell that joke, watch a show with your friends. When you share more, you become closer. That's kinda what this theory is about!