What Is Always at Stake When Communicating?
Essay Preview: What Is Always at Stake When Communicating?
Report this essay
What is always at stake when communicating? (Levinas stuff)
In the past dozen years, a renewed emphasis has been placed on the importance of the public sphere and the necessity of open discussion in a participatory democracy. Putnams Bowling Alone in 2000 quantitatively demonstrated a quarter century of decline in civic participation by citizens in the United States. Putnam grounded his work in social capital theory and emphasized that vibrant, functioning social networks are necessary for democratic society. While much credit, deservedly, goes to Putnam for focusing national attention on the decline of communities and other social groups, it is important to recognize the role communication as a discipline plays in this national discussion, as well as the effort in the Communication Studies department at the University of Northern Iowa to prepare students for a lifetime of civic participation.
Communication scholars have long been knowledgeable of the intricate relationship between communication and community. In fact, it is through the act of sharing information that we are able to form a group or community. Although community has always played an important role in the study of communication, it seemed as if focus on the community took a secondary role to more specific areas of inquiry, such as interpersonal relationships, group interaction, or organizational communication. Communication researchers have recognized the primacy of communications role in the establishment of community and social networks.
If recent published research is any indication, communication scholars are building on the existing communication research foundation for protracted exploration of the relationship between communication and community. For example, Communication Yearbook 28 (Klabfleisch, 2004) focused exclusively on communication and community. Topics such as interpersonal relationships, meetings, public relations theory, and sports are all organized around and situated within the context of community. The Southern Communication Journal dedicated a 2003 issue to communication and community topics. Additionally, an earlier, 2001, issue of The Southern Communication Journal focused on service learning and civic engagement in organizational settings.