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1 Pragmatism Introduction to Communication Research School of Communication Studies James Madison University Dr. Michael Smilowitz.

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2 1 Pragmatism Introduction to Communication Research School of Communication Studies James Madison University Dr. Michael Smilowitz

3 2 Pragmatism Fisher (1978) set this perspective’s defining characteristic to be the “behavior of the communicator as the fundamental component of human communication.”

4 3 Pragmatism Fisher (1978) set this perspective’s defining characteristic to be the “behavior of the communicator as the fundamental component of human communication.” What is meant by the term pragmatic? “Practical application” is an appropriate association. Research in this perspective generally focuses on how people interact.

5 4 Pragmatics –Relationships of symbols to users. (Function - the rules for accomplishing interaction) Pragmatism’s difference from other approaches in the study of language use Syntactics –Relationships of symbols to each other. (Grammar - the rules for putting sentences together) Semantics –Relationships of symbols to referents. (Meaning - the rules for understanding what words signify)

6 5 Consider these examples: (1) Sue: What time is it? (2) Sarah: Kelly’s class just ended. Did Sarah answer Sue? While most of us would think Sarah’s response is an answer, we certainly wouldn’t think it a good answer unless we expect that Sue and Sarah share a relationship in which they both know the times classes begin and end.

7 6 Consider these examples: This episode occurred early in a group’s discussion (1) It’s going to be interesting. (2) We’ve got a lot to do. (3) We’ll get it done. (4) How? This episode occurred in another group at about the same time (1) We’ve got a lot to do. (2) We’ll get it done. (3) How? (4) It’s going to be interesting. Now decide which of these groups was more effective? Notice that your arguments likely indicate that the two episodes served different functions because of the apparent difference in the ordering of the messages (they are otherwise identical, aren’t they?).

8 7 Contributions to the Pragmatic Perspective Fisher’s treatment of the pragmatic perspective depended heavily upon: Watzlavic, Beavin & Jackson (1967). The pragmatics of human communication. General System Theory.

9 8 Metatheoretical Assumptions about Communication (1) One cannot not communicate. Not to mean that all behavior is communicative, but that we cannot chose to not communicate when interacting. For Fisher, communication and interaction are synonymous. (2) Speaker’s intent is unimportant. Not to mean “not important.” The importance of an utterance is the function it servers, not what the speaker hopes the utterance will do.

10 9 Metatheoretical Assumptions about Communication (3) Communication is constrained. Speakers have available to them an infinite repertoire of possible acts. Certain acts are more likely than other acts because of: (1) the previous message. (2) the relationship’s history. (3) the context of the interaction.

11 10 Metatheoretical Assumptions about Communication (4) Communication is punctuated. Communication in this perspective is regarded as a series of events in time. Humans make sense of their communication by organizing/grouping events for meaningful interpretation. Read the following out loud: thisisanexampleofhowweorderourworld Chances are you didn’t read the entire sequence. Instead, you looked at the phrase until you broke it down in to recognizable words. So….the 4th assumption is:

12 11 Intellectual Antecedents to General System Theory Early 20th century philosophers of science disputed the value of analytic and synthetic approaches to generating knowledge. –AnalyticTo understand something, break the phenomenon into its smallest components. –SyntheticTo understand something, study the phenomenon for its inter- relationships.

13 12 von Bertalanffy’s Contribution Sought a language basis which scientists in any discipline could use to describe their knowledge claims. Assumed (as a biologist, after all) that the living organism is the appropriate metaphor for theory building.

14 13 The Central Credo The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Known as the “Principle of Non-summativity.

15 14 The Central Credo How can this be? ABDEC ABCDE

16 15 The Central Credo A B CD E Get it? The whole is greater because the parts are added to all the interactions among the parts…. ahm…ahm…ahm

17 16 The language of GST The definition of “system” A system is not a “heap.” The parts of a heap are not connected to each other. Another term for a heap is “an aggregate” to mean just a collection of independent components. A heap

18 17 The language of GST The definition of “system” A set of related components bound together in patterned, interdependent relationships.

19 18 The language of GST Two types of systems: Open system Interacts freely with its environment through a process of inputs-throughputs-outputs. Closed system Completely isolated from its environment.

20 19 The language of general system theory The distinction of open versus closed is best thought of as a continuum. Open Negentropy (continual system maintenance and growth) Closed Entropy (eventual, inevitable system decay)

21 20 More GST language The concept of equifinality: Differing initial conditions result in the same end state.

22 21 More GST language The concept of multifianlity: Similar initial conditions result in different end states.

23 22 More GST language What do the concepts of equifinality and multifinality illustrate about system characteristics? –The structural characteristics of an open system are inadequate for predicting system outcomes. –An open system’s interaction with its environment obviously affects its functioning over time.

24 23 More GST language The principle of “wholeness” A change in one element of a system necessarily changes all other components. Therefore, to understand the “whole”of a system, we must examine its: structure function evolution

25 24 More GST language Structure – Static characteristics of the system (at a particular point in time). physical components spatial components communication networks.

26 25 More GST language Structure – Dynamic characteristics of the system (through time). actions behaviors any thing that ends an “-ing:

27 26 More GST language Evolution – changes in the characteristics of the system (over time). changes in structural arrangements changes in the functioning of the system

28 27 Contributions of General System Theory Focuses attention on the interdependence of components. Emphasizes the dynamic nature of many phenonomena. Invites comprehensive theorizing about interaction.

29 28 Criticisms of General System Theory Provides little more than a new jargon. Provides little new explanation. Provides an attractive, but not “doable” research agenda. Maintains a “mechanistic” view of human behavior.

30 29 Pragmatism’s Metatheoretical Assumptions Stochastic Probability Stochastic analysis assesses the probabilities of occurrence of subsequent state from an antecedent state.

31 30 Pragmatism’s Metatheoretical Assumptions Stochastic Probability –Pragmatism ignores causal or quasi-deterministic explanations. “If (antecedent)  then (consequence) predictive explanations argue that the antecedent condition is a sufficient condition to anticipate the occurrence of the consequence. A claim about a stochastic relationship is a statement about the probability (likelihood) of a subsequent state (event) occurring after a specified precedent state (occurrence).

32 31 Pragmatism’s Metatheoretical Assumptions Locus of communication? In the ongoing sequence of interactive behaviors.

33 32 Areas of Research Interpersonal –Relational communication studies investigating the control dimension of communication Small Group –Identification of effective discussion practices Organizational –System coordination

34 33 Advantages Useful tools for the study of interaction. Draws attention to the complexities of human interaction. Provides insight into the patterns of communication in a variety of contexts.

35 34 Disadvantages Complex statistical procedures. Difficulties in identifying meaningful categories for analysis. Assumes sequences are meaningful to communicators.


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