Friday, September 10, 2010

Fish out of Water: Communication by the consumer

Dear classmates, I cannot cut and past into this box, for some reason. Please see my comment below for the actual text. Sorry for the trouble!

1 comment:

  1. This is the intended post:

    In his chapter “A Cultural Approach to Communication”, James Carey argues the need for a shift from a transmission view of communication, a tool used for a pragmatic purpose of control and exchange, to a ritualistic view, which serves the purpose of drawing people together in commonality. He is quick to point out, however, that when one consumes information in a ritualistic manner, it is consumed habitually, and we do not bother to question it; we accept it as our reality. To drive home his point of how mundane the human experience of communication has become, he references Marshall McLuhan’s assertion that “the one thing of which the fish is unaware is water, the very medium that forms its ambience and supports its existence.” (24) To Carey, this is problematic.

    Why is it so problematic? Why can’t we embrace the very thing that he says brings us together? Much like the natural habitat of the fish, isn’t our culture is to be valued and defended? After all, a world without culture would be bland and artless. It does become problematic, though, when we consider that a failure to be aware of it can actually work to our detriment. But maybe, it is not the culture, or the fluidity in it, that is at fault, it is the point at which we become absorbed and unaware of it. No, it’s the point at which we insist on it.

    Often our dialogue the field of communication today, touched upon by Carey, is how we approach this phenomena in the modern age.

    When print was invented, we taught people how to read. When the typewriter was invented, we taught people how to type. (I took typing with Sister Elizabeth in high school.) If we do not want a public that simply absorbs media and lets it dictate how they approach information, and consequently how they let it construct their thinking, why are we not teaching media literacy in schools? At some point, critical thinking became the new approach to English classes everywhere. It is imperative that we attack the problem of the overflow of media and information head on, and assume the responsibility of the real problem of involuntary, uncontested absorption of this endless sea. In the 21st century, we need a drastic modernization of critical thinking. If the ordinary person sees communication as mundane activity, and the blame is put on the lack of modeling for anything different, then let’s create the model. If we can call a class Social Studies and encourage students to question the rule of George III, we can call a class Social Studies and encourage students to question Twitter. And Mr. Beck.

    We are not innocent bystanders. The constructivist approach that symbols in communication are both representations “of” and “for” reality is two thirds right. When we decide to take hold of, and educate the consumer in, this new age of information, we will have a communication model “by” the modern reality.