Monday, November 29, 2010

Our Social Reality

In “A 21st Century Model for Communication in the Global War of Ideas” (Corman et al.), the authors do a good job of pointing out the shortcomings of the classic transmitter/receiver model, which they refer to as the Message Influence Model. Their call for a new strategy that takes into account the complexities of the “a social reality” in which we live today is a much needed step forward in communication strategy. “Members of the system, routinely and often unconsciously, work to preserve the existing framework of meaning. To accomplish this they interpret messages in ways that “fit” the existing scheme, rather than in ways that senders may intend.” (pages 7-8)

This would explain why many recent attempts by the U.S. to explain its values abroad is interpreted as it trying to impose its culture on others. We need to remember that we no longer live in the post WWII euphoria of the American Dream. Today, a lot of people remember our dodgy cold war era military interventions and one
sided trade policies. If you ask people in Latin America if the U.S. can lead in environmental policy, many will be quick to point out that we never signed on in Kyoto, so how dare we try.

To summarized their proposed Pragmatic Complexity Model they argue that in communication between parties A and B:

-The success of A’s behavior depends not only on external conditions, but on what B does and thinks.
-What B does and thinks is influenced by A’s behavior as well as B’s expectations, interpretations, and attributions with respect to A.

Moreover, if you have a B that is fed up with A, they are less likely to want to listen and more sensitive in misinterpreting any message from A as condescending or irrelevant to them.

Is this where America stands now? Has American policy in the last sixty years worn out the welcome of communication? Can we ever go back to having an audience willing to listen and interpret the way we would like?

1 comment:

  1. Can we ever go back to having an audience willing to listen and interpert the way we would like?

    Great Question.

    In order to have the audience America once captivated it needs to quickly humble itself. Strip out of the superhero costume and work back on the ground with the people. Become part of the audience, and listen to what it has to say. Not insert the required Q&A on a tour, but actually actively choose to listen and engage with the rest of the world. The world is changing, that is obvious. Yet some of our foreign policies and agendas don't seem to reflect that comprehension. Hopefully, we'll stop reacting to the changes the world is throwing, and learn to adapt with them.