Communication. Theory and Practise of Media-Communication

komunikativistika vāks

The book “Komunikatīvistika. Mediālās komunikācijas teorija un prakse” (Communication. Theory and Practise of Media-Communication), LiePA, 2017., 452 lpp., ISBN 978-9934-569-14-2, is composed of eleven chapters that look at the issues and trends that are relevant to the communications process from various aspects.

Communication is a broad concept, the essence of which is currently being academically reassessed in science. It is too early to come up with a summary of conclusions that will explain why this discipline is developing at this moment in time. One of the reasons for this acceleration may be online communication, which has significantly changed communication as such. Thanks to the internet the world has now shrunk to become an even smaller place, one that is more compact than ever before which closely resembles a ‘global village’ (McLuhan, 1964:6). Perhaps the world wide web is merely a catalyst for a comprehensive communications process, the manifestations of which are only now obvious.

Time and space are shrinking, and they keep on getting smaller thanks to modern message exchange technology and the speed of information delivery. Today fresh, sensational news flies around the world in the blink of an eye, which is why space is crammed with partially true, approximate, misleading, unverified, and intentionally biased information tanks which serve as prerequisites for the risk of misinformation. Laptops, tablets, and mobile phones allow anyone to connect to the global process of pecking at information and engaging in the information distribution process.

On the one hand, it is rather liberating to know that any of us can publish their opinion or information and circulate millions of copies such a publication. On the other hand, the rising tide of unverified information, the commercialisation of messages (as consequences of liberalisation and globalisation) has lead humanity both to more competition for attention in the information space and a higher risk of global misinformation in society. Today there are no speed limits on the highways of communication; therefore, the number of victims is on the rise. The internet as the central channel of global communication sells not only verified news and opinions but also provides a voice or platform for pedophiles, terrorists, criminals, and persons who should not be given such a voice.

Today the messengers for the general public are not only journalists or communications professionals. Now everyone is fighting for the attention of their recipients: experts in mass communication, politicians, narcissists, egocentric individuals, terrorists, officials, journalists, PR providers, and honest communicators. Pretty much everyone who believes they have something to say.

The substance or originality of the news in the form of a message is no longer sufficient (as it used to be) when it comes to drawing attention. Now one needs to ‘medialise’ the message (simplify, dramatising, or embellishing it), which is almost always supplemented with an image as a background. The internet is crammed both with the valuable and worthless news. It used to be the case that when reading a paper one knew that the facts and information had been verified (by the publisher), whereas now there may be no such thing on the internet. News that may seem interesting and accurate may instead be entirely false and even mendacious.

An average person (someone without prior knowledge of the specifics of mass communication) often gets lost, misunderstands, errs, and gets emotionally injured in this rising tide of information. This is where a reasonable requirement arises for skills training in horizontal and vertical communication within modern kindergartens, schools, and universities in order to ensure that the consumer can differentiate between the authentic and the fake, and not worry about flashy but unlikely information. This competence is critical these days as the information tsunami is attacking globally and uncontrollably, causing devastating consequences in the less educated part of society, which includes the majority of nations. Nowadays competence in media communication is a necessity rather than a luxury.

The development of communications science is closely related to the use of new technologies in terms of delivering the news. In the new situation, the field is broadening its horizons beyond the traditional boundaries.

‘If Albert Einstein lived today he would study only communications as the most interesting and unique field of modern science,’ a Danish researcher of communicativistics told me at an international conference. He may be right – communications science may be the first such field to clearly demonstrate the fading distinction between arts and sciences. Which leads to the following conclusion:

  • Communications science, or ‘communicativistics’, is a much broader research area than initially expected; 2) the genius of communicativistics and ‘Einstein’ may not yet have arrived and (just as with physics a century ago) the greatest discoveries in communications sciences may still lie ahead.

Nothing is absolute. Even Einstein’s theory of relativity is on the verge of collapsing. Neutrino discoveries once again ‘are trying to question not only Newton’s but also Einstein’s fundamentals of physics’, according to Mikael Smedbak, doctor of theoretical physics (Smedbäck, 2011). If the boat of classical physics is rocking then ‘instability’ or a relative shortage of fundamental discoveries in communications science is a normal scientific phenomenon rather than a deficiency, and the most important developments in the field will take place in the future.

The approach to the communications process and its research in academic studies is still very distinct, even contradictory. The soft sciences have so far focused on the effects of communication in the area of management sciences by analysing the process of managed, transmissive informing, and requiring a totality of techniques to ensure the desirable, predictable communicative effect. Artistic sciences share a similar approach to communicativistics – as ‘art is communication’ (Butzi, 2006) and it is ‘perceivable as a strong means of communication that… works more comprehensively than language’ (Miell, 2005:3). It studies and attempts to discover how ‘certain communications effects that affect biological, cognitive, social, and cultural processes’ are achieved (ibid). The sciences also see the communications processes as a secondary scale of techniques that cause a certain effect or result. Transmission plays a dominant role here too, whereas background or time and space are conditional just as when one is ‘boiling an egg’, and is far more concerned about the time is taken in boiling the raw egg – three or seven minutes – rather than the size of the pot. So the thickness of the eggshell, the biography of the hen which laid it, or the colour of the water (components of the communications process) still do not interest the person who is boiling the egg. All that is required is a certain specific result: a hard-boiled or soft-boiled egg. The same is true of the public relations ‘spinner’ who requires a certain – desirable – reaction by society to the communicative processes that has been caused.

Therefore, communication is still (mainly) seen as a tunnel without air, light, obstacles, or specifics, in which information is moving monotonically or at lightning speed from point A to point B over obstacles. It does not take any notice of the uniqueness of the recipient or of the time and space.

The social sciences have also comparatively few studies regarding the impact of symbolic power on the communicative processes of civilisation, regardless of whether or not the development of the mass media in all of its development stages has been a significant element of the development of modern society and has had a significant impact on the progress of civilisation.

The evolution of communications media is closely related to other development processes for humanity and, as a result of mutual synthesis, this creates a phenomenon which we nowadays refer to as ‘modernity’. This book is dedicated to the guidance to mastering it. It will help university students who study media and communications sciences and will come in handy for anyone else who is interested in the fascinating secret of communication.

The book is composed of eleven chapters that look at the issues and trends that are relevant to the communications process from various aspects.

Chapter 1 is dedicated to broadening the boundaries of communications sciences. It proposes that the communications process be studied at the level of subatomic particles. It discusses quark communications, light coherence, and the radiance of the human body as a manifestation of communication.

Chapter 2 focuses on the traditional process of communication and a description of schemes, as well as on informing theories and message reproduction.

Chapter 3 analyses the history of communications from the most ancient forms of communication – dance and music – and then discusses the written and published word and the first printed text in Latvian.

Chapter 4 looks at the features of mass communication: the birth of censorship, the specifics of the perception of a media message, the socialisation and development of nation-states due to mass media.

Chapter 5 is dedicated towards the leading theories, including those of the Frankfurt School, and the trends of globalisation in terms of communication as well as concentration, monopolisation, and the cultural imperialism theory.

Chapter 6 touches upon the effects of media communication and chapter 7 focuses on communications science. Chapter 8 discusses the leading theories of communications science: the mathematical model, phatic communication, the models of George Gerbner, Harold Laswell, Theodore Newcombs, Bruce Vestley and Malcom MacLean, and Roman Jacobson, as well as semiotics. It also looks at hermeneutics, the Russian formalist approach, psychoanalysis and film semantics, as well as at the theoretical model of the Chicago School, etc.

Chapter 9 is voluminous. It focuses on the thirteen leading scientific research methods of communication.

Chapter 10 is dedicated to those issues that influence the audience and research that covers the effects of propaganda. It analyses the approach, uses, and gratification theory by Harold Laswell and Paul Lazarsfeld, and other well-known approaches to communication.

Finally, chapter 11 looks at the role of the media in a democratic society and in civic communication, plus the consequences of media fragmentation, ‘soft power’, and communications as the prerequisite for state democracy. It includes an expanded analysis of the ideas by the French philosopher and sociologist, Pierre Bourdieu, in the area of the economic and cultural capital. It also looks at the topic of high and barbaric tastes as an integral part of human communications.

The book is intended for university students and readers who are interested in developments in the field of communications science and its practice.