Traditional COMS Studies

COMMUNICATIONS STUDIES:
A TRADITIONAL CONFIGURATION OF THE FIELD

Over the decades, scholars have drawn and redrawn the map representing the field of communications studies, depending upon the various elements they wished to emphasize. These changes--in the theoretical frameworks brought to research questions, together with the changes in analytical techniques employed--represent a shift from a quantitative approach to a qualitative approach, which has been promoted by the Birmingham School. The typology below represents the field as scholars during the 1960s and the 1970s understood it, that is, before scholars working in Cultural Studies produced a new configuration.

INTERPERSONAL AND SMALL GROUP COMMUNICATION
Scholars study the interactions or relationships between two or more people, e.g., a deep conversation between friends. The study of small group communication dates from Kurt Lewin's studies of group dynamics during the 1940s. Since the late 1960s, the study of interpersonal communication has been the most dynamic branch of communications studies. Studies show that communication is the key to maintaining intimacy. By "intrapersonal communication" scholars mean communication with ourselves, sometimes called "self-talk." The process involves the use of language. We can think of it as the dialogues we have with ourselves to organize our thoughts and feelings. Researchers working in this (combined) stream focus on such topics as:

communication competence
dyadic communication
gender and communication
impression formation
interpersonal attraction
interviewing
intrapersonal communication
leadership
perception
relationship communication
rules
therapeutic communication

LANGUAGE AND SYMBOL SYSTEMS
Over the years, interest in communication between people from different cultures, including distinct cultures within a single country, has intensified. Scholars working in this stream study such topics as:

developmental communication
intercultural communication
linguistics
listening
non-verbal communication
psycholinguistics
semantics

MASS COMMUNICATION
Many communications studies scholars study mediated communication, such as film, newspapers, radio, and television, with a view to understanding how these media work and how they represent/reproduce cultural values. Recently, one stream of research focused on new and converging communication technologies, which may or may not undermine the kind of human community formed via face-to-face talk. Scholars focus on such topics as

advertising
broadcasting
cable television
film and cinema
international broadcasting
journalism
mass media
media criticism
media effects
media law and ethics

ORGANIZATIONAL COMMUNICATION
Scholars of organizational communication concentrate on such aspects of work life as interviewing, organizational structure, leadership, and decision-making, together with organizational cultural and personal relations in professional settings. They focus on such topics as

applied communication
business and professional communication
communication networks
communication systems
conflict
health communication
human communication technology
negotiation and mediation
organizational behavior
training and development

PUBLIC COMMUNICATION
Scholars of public communication concentrate on related subjects of critical evaluation of speech and the principles for speaking effectively. Speech Communication has a very long tradition in the United States (we think of the Speech Communication Association). Scholars study communication in non-mediated public settings, focusing on such topics as

argumentation and debate
communication apprehension
freedom and speech
ethics
instructional communication
oral interpretation
parliamentary procedure
persuasion and attitude change
political communication
public address
public speaking
rhetorical criticism
rhetorical theory
voice
semiotics
sociolinguistics

return to COMS 591 Home Page