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This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Communication. Please check back later for the full article.
Communication and cultural studies have turbulent and contradictory histories, epistemologies, methods, and geographies, both on their own and as partners and rivals. This is in keeping with their status as interdisciplinary areas that emerged in the early-to-mid 20th century and crossed the humanities and the social sciences. Culture has been at its core.
Kami Silk, Sarah Sheff, Maria Lapinski, and Alice Hoffman
The environment influences health and risk outcomes, and communication campaigns often strive to reduce risk and promote positive health outcomes by raising awareness, increasing knowledge, influencing attitudes, and impacting intentions and behavior. Communication campaigns should be based on good formative research and theory, and they should be implemented with fidelity and a clear evaluation plan. Communication campaigns that address environmental influences are typically focused on promoting human, animal, or environmental outcomes despite the fact that all three are interconnected and would benefit from being considered in a larger ecological framework. The One Health approach reconceptualizes environmental influences by focusing not just on the environmental but also connections with human and animal health. One Health can be applied to communication campaigns to support efforts that acknowledge and promote the complexity of these relationships. Campaigns about environmental influences on health and risk range from a longstanding campaign built on individual activities to reduce environmental and personal risk to a sun smart campaign to reduce sun exposure risk to a lead-free campaign and an asthma-control campaign concerned about air quality. Other environmental campaigns focus on tobacco prevention, obesity prevention by addressing environmental influences as part of their strategy, climate control, and ocean species preservation—and that is only a sampling of popular campaign topics. These communication campaigns face similar challenges like lack of formative research and evaluation plans as well as atheoretical approaches to influence outcomes.
Lisbeth A. Lipari
Communication ethics concerns the creation and evaluation of goodness in all aspects and manifestations of communicative interaction. Because both communication and ethics are tacitly or explicitly inherent in all human interactions, everyday life is fraught with intentional and unintentional ethical questions—from reaching for a cup of coffee to speaking critically in a public meeting. Thus ethical questions infuse all areas of the discipline, including rhetoric, media studies, intercultural/international communication, relational and organization communication, as well as other iterations of the field.
Sandra Petronio and Maria K. Venetis
Communication privacy management theory (CPM) argues that disclosure is the process by which we give or receive private information. Private information is what people reveal. Generally, CPM theory argues that individuals believe they own their private information and have the right to control said information. Management of private information is not necessary until others are involved. CPM does not limit an understanding of disclosure by framing it as only about the self. Instead, CPM theory points out that when management is needed, others are given co-ownership status, thereby expanding the notion of disclosing information; the theory uses the metaphor of privacy boundary to illustrate where private information is located and how the boundary expands to accommodate multiple owners of private information. Thus, individuals can disclose not only their own information but also information that belongs to others or is owned by collectives such as families.
Making decisions to disclose or protect private information often creates a tension in which individuals vacillate between sharing and concealing their private information. Within the purview of health issues, these decisions have a potential to increase or decrease risk. The choice of disclosing health matters to a friend, for example, can garner social support to cope with health problems. At the same time, the individual may have concerns that his or her friend might tell someone else about the health problem, thus causing more difficulties.
Understanding the tension between disclosing and protecting private health information by the owner is only one side of the coin. Because disclosure creates authorized co-owners, these co-owners (e.g., families, friends, and partners) often feel they have right to know about the owner’s health conditions. The privacy boundaries are used metaphorically to indicate where private information is located. Individuals have both personal privacy boundaries around health information that expands to include others referred to as “authorized co-owners.” Once given this status, withholding to protect some part of the private information can risk relationships and interfere with health needs. Within the scheme of health, disclosure risks and privacy predicaments are not experienced exclusively by the individual with an illness. Rather, these risks prevail for a number of individuals connected to a patient such as providers, the patient’s family, and supportive friends. Everyone involved has a dual role. For example, the clinician is both the co-owner of a patient’s private health information and holds information within his or her own privacy boundary, such as worrying whether he or she diagnosed the symptoms correctly. Thus, there are a number of circumstances that can lead to health risks where privacy management and decisions to reveal or conceal health information are concerned.
CPM theory has been applied in eleven countries and in numerous contexts where privacy management occurs, such as health, families, organizations, interpersonal relationships, and social media. This theory is unique in offering a comprehensive way to understand the relationship between the notion of disclosure and that of privacy. The landscape of health-related risks where privacy management plays a significant role is both large and complex. The situations of HIV/AIDS, cancer care, and managing patient and provider disclosure of private information help to elucidate the ways decisions of privacy potentially lead to health risks.
Andrew M. Ledbetter
Owing to advances in communication technology, the human race now possesses more opportunities to interact with interpersonal partners than ever before. Particularly in recent decades, such technology has become increasingly faster, mobile, and powerful. Although tablets, smartphones, and social media are relatively new, the impetus behind their development is old, as throughout history humans have developed mechanisms for communicating ideas that transcend inherent temporal and spatial limitations of face-to-face communication. In the ancient past, humans developed writing and the alphabet to preserve knowledge across time, with the later development of the printing press further facilitating the mass distribution of written ideas. Later, the telegraph was arguably the first technology to separate communication from transportation, and the telephone enabled people at a distance to hear the warmth and intimacy of the human voice. The development of the Internet consolidates and advances these technologies by facilitating pictorial and video interactions, and the mobility provided by cell phones and other technologies makes the potential for communication with interpersonal partners nearly ubiquitous. As such, these technologies reconfigure perception of time and space, creating the sense of a smaller world where people can begin and manage interpersonal relationships across geographic distance.
These developments in communication technology influence interpersonal processes in at least four ways. First, they introduce media choice as a salient question in interpersonal relationships. As recently as the late 20th century, people faced relatively few options for communicating with interpersonal partners; by the early years of the 21st century, people possessed a sometimes bewildering array of channel choices. Moreover, these choices matter because of the relational messages they send; for example, choosing to end a romantic relationship over the phone may communicate more sensitivity than choosing to do so via text messaging, or publicly on social media. Second, communication technology affords new opportunities to begin relationships and, through structural features of the media, shape how those meetings occur. The online dating industry generates over $1 billion in profit, with most Americans agreeing it is a good way to meet romantic partners; friendships also form online around shared interests and through connections on social media. Third, communication technology alters the practices people use to maintain interpersonal relationships. In addition to placing traditional forms of relational maintenance in more public spaces, social media facilitates passive browsing as a strategy for keeping up with interpersonal partners. Moreover, mobile technology affords partners increased geographic and temporal flexibility when keeping contact with partners, yet simultaneously, it may produce feelings of over-connectedness that hamper the desire for personal autonomy. Fourth, communication technology makes interpersonal networks more visibly manifest and preserves their continuity over time. This may provide an ongoing convoy of social support and, through increased efficiency, augment the size and diversity of social networks.
A community of practice (CoP) situated in a health and risk context is an approach to collaboration among members that promotes learning and development. In a CoP, individuals come together virtually or physically and coalesce around a common purpose. CoPs are defined by knowledge, rather than task, and encourage novices and experienced practitioners to work together to co-create and embed sustainable outputs that impact on theory and practice development. As a result, CoPs provide an innovative approach to incorporating evidence-based research associated with health and risk into systems and organizations aligned with public well-being.
CoPs provide a framework for constructing authentic and collaborative learning. Jeanne Lave and Etienne Wenger are credited with the original description of a CoP as an approach to learning that encompasses elements of identity, situation, and active participation. CoPs blend a constructivist view of learning, where meaningful experience is set in the context of “self” and the relationship of “self” with the wider professional community. The result is an integrated approach to learning and development achieved through a combination of social engagement and collaborative working in an authentic practice environment. CoPs therefore provide a strategic approach to acknowledging cultural differences related to translating health and risk theory into practice.
In health and risk settings, CoPs situate and blend theory and practice to create a portal for practitioners to generate, shape, test, and evaluate new ideas and innovations. Membership of a CoP supports the development of professional identity within a wider professional sphere and may support community members to attain long range goals.
Conflict and prejudice are universal phenomena and represent a major concern in most societies, especially on the African continent. Worldwide, just a few cases, such as the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Northern Ireland, Sudan, Eritrea, Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, and Nigeria, have revealed how destructive prejudice and conflict can be to societies. Eastern Africa is a region that has been tremendously affected by conflict. Unfortunately, nations like Sudan and Somalia have been torn apart by many years of conflict. This has inevitably led to other societal challenges or difficulties, such as displacements, poverty, and famine. The question of why people get into conflict has been examined and debated internationally, especially in the field of social psychology. However, conflict in Eastern African cannot be explained merely by psychology. In order to have a holistic understanding of conflict, especially in Africa, it is important not only to look at social psychological factors, such as prejudice, but also to consider important political, economic, and social factors that may be related to the particular conflict, because the African context is extremely complex and the causes of conflict can sometimes be intertwined.
Rebekah H. Nagler and Susan M. LoRusso
Clinicians, medical and public health researchers, and communication scholars alike have long been concerned about the effects of conflicting health messages in the broader public information environment. Not only have these messages been referred to in many ways (e.g., “competing,” “contradictory,” “inconsistent,” “mixed,” “divergent”), but they have been conceptualized in distinct ways as well—perhaps because they have been the subject of study across health, science, and political communication domains. Regardless of specific terminology and definitions, the concerns have been consistent throughout: conflicting health messages exist in the broader environment, they are noticed by the public, and they impact public understanding and health behavior. Yet until recently, the scientific evidence base to substantiate these concerns has been remarkably thin. In the past few years, there has been a growing body of rigorous empirical research documenting the prevalence of conflicting health messages in the media environment. There is also increasing evidence that people perceive conflict and controversy about several health topics, including nutrition and cancer screening. Although historically most studies have stopped short of systematically capturing exposure to conflicting health messages—which is the all-important first step in demonstrating effects—there have been some recent efforts here. Taken together, a set of qualitative (focus group) and quantitative (observational survey and experimental) studies, guided by diverse theoretical frameworks, now provides compelling evidence that there are adverse outcomes of exposure to conflicting health information. The origins of such information vary, but understanding epidemiology and the nature of scientific discovery—as well as how science and health news is produced and understood by the public—helps to shed light on how conflicting health messages arise. As evidence of the effects of conflicting messages accumulates, it is important to consider not just the implications of such messages for health and risk communication, but also whether and how we can intervene to address the effects of exposure to message conflict.
Young Yun Kim
The contextual theory of interethnic communication is an interdisciplinary theory that provides a comprehensive and interdisciplinary account of the associative and dissociative communication behaviors of individual communicators when interacting with ethnically dissimilar others. Integrating a wide range of salient issues, concepts, theories, and related research findings across disciplinary lines of inquiry across social sciences, the theory offers a multidimensional and multifaceted model explaining a full spectrum of interethnic decoding and encoding communication behaviors from highly dissociative to highly associative. Grounded in an open-systems perspective, the interethnic behavior and the context surrounding the behavior are conceived as co-constituting the basic interethnic communication system, operating simultaneously in a dynamic interplay. In varying degrees of salience and significance, all contextual forces are regarded in Kim’s theory to operate in any given interethnic communication event, potentially influencing, and being influenced by the nature of individual communication behaviors of association and dissociation. The theory identifies eight key contextual factors of the communicator (identity inclusivity/exclusivity and identity security/insecurity), the situation (ethnic proximity/distance, shared/separate goal structure, and personal network integration), and the environment (institutional equity/inequity, relative ingroup strength, and environmental stress). Eight theorems are proposed for empirical tests, linking each contextual factor with associative/dissociative behavior. Together, the eight theorems explain the dynamic and reciprocal behavior-context interface in interethnic communication. The theory also provides a conceptual blueprint for conducting case studies on specific interethnic communication events, and suggests pragmatic insights into ways to strengthen the social fabric of an ethnically diverse society from the ground up.
Conversation analysis is a distinctive approach to research on language and communication that originated with Emanuel Schegloff, Harvey Sacks, and Gail Jefferson. It assumes a systematic order in the minute details of talk as it is used in situ. That orderliness is understood to be the result of shared ways of reasoning and means of doing things. Conversation analytic studies aim to identify and describe how people produce and interpret social interaction. For example, the interpretation and response to the question, “How are you” differs depending on whether it is asked by a doctor in a medical consultation or a friend during a casual conversation. Overwhelmingly, data are naturalistic audio (for telephone-mediated talk) or video recordings (for copresent interactions). The recordings are transcribed using conventions first established by Gail Jefferson. They have been further developed since to better capture features such as crying and multimodality. Specialized notations are used to highlight features of talk such as breathiness, intonation, short silences, and simultaneous speech. Analyses typically examine how everyday actions are done over sequences of two or more turns of talk. Greetings, requests, and complaints are actions that have names; others don’t. Studies may examine a range of linguistic, embodied, and environmental phenomena used in coordinated action. Research has been conducted in a broad range of mundane and institutional settings. Medical interaction is one area where conversation analysis has been most applied, but others include psychotherapy and classroom interaction.
A conversation analytic perspective on identity is also distinctive. Typically, approaches to intergroup communication presuppose a priori the importance of social identities such as age, gender, and ethnicity. They are theorized as independent variables that impact language behaviors in predictable and measurable ways. This view strongly resonates with common sense and underpins popular questions about gender-, race- or age-based differences in language use. In contrast, a conversation analytic approach examines social identities only when they are observably and demonstrably relevant to what participants are doing and saying. The relevance of an identity category rests on it being clearly consequential for what is happening in a particular stretch of talk.
Conversation analysis approaches identity as a type of membership categorization. The term “member” has ethnomethodological roots that recognizes a person is a member from a cultural group. Categories can be invoked, used and negotiated in the flow of interaction. Membership categorization analysis shows there is a systematic organization to category work in talk. Using conversation analysis and membership categorization analysis, discursive psychology studies how social identity categorizations have relevance to the business at hand. For example, referring to your wife as a “girl” or a “married woman” invokes different inferences about socially acceptable behavior.