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Diane Marie Keeling and Marguerite Nguyen Lehman
Posthumanism is a philosophical perspective of how change is enacted in the world. As a conceptualization and historicization of both agency and the “human,” it is different from those conceived through humanism. Whereas a humanist perspective frequently assumes the human is autonomous, conscious, intentional, and exceptional in acts of change, a posthumanist perspective assumes agency is distributed through dynamic forces of which the human participates but does not completely intend or control. Posthumanist philosophy constitutes the human as: (a) physically, chemically, and biologically enmeshed and dependent on the environment; (b) moved to action through interactions that generate affects, habits, and reason; and (c) possessing no attribute that is uniquely human but is instead made up of a larger evolving ecosystem. There is little consensus in posthumanist scholarship about the degree to which a conscious human subject can actively create change, but the human does participate in change.
As distinguished from posthumanism, humanism is credited with attributing the conscious and intentional human subject as the dominant source of agency most worthy of scholarly attention. Since its inception during the Renaissance, humanism has been constituted in various ways throughout history, but as a collective body of literature, the human is typically constituted through humanism as: (a) autonomous from nature given the intellectual faculties of the mind that controls the body, (b) uniquely capable of and motivated by speech and reason, and (c) an exceptional animal that is superior to other creatures. Humanist assumptions concerning the human are infused throughout Western philosophy and reinforce a nature/culture dualism where human culture is distinct from nature. In contrast, a posthumanist scholar rejects this dichotomy through understanding the human as entangled with its environment. A posthumanist scholar of communication typically integrates scholarship from a variety of other disciplines including, but not limited to: art, architecture, cybernetics, ecology, ethology, geology, music, psychoanalysis, and quantum physics.
Bryan J. McCann
The term materialist rhetoric refers to scholarly approaches that seek to account for the relationship between rhetoric and the world that it inhabits. Rhetoricians have differed sharply on the character of this relationship and how it should inform rhetorical theory, criticism, and practice. To be a materialist is to insist that there exists a world outside of human agency that exerts force on human affairs. Marxism is the most influential philosophical tradition for materialist rhetoric, although rhetoricians vary in terms of their adherence to and interpretation of its principles. Karl Marx argued that the antagonistic class relations at the core of capitalism were the chief material determinant for social being. Historical materialism is the primary methodology of Marxist critique, and it rests on the premise that the character of class relations is not governed solely by human volition. Rather, these relations create the conditions of possibility for and shape the trajectory of social life.
While Marxism has informed the liveliest debates regarding materialist rhetoric, not all materialist rhetoricians are Marxists. The earliest iterations of materialist rhetoric drew on Marxism for inspiration, but did not adopt an explicitly anticapitalist orientation. Rather, materialist rhetoric initially referred to calls for rhetoricians to better account for the material character of rhetoric itself. Later developments in materialist rhetoric emerged from debates regarding the nature of Marxism as a rhetorical method, the question of whether rhetoric is representational or constitutive, the character of rhetorical agency, and the existence of a knowable material world outside of rhetoric. Classical Marxists in rhetoric have argued that scholars should predicate their work on the presumption of an experiential reality outside of discourse that exerts force on human symbolic activity. They argue that grounding rhetorical critique in a nondiscursive materiality is necessary for ethical judgment and political practice. Others who reject classical Marxism embrace the claim that rhetoric is material—so much so, in fact, that it comprises every dimension of social being.
Debates between these perspectives hinge largely on how different scholars theorize contemporary capitalism. Whereas classical Marxists retain faith in the revolutionary agency of the working class, their critics contend that rhetoric itself has become the central modality of labor in the modern economy and, therefore, the chief resource for resistance. Other materialist perspectives do not dwell on theoretical debates regarding Marxism, but instead attend to other dimensions of being beyond human symbol use. Whereas some scholars are interested in rhetoric’s relationship to the human body and physical spaces, others theorize rhetoric in ways that reach beyond the limits of human cognition.
Melanie Booth-Butterfield and Melissa Wanzer
Effective humor enactment has been proven to be beneficial to both senders and receivers of the communication. Use of humor in social interaction has the potential to elicit positive perceptions, improve interpersonal interactions, reduce conflict, aid in coping, and even facilitate health outcomes. In contrast, poorly communicated, ill-timed, or maladaptive humor is often detrimental to both personal perceptions and relationships. Specific factors regarding these bidirectional outcomes are examined in this article.
Humorous enactments are inherently a goal-oriented form of communication that involves social, cognitive, emotional, and behavioral elements. The individual intends to accomplish some goal through communicating humor, no matter how obscure or subconscious the act might seem. Hence the communicator encodes verbal and/or nonverbal messages to achieve this aim. By comparison, genuine responses to humor (whether a trait pattern or situationally immediate) are not goal-oriented, but rather spontaneous reactions to humorous messages. Therefore, laughter, snickering, and the like may be authentic, unguarded amusement responses.
Research and discussion of interpersonal humor entail several foundational premises which must be addressed: productive and unproductive forms of humor, differences between source and receiver approaches, interactional versus presentational perspectives, varying functions and outcomes of humor across different stages of relationship development and decline, as well as attention to some less-often studied contexts. The application of theoretical frameworks such as Incongruity, Instructional Humor Processing, Superiority, Dispositional, and Benign Violations theories help guide our predictions and explanations of humorous messages.
Colleen E. Arendt and Patrice M. Buzzanell
Feminist organizational communication scholarship can be framed in four ways. The four frames display how feminisms encourage: (a) questioning gender difference; (b) performing/queering organizing; (c) disrupting online and offline organizations and their alternatives; and (d) challenging macro-Discourses and structures of gender inequality. In discussing discourses and structures, it is important to include how feminist organizational communication scholars generate knowledge(s) within and across particularities and unities, engage contradiction, and unveil neoliberalism, especially meritocracy and ideal worker norms. In discussing feminist organizational communication, the emerging trends in discovery, learning, and engagement focus on: (a) contradiction, (b) context, (c) difference, and (d) resistance through and by human and nonhuman agents.
Josina M. Makau
Communication has the power to heal and to wound, to tyrannize and to liberate, to enlighten and to deceive, to inspire and to corrupt. Subjecting ideas to the scrutiny of others through engagements of difference has long been recognized as a vital resource for the fulfillment of communication’s constructive potential as well as a critically needed antidote to the corrupting influences associated with demagoguery, confirmation bias, ideological rigidity, and partisanship. Demographic shifts and technological advancements afford unparalleled opportunities for such open, deliberative engagements and related inquiries. Enriched by attentive listening, dialogic communication provides a particularly promising means of tapping these and other resources to reach across differences in pursuit of knowledge, understanding, truth, and wise discernment.
Despite their potential, however, listening and dialogue face formidable obstacles. Among these are dominant narratives regarding the human condition, power imbalances, and privilege, and their implications for communication ethics. Absolutism, radical relativism, and related false dilemmas pose significant obstacles as well. A transformation of vision—from individual adversarialism to an ethic of interdependence—offers a pathway out of the thicket, enabling humanity to tap communication’s potential in shared pursuit of human flourishing across the globe.
Catherine R. Squires
Angela Yvonne Davis is an American-born, internationally acclaimed intellectual, activist, and icon. Davis’s groundbreaking work and generative theorizing synthesizes Marxist, feminist, critical race, and cultural studies to illuminate workings of power. Her many books, articles, and essays pose crucial questions that have inspired the work of generations of scholars, cultural workers, and activists. Spanning from the late 1960s to the early 21st century, her writings and speeches have provided rich understandings of history, justice, representation, identity, and resistance.
The global world brings people increasingly into contact with those from other cultures, or else they read about them in the media, leading them to make comparative judgments about their behavior. Sometimes people make these judgments at a national or international level as nations, multinational organizations, and social action organizations seek to discuss human rights across cultures. Contemporary Western ethics find their origins in discussions of ethics and morality by Immanuel Kant (deontological ethics) and Aristotle (teleological ethics). These and other ethical approaches are certainly relevant to communication scholars and practitioners in general, but those working across cultures face particular ethical dilemmas. Unfortunately, interculturalists often do not discuss ethics, or if they do, they discuss them in a brief and superficial way, which might give way to their own ethical stance to color their understanding of others.
Those who discuss ethics face a major tension between seeking a single ethical approach that applies to all cultures (i.e., ethical absolutism) and letting each culture determine its own ethical direction (i.e., cultural relativism, one form of the broader notion of ethical relativism). Various authors have proposed deriving a stance from what ethical stances seem to be universal, much as the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights seems to do. Others propose peace or humanitarian ethics that would leave most cultural elements alone in other cultures, but speak when actions, policies, or social situations work against the human dignity of individuals.
Jürgen Habermas, on the other hand, proposes that people seek ideal speech situations, where people can have open dialogue without restraints, such as power differentials. Finally, as a way out of the ethical maze, others have proposed a dialogic or communicative approach that is not relative, but with which people involved in ethical decisions enter discussions with each other, often considering a wide array of contextual factors that might affect ethical outcomes.
Critical whiteness studies can be understood in terms of three overlapping waves ranging from the national to the international and from the 19th to the 21st centuries. Beginning in the Reconstruction era in the United States, the first wave criticized whiteness in the form of protection of white femininity, possessive ownership, and the public and psychological wages paid to white people during Jim Crow America. The second wave began after the end of World War II, when challenges to legalized racial segregation and European colonialism flourished. The third wave, whose beginning can be marked roughly at the end of the 20th century, is distinguished by increased examination of nonblack immigrants’ relation to whiteness, the growing number of white authors contributing to the field, and a blossoming international range of critical studies of whiteness.
In recent years, organizations have greatly increased their use of communication technologies to support knowledge management initiatives. These technologies, commonly referred to as knowledge management systems, are adopted in the hope that they will bolster organizations’ access to, and utilization of, knowledge resources. Yet the relationship between communication technology and knowledge management is complicated by ambiguity regarding whether knowledge can be validly captured, stored, and transmitted in an explicit form (as an object) or only exists in applications (as an action). Many scholars argue that reliance on communication technologies for knowledge management aids the ability of organizations to process information, but it has limited benefits for helping individuals gain situated knowledge regarding how best to accomplish work. An alternative view explores the potential of communication technologies to facilitate interaction among knowledgeable actors, which can support ongoing organizational learning. In practice, the use of communication technologies enacts a duality whereby knowledge operates both as an object that organizations and individuals have, and as an applied action that is used to solve situated problems. Numerous theoretical frameworks have been applied to study the relationship between communication technologies and knowledge management, with three of the most prominent being public goods theory, communities of practice, and transactive memory systems theory. Extant research recognizes the diverse ways that communication technologies can support knowledge management practices aimed at either improving the utilization of information in organizations or bolstering opportunities for interpersonal knowledge sharing. Regardless of the position taken regarding the most appropriate and effective ways that communication technology can support knowledge management, organizations hoping to implement knowledge management systems face numerous challenges related to spurring the creation of organizational knowledge, motivating individuals to share knowledge, transferring knowledge among groups, and storing knowledge to allow future retrieval. Furthermore, the breadth and diversity of communication technologies used for knowledge management will continue to expand as organizations explore the potential applications of social media technologies and seek to gain value from increases in available data regarding individuals’ communication and behaviors.
Bernadette Marie Calafell
The field of Chicana studies was born out of the experiences of Mexican-American women in the southwestern United States. Chicana leaders, such as Dolores Huerta were central activists in the Chicano civil rights movement in the 1960s, working alongside leaders like Cesar Chavez and cofounding the UFW. Others were involved in social movement activity in New Mexico, Colorado, and Texas with activists Reies Tijerina, Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzáles, and José Ángel Gutiérrez. While fighting for labor, political, and educational rights, Chicanas contested the machismo, sexism, and heterosexism that they experienced from Chicanos. Chicanas were urged to perform stereotypical feminine roles or activities, while men served as the public face of the movement. They were disciplined further by the invocation of the virgin/whore dichotomy, based in Catholicism around the Virgin of Guadalupe; and Malintzin Tenépal, Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes’s translator and lover. In addition, Chicanas were encouraged to take a single-axis approach to social justice and keep silent about their concerns in order to highlight the fight against ethnocentrism and racism, which were deemed by male leaders to be of the utmost importance. Similarly, Chicanas who looked for solidarity in the mainstream women’s movement were encouraged to put aside their racial concerns in favor of an agenda that focused solely on their identity as women. Put in the untenable position of lacking a space in which their complex and intersectional experiences were honored, and of being subjected to the virgin/whore dichotomy and its unrealistic expectations, Chicanas needed to create a space of their own.
The late 1970s and 1980s saw the birth of Chicano Studies departments in academia, as well as the rise of Chicana studies and Chicana feminism. Chicana studies blossomed through works by artists such as Yolanda Lopez, Judy Baca, Patssi Valdez, and Ester Hernández, and scholarship by Deena J. González, Antonia Castañeda, Angie Chabram, Rosa Linda Fregoso, Sandra Cisneros, Cherríe Moraga, Gloria Anzaldúa, and Ana Castillo. The publication of This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color became an important benchmark for Chicana feminist writings, and women of color feminism in general. In addition, Moraga’s Loving in the War Years: Lo que nunca pasó por sus labios and Anzaldúa’s Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza were foundational texts in the development of Chicana feminist thought. Moraga’s work (originally published in 1983 and republished in an expanded edition in 2000) addresses her experiences as a queer Chicana born to a White father and Mexican mother, while Anzaldúa’s book (published in 1987) theorizes about the possibility of a mestiza consciousness or borderlands identity. A central theme in Chicana feminist writings is the reinterpretation of Malintzin Tenépal, also referred to as La Malinche, through poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, while Chicana feminist artists have visually reimagined the Virgin of Guadalupe queerly and in their own images as everyday women. Through the reinterpretation of these figures, Chicanas have created possibilities for Chicana identifications that resist the binary virgin/whore dichotomy.