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Communication Traditions Wrap Up (Week 7)


As an overview of the material covered in the course, I created a Communication Traditions Matrix that organizes the theories covered in the text by tradition that can be accessed in the previous post.  I find it of note that in less than eight weeks time we have considered over 100 different communication theories across the seven traditions.

I found each of the traditions compelling in a different way. At the beginning of the course, I would have predicted that Sociocultural tradition would be my favorite. This shot of my textbook of the beginning of this section demonstrates my interest:


However, now that I have completed the textbook, I find that I can find an argument for the use on each tradition. At the end of Chapter Three of our text, Littlejohn and Foss (2011) give us five points to consider regarding the traditions:

  1. Notice that no tradition contributes to every aspect of communication
  2. The traditions are not mutually exclusive.
  3. Despite considerable overlap, each tradition does have its distinctive character, and in some cases, the traditions even repel one another.
  4. As you switch contexts, different traditions become more or less valuable.
  5. Even though traditions do not distributes themselves equally across contexts, neither are they limited to a narrow range of concerns. (p. 68)

Because of points 1 and 4–no tradition covers every aspect of communication and context impacts the value of any specific tradition–I can’t claim a “favorite” tradition. When I engage the traditions, I am interested in the places where traditions intersect. For example, I am interested in identity as constructed and performed (Critical). However, I believe we create stories that lead to the construction of our identity (Rhetoric), and that these stories are socially and culturally influenced (Sociocultural). Thus, I want to see how Critical, Rhetorical, and Sociocultural traditions overlap, contradict, and open room for more investigation on the idea of identity.

As a variation of my Traditions Matrix, I’ve created a list of the traditions with my favorite theories in each one.

Favorites 1 Favorites 2

Favorites 3

I then counted the theories in each tradition to see if a favorite arose:

  • Semiotic – 3
  • Phenomenology – 2
  • Cybernetic – 5
  • Sociopsychological – 3
  • Sociocultural – 8
  • Critical – 8
  • Rhetorical – 4

I wasn’t surprised that Sociocultural and Critical were tied for first place with the highest number of “favorite” theories; however, I was surprised to see Cybernetic beat out Rhetorical.

From this master list of favorites, I narrowed my list to the top 13 (in no particular order):

  • CMM
  • Network Theory
  • Symbolic Interactionsism (SI)
  • Presentational Self
  • Language as gendered
  • Ethnography (Language/Performance)
  • Identity as constructed and performed
  • Gender and race in organizational communications
  • Feminist media studies
  • Feminist cultural studies
  • Symbolic convergence
  • Burke’s equipment for living
  • Critical rhetoric

Some of these are favorites because of my areas of professional interest–women entrepreneurs–while others just strike my fancy. So, I narrowed the list down to my three, just-because favorites:

  • SI
  • Identity as constructed and performed
  • Burke’s equipment for living

I chose these three theories because I think that a lot of people in Western culture suffer the pressure to be successful, thinking, “When I am successful, then I’ll be happy.” The problem is, what is the definition of success? We seem to spend a lot of time chasing it, never to truly find it. To me, these three theories combined can act as a salve to the wounds of false ideas of success.

1. SI — understand that the communication with yourself is influenced by society. SI addresses the mind-self-society link. What we think is an internal motivation is most likely influenced by society in general and orientational others specifically. The ideas of success driving us may not truly be our own.

2. Identity as constructed and performed–construct your own success identity. If identity is socially constructed and “always in the process of becoming” (p. 112), then each person has the agency to construct her own version of success. This frees us from the pressures of achievement that we find hollow and unsatisfying.

3. Equipment for living–find a story and make it your own. Literature and film gives us a treasure trove of success stories. Pick a story and try it out on paper, them make it your own (OK, I admit I’ve thrown a little social convergence in here, so perhaps it’s my top 4 favorites).

I look forward to returning to this post when I complete my degree and see what paths I’ve followed. There are many trails to explore, and I hope to blaze a new one or two.


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