I feel like my head is a whirl of communication theories, with eight weeks of theory poured straight into my brain. I’ve learned a lot about specific theories, so I’m going to focus here on my top five take-awaya.
1. Communication is a BROAD topic and intersects many disciplines. It seems possible to address almost any topic or issue through a communication’s lens, or as our text suggests, an “almost infinite number of ways to frame a situation and to respond” (Littlejohn & Foss, 2011, p. 423).
2. Communication “best practices” are in a constant state of flux. What starts as the seed of an idea grows, shifts, is challenged, is improved, is scrapped, then comes back again. Case in point: Carl Rogers and empathy. I found the idea of the helping relationship to be compelling, timely, and worthy of further examination. Thus I was surprised when I read that his work fell out of favor after the 1970s only to find a later renaissance (Littlejohn & Foss, 2011, p. 253).
3. Graduate writing is a conversation. Our orientation materials referred repeatedly to the “academic conversation” involved in graduate writing. It is interesting to see how one theory leads to another, then another, and so on. Just our experience with Burke and “equipment for living.” He was engaging in a conversation on rhetoric and literature with scholars who came before. Others picked up the thread with “Yes, and…” and spun the theory into scores of threads. We, as a group in this class, got to spin 20 or so additional threads to this conversation that’s be going on since the 1930s. (As a subpoint of #3: I now know what a Literature Review is.)
4. I like communication theory. I already knew that. Just thought it bore repeating.
(A video Thank-You to my classmates)
As I stated in my vlog on effective critiques: it is always a privilege to read another writer’s work. Even though I didn’t read ever paper presented, it was a privilege to hear my classmates’ personal insights on “equipment for living.”
As a group, I think we did a pretty good job for our first round of academic writing. There is clearly room for improvement for all of us, as even the professional writers among us have little experience at this type of writing. I can still see some figuring out the difference between writing a report and synthesizing material. I am a nonfiction essayist in my spare time, so I writing as epistemology–I learn what I know in the writing process. It took me a long time to trust that process. I think that as our class grows in experience and confidence in academic writing, they will embrace the open nature of writing-itself as a means of creating original thought. And, not claiming that I’m that particularity advanced in the concept, I say the same for myself.
Everyone clearly put 100% into their research papers and that makes me hopeful for an enriching academic experience with our group of “baby” scholars. I was impressed that with 12 of us, none of us chose the same movie. However, two sets of two classmates explored similar topics: Stacy C. and Kim M. explored life path/destiny; Jenna W. and Peggy M. looked at non-traditional relationships (could possibly add Ann here, too). It’s interesting to see how different people put unique twists on the same subject. Further, most of our class really opened up about person issues and challenges, and it makes us feel like a more connected group.
I could wax poetic about each presentation, but for the purposes of this blog post, I’m going to feature five that I found intriguing because they made me think about something (the thesis, equipment for living, the specific film) in a new and different way:
1.Kim Madrigal, Bagger Vance and the authentic swing. Kim did a great job of being concise and to the point. I’m always working on tightening my work, so I appreciated that she had her thesis and argument down to 5 minutes. I critiqued her draft, and from that I learned about autoethnography. I’m intrigued by the format and am looking forward to writing that type of paper.
2. Jenna Wise, female friendships in Fried Green Tomatoes. I found this to be an interesting take on a film I’ve seen many times. I’m a participant in the Geena Davis Institute for Gender in the Media, and I hadn’t really thought about the fact that this is a movie with a predominantly female cast (a rarity) with nontraditional female-to-female partnering. Not only is the film equipment for living, but it’s a great example of the need for more equipment for women by women.
3. Arwen McCaffery, Cloud Atlas and intertwined relationships. I loved how Arwen spent time on the visual and sound elements of the film as part of the equipment. A significant part of the application of Burke to film involves the non-narrative equipment possible in the medium of film. No one else really honed in on that element of film in such a precise way.
4. Nicole Hunt, Mean Girls and SI. I’ve never really liked the movie, so I was really impressed with the way Nicole engage the story by means of SI and Groupthink. I would never have thought of this film as an illustration of these points, but it works perfectly. I also applaud Nicole for identifying herself as a former “plastic.” I feel very strongly that we’ve reached the time where we have to have zero tolerance on bullying; however, I don’t think the right approach is to demonize the bullies. Nicole did a fantastic job of exploring how both sides of the bullying issue can be engaged.
5. Nikki Edmondson, GI Jane and organizational control. Her application of organizational control to the military really captivated me. At first glance, it seems obvious–the military is all about control. But, her idea about concertive control, connecting that to the moment in the film when the troops begin to disagree with the simple and bureaucratic control message they’ve been given, really fascinated me. Even in a system as “controlled” as the military, the troops themselves play a role in maintaining and changing the rules of the organization. I would never have thought about that in connection with this film.
I’m looking forward to continuing on with this group of conscientious, deep-thinking students.