Contains Learning Objectives, a Chapter Overview, Activities, Essays, and Sources

Learning Objectives


1.1 Illustrate how models of communication evolved from linear to transactional.

1.2  Demonstrate how communication is an ongoing and dynamic process of creating meaning.

1.3  Contrast the transmissional, constitutive, and ritual views of communication.

1.4  Explain the power of culture as the backdrop for creating meaning.

1.5  Describe the relationships between communication, perception, and identity.

1.6  Explain when and how communication grants power.




Communication is indispensable not only to professional success but to success as a person. Good communication skills can make you a better friend, parent, colleague, and citizen. Competent communication and media literacy can make interacting with people more satisfying, consuming media more fun, and experiencing life more meaningful. This chapter provides a thorough overview of our discipline’s understanding of the communication process.




  • Activity: Communication and Career Success

Search for this title: Giving Employers What They Don’t Really Want.  It will take you to a somewhat controversial article that appeared in the national newspaper for college professors and administrators, the Chronicle of Higher Education. Its central argument is that colleges are poorly preparing their students for career success because employers don’t want “technicians,” they want good communicators and critical thinkers. Now judge for yourself if the arguments in the Chronicle article match the lessons of this chapter.

  • Activity: Communication Competence Self-Assessment

Sit down with what Symbolic Interaction would call a significant other. Explain the self-assessment you took in Chapter 1 and what it said about your skills as a communicator. Then have that person tell you what she or he thinks about your meaning-making skills. Do the objective and subjective evaluations match? If they don’t, can you explain why?


·                     Activity: Testing the Arbitrariness of Symbols—The American Flag

          Sit down with someone from a different country than your own. Ask him or her to explain what the American flag means, that is, what it symbolizes for her or him. Then offer your take on its meaning. Where do your meanings of that symbol match and diverge? See if you can identify differences and similarities in your experiences that can account for the matches and mismatches.




1.      What are the 4 types of noise and how does each interfere with successful communication?

Sample answer: The different types of noise include physical, semantic, psychological, and physiological. Each interferes with the process of communication in different ways. Physical noise is any sort of outside communication effort by someone or something, for example a loud noise that interrupts or distracts you. Semantic noise is the interference during the construction of a message, as when your professor uses unfamiliar words. Psychological noise is the different biases and predispositions that can unconsciously shape how we interpret messages. The final type of noise is physiological noise, or when biological or other physical issues interfere with our ability to communicate. An example would be if you were too sick to listen to a talk you were attending.


2.      Many communication experts believe that it is impossible to not communicate? What is their argument? Give examples to illustrate their position.

Sample answer: Their position is that we are never not communicating because everything we do suggests some level of communication. To some, the obvious communication is verbal communication, but in reality 93% of what we communicate to others in nonverbal. We communicate through our body language (gestures, movements, stance, and angles) often to the point that if what we say contradicts how we are acting, our true feelings show through our body. Even when we are alone, we are communicating that we want to be by ourselves. When we don’t say anything, we may be communicating that we are angry or confused. Our choice of clothes for an interview communicates that we are competent, professional, and want the job. It is impossible to not communicate.

Go to the Source

Carey, J. (1989). Communication as Culture: Essays on Media and Society. Winchester, MA: Unwin Hyman.

Craig, R. T. (1999). “Communication Theory as a Field.” Communication Theory, 9: 119-161.

Goffman, E. (1974). Frame Analysis: An Essay on the Organization of Experience. New York: Harper & Row.

Hall, E. T. (1976). Beyond Culture. New York: Doubleday.

Mead, G. H. (1934). Mind, Self, and Society. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.


The ICA is one of two major scholarly and professional organizations for communication students, teachers, and professionals. Its site offers a wealth of information and access to numerous communication-related services.

The NCA is one of two major scholarly and professional organizations for communication students, teachers, and professionals. Its site offers a wealth of information and access to numerous communication-related services as well as connection to an on-going blog.

Affiliated with the NCA, LPA is the national honors society for communication majors and minors at 4-year colleges and universities around the globe. It is an accredited member of the Association of College Honor Societies.

The WCA works to facilitate intercultural dialogue and to ensure and support communication research, teaching, and practice in all forms and circumstances.


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