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Communication is a process of transferring information from one entity to another, thus the reason most of us spend about 75 percent communicating our knowledge, thoughts, and ideas to others. The communication process is sign mediated interactions between two or more people. The James Carey article discerns between two alternative models of communication that were dominant at one point or another in the history of western civilization. These two views were characterized as transmission and ritual. Both these views exist in everyday communication; however it is not always clear which one is in operation since communication is such a mundane thing. This essay will attempt to help in distinguishing between the two through analysis of the James W. Carey article “A Cultural Approach to Communication.”
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The transmission model of communication is the one that is most prominent both in our society, and most industrial cultures. The transmission model of communication focuses on the transportation of a message from a sender to a receiver in hopes of disseminating information. Moreover this model of communication attempts to influence others across space. From day one humans have been trying to enable sending information from one entity to another instantly; however it wasn’t until the telegraph that this was possible. Motives for this instantaneous transmission through space was due to the need for political governance and the supply and demand factors of economics. The fact that a motive for instantaneous transmission was for political governance shows the underlying truth behind the transmission model of communication was to attempt control of distance (i.e. close the gap between space) and people. Furthermore we see the transmission model of communication as a way to spread knowledge beyond geographical boundaries and educate others. Therefore if one were to further analyse the motives behind instantaneous movement in space the church/religious reasons become evident key players. For instance Carey states that “this movement in space was an attempt to establish and extend the kingdom of God, to create the conditions under which godly understanding might be realized, to produce a heavenly though still terrestrial city” (Carey 39)Thus the vast movement through space was to establish and extend God’s kingdom on earth. If we were to look at society today it is clear that the most dominant religion today is the Christian and Catholic faith. In my opinion the control of space through instantaneous transmission was exceptionally successful, further emphasizing religious reasons were a major motive. Supplementary evidence of this comes from the invention of the telegraph. This is because when it was first invented and used the first thing that was transmitted was “what hath God wrought” (Carey 39) this showed a strong religious connection. The transmission view of communication was seen as the sending of information between sender and receiver for the goal of dissemination of knowledge over space. Therefore if one were to look at the newspaper under the transmission view, it would be seen as a medium seeking to inform, not to integrate us in the national and worldwide events. In my opinion examining the newspaper under the transmission view desensitizes the events around us, since we are not taking on the personalities in the news but merely being informed. Without integration one could argue that we become without emotion when reading the newspaper under the transmission view. This view of communication is the one the truly dominates our capitalistic culture.
On the other hand the ritual view of communication is the older of the two views and is the one that has the lesser effect on our society today. As basic metaphor for the ritual view of communication is considered ceremony, where the participant’s roles are actually participants not sender & receiver like in the transmission view. The ritual view of communication focuses on the sharing of information and the preservation across time. In addition the ritual view of communication is not concerned with disseminating messages over space. In the opinion of James Carey “in a ritual definition, communication is linked to terms such as sharing, participation, association, fellowship, and the possession of a common faith” (Carey 40) Therefore this view of communication calls for integration of the participants since it draws people together in fellowship and commonality, much like church for certain religions. One would not simply go to church and not participate in the singing, praying, and joyous clapping that takes place. An argument against the ritual view of communication could be that since it is culturally biased, there could be some ethnocentric problems. This is because not everyone shares the same beliefs, so some rituals may offend others or they might misunderstand. When examining the newspaper under the ritual view, you are not intended to gain information from it, but to become one with the stories within the paper. Like the definition of ritual views says you become a participant. Under the ritual view medias are not used for social interaction, i.e. discussing television show with friends during conversation, but are instead forms of social integration. With all the reality TV shows around us nowadays there is some evidence that the ritual view of communication is making a slight comeback. This is because reality TV shows try to integrate the audience with the events in the show to form social connection. Reality TV shows are able to facilitate a sense of belonging, refuge and community even if the audience isn’t directly interacting, for instance the, The Biggest Loser had a huge effect on many people. Therefore under the ritual view of communication people are more inclined to take on vicarious roles depending on the media used.
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From reading the Carey article I would tend to say that he prefers the ritual view of communication because he feels that the transmission view is over used in today’s society. In addition Carey feels that the transmission view of communication can no longer keep up with technology or the social change of modern time, “Although it led to solid achievement it could no longer go forward without disastrous intellectual and social consequences” (Carey 42) My interpretation of this is that Carey feels that with the transmission model of communication it will fail to keep up with technology and will lose its control over space. For example nowadays the government is having trouble controlling peer to peer file sharing, which in a sense follows the transmission model. Therefore the social consequence of this is damage to intellectual property. Carey doesn’t hate the transmission model; he would just rather see more of the ritual view of communication, since there is an influx of transmission communication around us. Everywhere we look transmission communication has a hold/control of us. Transmission communication is analogous to the hypodermic needle effect. Meaning whatever we see in the mass media through transmission communication has a direct and powerful effect upon the audience. An excellent example of this is advertisements; commercials for trucks are made to control our thoughts and beliefs about the product in a positive way, which eventually leads to us going to buy the product. However under the ritual view this commercial would have helped us in connecting with a certain group or role. In conclusion, “models of communication are, then, not merely representation of communication but representations for communication.” (Carey 47) Therefore different models of communication allow us to communicate effectively depending on the situation, if we were advertising we would definitely want to communicate through the transmission model.
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