Posts Tagged ‘communication’

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has recently launched an interdisciplinary initiative in graduate education in technology studies under the “INTERSECT” program. This initiative is called “Learning to See Systems.”  It includes a Communication MA or PhD track.

A special *Fellowship* will be offered by the Graduate College through the Department of Communication to fully fund graduate study on this track for two years (no TA-ing or RA-ing), followed by up to three successive years of normal departmental funding from the Department of Communication if the student is a doctoral student.

The Department of Communication is therefore seeking applicants interested in the intersections between technology studies and communication studies, especially communication design, *rhetorical studies*, and/or the critical/cultural study of technological systems from a communication perspective. (more…)

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I keep hearing from colleagues in other disciplines that the stakes are incredibly low in contemporary psychology.  Requests for explanation get me no further than utterances of despair over the stranglehold caused by increased ethical standards for research on humans.  There will be no more Stanford prison experiments or Milgram authority tests.  All that is left are either peculiar lab objectifications of the social or discourse analysis.

I don’t understand the despair:  we’ve learned what we needed to from Zimbardo and Milgram, surely.  The new social psychology involved with cognition and discourse provides good fodder for argumentation studies (or at least it can).  It encourages critical thinking that will be informed by empirical analysis of what works, rather than armchair speculations.  All this feeds democracy.

Argumentation and discourse analysis (of which I have only the vaguest understanding) seem especially important given the current proliferation of discourse.  Discourse may also be the site of some of the most persistent stumbling blocks to social justice.  Micro-inequalities and implicit bias impede women’s and minorities’ social and political participation.

Cecelia Ridgeway suggests implicit bias may be a central cause for the stalled gender revolution:  despite the massive improvements for women in wealthy countries during the 20th century the progress stalled around 1990.  On the major markers of social status (income, wealth, and political participation as I recall), we are still where we were 22 years ago!

While Ridgeway argues we cannot directly affect our cognitive biases, given their deep and unconscious operation, we can certainly affect their impact on our discourse, watch for it, and compensate.  We can revise our hiring and promotion practices, we can change more casual standards too perhaps, e.g. by making direct eye-contact with marginalized people.  That could be part of critical thinking too, and might aid its impact. Attention to micro-inequalities may be critical too in the sense of necessary to push beyond the stall, and psychology is helping us sort them out.  The stakes remain pretty high for women and minorities.

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Ah, the wonders of Twitter. In a chain of argumentation that wandered around quite a bit today, the question of improvisation (what it is, how best to characterize it, etc.) came up. For those RAIL readers who are classically trained rhetoricians, this question will no doubt call to mind Book Ten of Quintillian’s Institutio Oratoria, which deals with extemporaneous speech. This led to the contribution of the video below by one of the participants.

The expansive talk herein is by George E. Lewis, the Edwin H. Case Professor of American Music at Columbia University. The general gist of it is that much of human interaction is understandable as improvisation (as understood in a manner analogous to the sort that occurs in musical performance). If this were right, then interesting consequences would follow for argumentation, at least when argumentation is considered as a dialectical process between two or more persons.  For starters, one such consequence would be that argumentation needs to be seen more as a cooperative than a competitive phenomenon. Accordingly, many of the “moves” of various participants would have to be understood outside the scope of strategies for “winning”.  There are other potential results too, I think, but they’re likely to appear differentially according to the approach to argumentation one takes. (For example, I find myself wondering with great interest how those working within the framework of normative pragmatics would understand improvisation in argumentation, but I’ll leave the answering of that wonder to those more qualified than I to speak on it.)

It is an interesting talk, but be warned: it is a little on the longish side and it’s general orientation from within a Continental philosophical framework may not be everyone’s cup of tea. If, knowing that, you’re not scared, then have go at it!

I would be remiss if I did not thank consummate jazz musician Vijay Iyer 1) for getting involved in our Twitter conversation at all and 2) for posting the above video in the hopes of enlightening us as to the nature and power of improvisation.  In return, I post this video of his wonderful trio covering Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature” in which they, yes, improvise delightfully.

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Count Yorck's speech to the East Prussian states on February 5th, 1813 in Koenigsberg", Otto Brausewetter, 1888

Last week Shaun Usher, custodian of the excellent website “Letters of Note” announced that he would close the comments section on all posts.  He writes:

All complaints should be directed towards a section of society to whom the concept of even vaguely civil discussion means nothing. …I simply cannot afford to continue mopping up after the trolls who crawl among us, itching to bring down the tone at every available opportunity.

Usher does not mince words when describing said trolls and their methodology, but I’ll let you read the best parts of the announcement for yourself.

I understand Usher’s frustration very well. Prior to writing this blog I was, for years, a moderator on a website devoted to open philosophical discussion.  This was before the days of the “new media”. There were no philosophical blogs to speak of in those days, so if you wanted to talk philosophy on the internet sites like ours were where you would go. The founder of the site and I, and the other moderators as well, worked hard to create a website that where those who knew a little something about philosophy could interact with those who were new to it, sojourning, or simply curious.  We had a great time before the site caught on.  Then the membership exploded, swollen by trolls, spammers, crackpots, political cross-posters, and bots of every description.  It became impossible to have a threaded discussion a significant portion of which wasn’t overgrown with inanity, spam, and digital graffiti (of the bathroom wall variety, not the amazing mural variety).  Those with a serious interest in the conversation petitioned and complained, and we tried harder to moderate the site.  In the end, however, it was futile.  Nothing we did could simultaneously (a) protect the discussion from its many and varied saboteurs while (b) maintaining the quality of discussion that would make a site like ours worth visiting and (c ) upholding our original vision that philosophy is neat and even non-specialists will find that out if they have a chance to discuss it in a forum with a critical mass of members who know what they’re talking about. Eventually the site crashed under the weight of the flotsam and jetsam that has generally made open-membership sites for threaded discussion like ours obsolete.  We rebuilt it twice before most of the moderators got tired of it and threw in the towel.  In the course of the years that it was truly functional, however, I learned a lot and made some friends with whom I still keep in touch. It wasn’t a bad experience by any means, but it is one that has given me a lot of food for thought. One of the things I’ve thought about quite a bit as a result of my moderating days is how our experiences online shape our perception of the public at large, and how that perception conditions and shapes (or doesn’t) our conception of democracy.


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July 2-July 29, 2011 – Ages 16-18
Wake Forest University
Winston-Salem, NC

Do you know a teenager (16-18) who is interested in meeting young people from Europe, Eastern Europe, and Eurasia? Do they have an interest in learning more about transatlantic relationships, public advocacy and civic engagement?

The Department of Communication at Wake Forest University is offering 10 Scholarships for American students to attend the 2011 Benjamin Franklin Transatlantic Fellows (BFTF) Summer Institute. These Scholarships include the following:

• $2,500 scholarship; Designation as Benjamin Franklin Transatlantic Fellow (covers tuition, activities, meals and lodging in WFU dorm, and partial travel funds to and from WFU)
• Participation in all Institute events, including classes on: Citizenship, Comparative Constitutionalism, Documentary Production and Theory, New Media, Public Advocacy, taught by Wake Forest and visiting faculty.
• Seven day educational trip to Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia, PA, including a visit to the State Department, The Washington Center and several sites including the Newseum in DC; Constitution Center in Philadelphia, etc.
• Civic engagement activities, local community service projects and workshops on public advocacy.
• Cultural activities including an International Dinner, visits to places of worship and other local sites.

The U.S. Fellows would join about 50 Fellows on the Wake Forest campus for a month-long Institute. The international Fellows are from over 30 countries ranging from Armenia to Iceland, Denmark to Kosovo, Malta to Lithuania. Participants will arrive at WFU on July 2 and depart on July 29, 2011.

Applicants must be U.S. Citizens and 16-18 years old. For more information and the application form, visit our website.

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Cognition, Conduct & Communication CCC2011
University of Lódz, Poland

The Chair of Pragmatics at the University of Lódz, Poland is starting a new conference series: Cognition, Conduct & Communication. CCC2011 is the first international conference devoted to a complex yet integrated and consistent study of cognitive approaches to pragmatics and discourse analysis, language learning and use, and language disorders.

Conference focus

  • interdisciplinary yet synergical research in diversified cognitive and pragmatic phenomena and processes pertaining to communication in native and second/foreign language in normally developing as well as disordered individuals
  • cognitive, pragmatic and discourse analytic concepts at work across the contexts of first, second, foreign language acquisition, learning, processing, comprehension and production
  • pragmatic competence and pragmatic awareness development in naturalistic and educational settings, including the effectiveness of educational interventions undertaken to enhance pragmatic skills
  • individual learner/language user differences and pragmatic disorders

Conference discussions will proceed at the intersection of the following areas: cognitive pragmatics, societal pragmatics, clinical pragmatics, psycholinguistics, sociolinguistics, educational psychology, cognitive linguistics, cognitive psychology, applied linguistics, discourse analysis

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Call for Papers

A special issue of the Journal of Applied Communication is planned: Examining the Linkages between Religion, Spirituality and Communication for Individual and Social Change.

This special issue is devoted to research articles and essays that focus on the role and impact of religion and spirituality (R/S) on the design, impact and practice of communication via the media and between individuals. Papers that address practical implications and linkages between R/S and communication in areas such as health, wellbeing, personal relationships, instruction, policy, public understanding or social discourse will be ideal for this special issue.


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