Friday, October 1, 2010

Symbolic Convergence Theory and the Osgood & Schramm Circular Model

    One of the most useful convergences that Griffin describes in chapter three of his Theory of Communication is the overlap of objective and interpretive metrics for gauging the validity of a theory (1).  While this Venn diagram reminds me of the connections between these two apparently disparate approaches, another diagram also comes to mind, Osgood and Schramm’s circular diagram with communication forming a looping process that travels between two individuals (2).  One key element that was introduced in that work was that each piece of information travels through an interpreter.  Language, of course, provides a wonderful opportunity to practice methods of helping divergent thought processes find a common path, often through interpretation.       With a little semantic openness, objective theory’s qualification of “explanation of data” becomes interpretive theory’s “understanding of people.”  Similarly, the scientific need for “relative simplicity” becomes a more nebulous sounding desire for “aesthetic appeal”, but they do of course refer to the same thing.  Convoluted, overly pedantic work is not appealing to a reader and reveals a certain pompousness and/or dearth of expressive ability.  
    Using Ernest Bormann’s symbolic convergence theory as an example also helps the reader to partially define where their theoretical allegiances lie and gives the creative mind a chance to defend or negate some of the constructs, depending on the perceived importance of validity gaps. 

N. B. On a side note, symbolic convergence theory reminded me of inside jokes and the way they help a group bond.  I am sure they form a subset of Bormann’s “fantasy chains.”     

(1) Griffin, E. M. (2009). A first look at communication theory (7thd ed.). NY: McGraw-Hill.
(2) McQuail, D., & Windahl, S. Basic models, pp. 13-37. In Communication Models for the Study of Mass Communication, New York: Longman, 1993.


Jeremy said...

"Convoluted, overly pedantic work is not appealing to a reader".

Yes, I agree this is a true statement--can you be clearer on how it relates to the readings? Are you arguing this is the opposite of "aesthetics"?

Chris Rosakranse said...

In a sense, one aspect of aesthetics would be readability and ease of cognition for those outside the field, but that would also reflect on the ability of others within the field to support the findings.