Tag Archives: communication

  • Communication and the Human Experience

    Due for release this February, Introducing Communication is a new textbook featuring discussions on issues and challenges associated with mass globalization and new technologies. This smart and sophisticated text encourages students to reflect on how these consequences and implications come to bear on how we live and communicate. Author Amardo Rodriguez explains why his new textbook can be used in any introductory communication course.


    By Amardo Rodriguez

    Every fall, I teach the introductory communication course at Syracuse University. It is a large lecture course and a core requirement for our majors and minors. In preparing to teach this course a few years ago, I read every introductory communication textbook I could track down, both in print and out of print. What I found was simply striking. Nearly all the textbooks focused on only one perspective of communication – viewing communication in terms of messages. The reason for this is most likely because this is how the National Communication Association defines communication.

    However, there are many other ways to define communication that are much more amenable to a world where divergence is increasingly more valued than convergence. We can, for instance, view communication in terms of problem-solving, as in helping us navigate and appreciate our diversity and complexity. From this view, communication becomes a problem-solving activity.

    Suffice it to say, I never had any intention or ambition to write an introductory communication textbook. Initially, I was only seeking to develop a textbook for my introductory communication class, as I could find none – either in print or out of print – that could do what I believe any introductory textbook should ultimately do, which is to give new students a rigorous and comprehensive survey of the diversity of perspectives, heritages, and concepts that define a discipline.

    Over the last five years I have committed myself to creating a textbook that my students will find both challenging and enlightening, meaning one that is intellectually rigorous and culturally fascinating. What has ultimately come from all of this writing and rewriting is an introductory communication textbook that I am confident many instructors and students across the US, Canada, and the world will find just as intellectually rigorous and culturally fascinating.

    Introducing Communication covers eight different perspectives and introduces an array of concepts from around the world. It discusses why the study of communication is important in terms of deepening our understanding of the human condition, enlarging how we frame and resolve human problems and struggles, and appreciating the different perspectives that communication brings to the study of the human experience.

    This introductory communication textbook also highlights the consequences and implications that come with different ways of defining, understanding, and studying communication, and it presents a robust and rigorous examination of these different consequences and implications. The book is ideally suited for persons who teach any kind of introductory communication course and are looking for a text that is theoretically rigorous, intellectually expansive, and pedagogically elegant.

    My textbook is different to other introductory communication textbooks in three important ways:

    I. It introduces students to a diversity of perspectives that I am yet to find in any other introductory communication textbook. I highlight how these different perspectives fundamentally expand and deepen our understanding of communication.

    II. It highlights communication issues and challenges that are impacting peoples from around the world as our spaces and distances collapse and implode. For instance, I discuss how the proliferation of new kinds of technology is contributing to the demise of the world’s linguistic diversity.

    III. It introduces students to communication concepts from all corners of the world and showcases the contributions of different cultures and peoples to our understanding of communication. I discuss concepts from African cultures, Middle Eastern cultures, Asian cultures, and Indigenous cultures. The book functions as a global introductory communication textbook by moving beyond the Western bias that permeates every introductory communication textbook and still fundamentally defines our understanding of communication knowledge.

    This textbook could be used in any corner of the world without the instructor having to worry about promoting or propagating Western biases. In fact, the book looks critically at the Western hegemon that shapes how we define communication knowledge. It would therefore be ideal for any instructor looking for a textbook that introduces students to a global view of communication.

    I have been using early versions of this textbook in my own large lecture class for the past five years and obsessively revising and polishing the text based on student feedback. The feedback has always been positive in terms of the book being accessible and interesting. The unsolicited comments from students have also been encouraging. Here is one humbling example:

    Dear Professor Rodriguez, I want to start by thanking you for writing this textbook. I usually do not do the reading for any of the classes I take, but when the time came to read your textbook, I learned something new about myself. . . . I have learned that if something seems so out of the ordinary for me, it may make total sense to someone else. . . . If someone were to ask me for help to define communication, I would just hand them the textbook and tell them to read it. There are so many perspectives I learned that I didn’t even know existed. Thank you, Professor Rodriguez, for enlightening me. Keep on doing what you're doing because not only have you enlightened me, you have enlightened many others.”

    In addition to the book itself, I believe professors will find the Instructor’s Manual to be quite valuable. It has many supplementary readings from The New York Times that will help students appreciate how the concepts and perspectives found in the book expand and deepen our understanding of current events around the world. It also has relevant TED Talks, classroom discussion questions, and suggested essay questions. The accompanying Test Bank includes multiple-choice questions that reinforce key concepts and ideas. Like the book, I wrote these instructors’ materials with my students in mind, and I hope they will be useful to you and your students as well.

  • Crisis Communication in Canada

    To mark the publication this fall of Crisis Communication in Canada, author Duncan Koerber reflects on how crisis management and communication have changed in the digital age. He also comments on the importance for Canadian students of having Canadian content that they can relate to when studying crises in the media. In the midst of the #MeToo movement, his commentary on the Jian Ghomeshi case is especially relevant.

    For Instructors: To request an exam copy of Crisis Communication in Canada for an upcoming course, send us an email at requests@utphighereducation.com.

    When I was in the middle of writing my new book, Crisis Communication in Canada, a major public crisis hit a famous radio host. Being one of the first major social media crises in Canadian history, it was the perfect case study for the book. The person in crisis was CBC radio host, author, and celebrity Jian Ghomeshi.

    I followed the case from the first news to Ghomeshi’s infamous Facebook post to the post-mortem accounts of Ghomeshi’s trial, in which he was found not guilty of sexual assault. Ghomeshi’s case was interesting because while he was eventually acquitted, it represented the downfall of a favourite son who failed in his crisis communication—an excellent lesson for students.

    When I started teaching crisis communication in 2011, I could find only a handful of scholarly cases with a Canadian angle. What issues were uniquely Canadian in this field? I wasn’t sure. This meant my students were reading about Tiger Woods’ domestic assault, the Chicago Tylenol case, and the faux pas of southern US politician Strom Thurmond. But in every class, students brought in uniquely Canadian cases for discussion and debate. Crisis Communication in Canada brings together and emphasizes the study of these Canadian cases to help students work through what went right and wrong, with an eye on our own Canadian issues.

    The Ghomeshi case also speaks to an important thread in my book about social media, which is a growing topic of analysis in the field. After years of studying crisis communication, I argue in the book that the social media crisis could be the defining type of our time. I show how these crises develop and how to use social media in prevention and response.

    That’s why the early chapters focus first on just what a crisis is—if a student doesn’t know what a crisis is, he or she can’t prevent or respond to it, after all. In the past, crises tended to be defined as large events that disrupted corporations (product failures, oil spills, employee violence) or damaged cities (hurricanes, earthquakes, emergencies). Now, in addition to these crises, we seem to have an abundance of new crises rooted in words posted online. That is, many people, famous or not, write the wrong things on Twitter, and they lose their livelihoods or even face violent retribution. But who decides what is wrong? Mediated communities with certain values. Crisis Communication in Canada provides students with the theoretical background to think more broadly about crises occurring in our Digital Age.

    The book also critiques common crisis communication tactics. Jian Ghomeshi tried to use digital communication—a Facebook post right at the start of his crisis—to explain his side of the story. He said the anonymous woman who charged him with sexual assault was a jilted ex-lover. But his public post, shared by thousands, opened up the possibility of counter-narratives through Facebook and Twitter and blogs.

    People immediately countered Ghomeshi’s story, and this made the crisis far worse for him. Getting ahead of the narrative, as the Ghomeshi case showed, doesn’t always work in this hyper-mediated world where other voices can provide a strong counterpoint. This kind of analysis in Crisis Communication in Canada helps students question common wisdom—such as “one should always get ahead of the narrative”—and build new crisis communication theory in the process.

    Duncan Koerber has taught media studies, communication theory, and writing at a number of universities in the Toronto area. His articles on media and journalism history, writing studies, and crisis communication have appeared in a number of journals including the Canadian Journal of Communication, Public Relations Review, the Journal of Canadian Studies, Journalism History, and the Canadian Journal of Media Studies.

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