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Centre for the Study of Communication and Culture

Volume 23 (2004) No. 1

IN THIS
ISSUE

Walter J. Ong, S.J.


A Retrospective
Paul A. Soukup, S.J.
Managing Editor

A QUARTERLY REVIEW OF COMMUNICATION RESEARCH

ISSN: 0144-4646
Communication Research Trends
Table of Contents Volume 23 (2004) Number 1
http://cscc.scu.edu
Walter J. Ong. S.J.: A Retrospective . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
Published four times a year by the Centre for the Study of
1. Historical studies of rhetoric . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 Communication and Culture (CSCC), sponsored by the
A. Ramus and rhetoric . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 California Province of the Society of Jesus.
B. Ramus and method . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 Copyright 2004. ISSN 0144-4646
C. Ramus and printing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
2. Habits of thought, representing knowledge, Editor: William E. Biernatzki, S.J.
and visualism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 Managing Editor: Paul A. Soukup, S.J.
3. The persistence of the word . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
A. Voices and hearers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
B. Word, sound, and the sensorium . . . . . . . . . . 10 Subscription:
C. Fighting words . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 Annual subscription (Vol. 23) US$45
D. Stages of communication,
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2 — VOLUME 23 (2004) NO. 1 COMMUNICATION RESEARCH TRENDS


Walter J. Ong, S.J.
A Retrospective
Paul A. Soukup, S. J.
Managing editor, Communication Research Trends
psoukup@scu.edu

Communication Research Trends usually charts current communication research, introducing its
readers to recent developments across the range of inquiry into communication. This issue, however, takes
a different tack, looking back on the writings of Walter J. Ong, S.J., who died at the age of 90 in August
2003. Ong spent his scholarly career at Saint Louis University, where he served as University Professor of
Humanities, the William E. Haren Professor of English, and Professor of Humanities in Psychiatry at the
Saint Louis University School of Medicine. In a career that spanned 60 years, Ong published 16 books,
245 articles, and 108 reviews. In addition, he edited a number of works and gave interviews that further
explored his wide-ranging interests. Readers interested in a full bibliography of Ong’s works should refer
to the web site prepared by Professor Betty Youngkin at the University of Dayton, at
http://homepages.udayton.edu/~youngkin/biblio.htm.
From the perspective of an interest in connections among many areas of human knowledge over such
a long career, he explored a whole gamut of activities by careful observations of the threads that run
through western culture and by insightful analysis of what he observed. Communication forms one of those
many threads in the West—perhaps the dominant one—and so it occupies a similar place in Ong’s work.
The tapestry Ong weaves has, bit by bit, influenced thinking about communication as well as research. And
so, Communication Research Trends looks back on the writings of Walter Ong, S.J.

Walter J. Ong, S.J. Farrell (2000) has already provided a detailed


Perhaps surprisingly for someone with academic introduction to Ong’s work, paying particular attention
preparation in Classics (B.A, Rockhurst College, to his literary criticism, media studies, and psycholog-
1933), Philosophy (Licentiate, Saint Louis University, ical explorations. Interested readers may consult that
1941), Theology, (Licentiate, Saint Louis University, work for biographical details as well as for information
1948), and English (M.A., Saint Louis University, regarding other key themes in Ong’s writings: literary,
1941; Ph.D., Harvard, 1954), Walter Ong showed an psychological, pedagogical, and so on.
early understanding of the power of mass communica- Though difficult to isolate completely, Ong’s con-
tion. One of the few to review Marshall McLuhan’s tributions to communication studies fall into five gen-
1951 work, The Mechanical Bride: The Folklore of eral groupings: historical studies of rhetoric; visual
Industrial Man, Ong (1952) recognized, with McLuhan images and habits of thought—what Ong terms, “visu-
(his M.A. thesis adviser), that advertising and popular alism”; the word; stages of communication media
communication provide an insight into contemporary (oral, literate, and electronic); and digital media and
culture. He also recognized the ways that communica- hermeneutics. Though one might argue that his peda-
tion technologies had linked the entire world. This gogical and psychological themes also touch on com-
early sensitivity to topics related to communication munication, this retrospective will examine them only
runs through his entire career. in terms of the former topics.

COMMUNICATION RESEARCH TRENDS VOLUME 23 (2004) NO. 1 — 3


1. Historical Studies of Rhetoric

Ong’s Harvard graduate work (1948-1954) A. Ramus and rhetoric


focused on the 16th century Paris arts professor and Rhetoric refers to oral expression and a prepara-
educational reformer Peter Ramus (1515-1572). In tory analysis of issues for discussion or debate. But
Ong’s hands, Ramus and Ramism open windows first systematic teaching about rhetoric did not begin until
onto the system of western education, then onto intel- people could write texts about it. And so, though the
lectual history, and finally onto human development. A study and teaching of rhetoric depends in some ways
significant part of those histories is the history of rhet- on writing, writing itself appeared subordinate to oral
oric. Ong’s work fills in part of the gap between the expression in the educational experience of the Middle
classical rhetoric of Aristotle, Cicero and Quintilian, Ages and the Renaissance. “From antiquity through the
for example, and the 18th century efforts of Hugh Blair Renaissance and to the beginnings of romanticism,
and others. The story appears embedded within the his- under all teaching about the art of verbal expression
tory of western pedagogy, since rhetoric fairly defined there lies the more or less dominant supposition that
educational preparation in the Middle Ages and the paradigm of all expression is the oration” (Ong,
Renaissance (Ong, 1971c). 1971c, p. 3). This pre-eminence of the spoken word
The study of Ramus plays a central role in Ong’s found reinforcement both from the goals of the educa-
thinking about communication, one that extends far tional establishment (to train political and ecclesiastical
beyond the history of rhetoric. From classical times leaders and teachers) and from the method of instruc-
through the Renaissance, rhetoric defined not only how tion (lecture and debate). But, as in all human enter-
people spoke, but how people analyzed and solved prises, education itself redefined its subject. In the case
problems. In many ways, because rhetoric more or less of rhetoric, much of this redefinition had to do with the
defined education, it defined, through education, the relation of rhetoric to logic or dialectic—methods of
dominant ways of thinking. Several changes occurred proof (Ong, 1971b, p. 81).
shortly before or during Ramus’s lifetime. Ong noticed Ong offers an overview of the educational milieu
two key changes in western thought, manifest in that saw the development of Ramism and its transfor-
Ramus’s writing: a shift away from rhetoric (with its mation of rhetoric.
emphasis on probable knowledge) to logic (with its
emphasis on proofs and truth); and a shift from hear- The more or less traditional five parts of rhetoric
ing spoken argumentation to seeing a written demon- commonly adhered to by non-Ramist
stration. And Ong also noticed how printing changed Renaissance textbook writers—invention, dispo-
the school environment. It was here that Ong first made sition, memory, striking expression (elocutio),
and delivery—date from ancient Greek times.
the connection between communication form (hearing,
They were not five abstract parts of an abstract
seeing), communication media, and thought processes.
art then, but five activities in which an aspirant
Much of his later work bearing on communication was disciplined so that he might become an ora-
explicates this initial insight. tor or public lecturer—the common ideal of all
In Ong’s study, Ramus plays a three-fold role in ancient liberal education. In antiquity a boy was
the history of rhetoric. First, he more or less makes per- given a foundation of general information on all
manent the dismantling of rhetoric and the transfer of possible subjects (inventio). He was taught to
key elements of classical rhetoric to the province of use this material in composition (dispositio), his
dialectic. Second, he reinforces an emphasis on method mnemonic skill was developed (memoria),
that will continue the impoverishment of rhetoric in together with his literary style (elocutio) and his
favor of dialectic. Third, he influences the teaching of oral delivery (pronuntiatio). These five activities
rhetoric and dialectic throughout western Europe added up to a rather complete educational pro-
gram extending over a good number of years. As
through the widespread popularity of his books. To
a training which the normal educated man
understand Ong’s later work, we must explore some-
received, these activities today would be called
thing of its origins in the history of rhetoric and the simply education, or perhaps general education.
career of Peter Ramus.

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. . . it was quite different in medieval and persons, made up of probabilities only” (p. 61) for an
Renaissance Europe. Rhetoric, which in ancient insistence on proof. Eventually he ends with a formalis-
times had been general culture purveyed in the tic logic, applied with almost mathematical precision.
vernacular, was now culture set within a foreign The next stage in the history of rhetoric and
tongue; ... Rhetoric thus became chiefly a course dialectic occurred with Rudolph Agricola’s Dialectical
in Latin. (Ong, 1958a, p. 275)
Invention in Three Books. Agricola more or less
The education system, with its need to teach Latin defined dialectic for the Renaissance, presenting less
grammar as well as subject matter, offered an opportu- an emphasis on the scientific reasoning demanded by
nity for Ramus to combine and simplify the curricu- teachers and more an emphasis on a “real-world” qual-
lum. Part of this took place in a changed understanding ity that would appeal to students and to the growing
of dialectic or logic. number of scholars associated with the humanist move-
In tracing the run-up to Ramism, Ong notes how ment (p. 97). Agricola developed materials from
medieval Scholasticism had begun to develop logic in Aristotle, Cicero, Quintilian, and other classical
a more formal way, splitting it off from any relation- sources, but simplified terms. Dialectic works through
ship with rhetoric (1958a, p. 53). In some ways, this speech, and so Agricola devotes his second book to the
marked a kind of swing of the pendulum: oration (p. 98). Book III continues with the effects and
styles of speech. By now the art of discourse finds its
The relationship between rhetoric and logic over home in textbooks of dialectic rather than rhetoric;
the ages has been partly reinforcing and partly
rhetoric even loses its claims to invention and to a key
competitive. Rhetoric overshadowed logic in the
patristic age, yielded to it more or less in the
part of invention, the “places” (loci) or topics that
Middle Ages (though rather less than even schol- helped the speaker find out what to say (pp. 101-102).
arly mythology today commonly assumes), and This limitation of loci to dialectic is the critical
overshadowed it again in a different way in the Renaissance divorce in the chronologically
Renaissance. (1971c, p. 7). uneasy union of rhetoric and dialectic. Agricola
Throughout this history rhetoric referred to oral com- decrees this divorce, which will carry through
Ramism. (1958a, p. 102)
position (from finding arguments to presenting them),
while Cicero’s companion art of dialectic (termed ars The loci or places take on huge importance in
disserendi in the West) became more identified with Agricola and later in Ramus. They begin as headings or
logic (Ong, 1971d, p. 67). Gradually, people came to topics under which one can develop arguments. Here is
regard rhetoric as a kind of lesser art, good for reason- Agricola’s definition:
ing with probabilities; logic, as scientific or mathemat-
ical reason, grew in relative importance. These things, common in that since they contain
within themselves whatever can be said on any
In Ramus’s day, Peter of Spain’s Summulae logi-
matter, they thus contain all arguments, were
cales formed the standard text. Since medieval students
called by these men places (loci), because all the
consisted of teenaged boys, the treatment simplified and instruments for establishing conviction are locat-
introduced dialectic/logic, covering “propositions, the ed within them as in a receptacle or a treasure
predicables, the predicaments, syllogisms, the topics or chest. A place (locus) is thus nothing other than a
places, and fallacies.” Other tracts addressed “supposi- certain common distinctive note of a thing, by the
tion..., relative terms..., extension..., appellation..., help of which it is possible to discover what can
restriction..., distribution..., and perhaps exponibles” be proven (or what is probable) with regard to
(1958a, pp. 56-57). What the boys received, then, was a any particular thing. (qtd. in Ong, 1958a, p. 118)
quick introduction to a kind of grammatical logic.
Ong points out that this concept of the loci does not
Though Peter of Spain at first “seems to be in the
address any kind of theory of cognition or epistemolo-
Aristotelian tradition of dialectical or rhetorical argu-
gy; instead it relies on a visual analogy. The develop-
mentation” (dealing with probable argument and proba-
ment of such thought ultimately established graphical
ble conclusion), he quickly moves to conviction,
representation of thought categories firmly in western
addressing the truth claims of questions (p. 61). In his
civilization.
manual for logic, Peter of Spain leaves behind
The transfer of the loci to dialectic also further
Aristotle’s understanding “of dialectic as a rational
weakened rhetoric, for no longer did those educated in
structure, more or less involved in dialogue between

COMMUNICATION RESEARCH TRENDS VOLUME 23 (2004) NO. 1 — 5


this tradition—a tradition that had a huge impact on full sense only in the enunciation, either interior or
Ramus and, through him, on western Europe—look to exteriorized in language; the saying of something about
rhetoric for invention. “This implied spread of dialec- something, the uttering of a statement, the expression
tic to cover all discourse is made fully explicit by of a judgment” (p. 108). Agricola and Ramus, in con-
Agricola in his assertion that ‘there are no places of trast, concentrated on visual maps. And this visualism
invention proper to rhetoric’ “ (1958a, p. 101). Ramus reinforced the proof-oriented logic of Peter of Spain.
eventually completed the move by calling these places Ramus himself developed this as a method, “which
(loci) “arguments” (p. 105). consists of trying to impose upon the whole axiomatic
Ramus also highlighted and developed Agricola’s tradition of scholastic philosophy the pattern of a logic
use of charts or visual aids to represent the places. of topical invention” (p. 130). And that emphasis fit
While neither man was the first to do this, the printer- nicely with pedagogical practices, printed texts, and the
or book-friendly nature of the charts made Ramus’s use need for a scientific method that would eventually
extraordinarily influential. But the use of visual repre- serve to guarantee knowledge.
sentation for cognitive categories had a greater effect, Ramus was above all a teacher and that shaped
which Ong describes as a conflict between visual and his approach to developing both his dialectic and his
auditory means of knowing, a conflict manifest in the rhetoric in an age when printing changed the school
shift to logic/dialectic (and its visual places) from rhet- environment. He lived at a time when science also
oric with its emphasis on speaking. Dialectic, in changed the learning environment. His was a time that
Ramus’s hands, emphasizes invention, removed as it witnessed “a movement away from a concept of
was from rhetoric. knowledge as it had been enveloped in disputation and
teaching (both forms of dialogue belonging to a per-
The reason for the difficulties which these two
sonalist, existentialist world of sound) toward a con-
concepts [invention, judgment] present is that
they are not traceable to two such clear-cut steps
cept of knowledge which associated it with a silent
in cognition, but rather to two different ways of object world, conceived in visualist, diagrammatic
approaching the cognitive process. Invention terms” (p. 151).
sees it in terms of an analogy with a high visual His dialectic, like that of Agricola, focused on
and spatial component: one looks for things in finding terms (invention) and recasting judgment as
order to find them; one comes upon them (in- “the doctrine of collocating (or assembling) what
venio, ευρισκω). This notion is allied to the invention has found, and of judging by this collocation
Greek (and Latin) concept of knowledge and concerning the matter under consideration” (qtd. in
understanding, based on some sort of analogy Ong, 1958a, p. 184). The collocation (as the word
with vision (γιγνωσκω, intelligere). Judgment implies) stresses arrangement, again a visual move.
cannot be readily interpreted in terms of such an
analogy; it is connected with judicial procedure B. Ramus and method
(and thus with the categories or “accusations”), In tracing the history of “method” Ong reminds
and suggests the Hebraic concept of knowledge the modern reader that in its original Greek use, by the
(yadha‘), which is analogous to hearing. The
second century Hellenic rhetorician Hermogenes,
presence of these two items at the very center of
the traditional account of the operations of the
method “means something more like mode of rhetori-
mind thus confirms . . . that any attempt to deal cal organization or thought structure” or even “pattern”
somewhat fully with the intellectual processes rather than Aristotle’s “systematic investigation” (p.
must rely on analogies between understanding 231). The approach made its way through the human-
and hearing as well as between understanding ists to the schools, where Ramus eventually found
and seeing. (1958a, p. 114) Johann Sturm and Philip Melanchthon using it in their
logics. In these instances, method is associated with
In many ways the history and relationship of these two
language rather than science. The part of method that
ideas forms the central insight that grounds all of Ong’s
underwent greatest development in Ramus is the logi-
work. His later studies flesh out how humans define
cal process of invention through the division of defini-
knowledge and how they develop tools to convey
tions into their parts (p. 233).
knowledge, particularly communication tools.
Ramus proposed a whole series of methods—
Aristotle’s sense of human knowledge involves
things that have universal applicability. In general, his
speaking. “Human knowledge for Aristotle exists in the
laws of method feature subsequent definitions and divi-

6 — VOLUME 23 (2004) NO. 1 COMMUNICATION RESEARCH TRENDS


sions, resulting in a nearly binary chart of breaking enterprise. The sequels of Ramism—method and
concepts down into smaller and smaller parts. With this its epiphenomena, which identify Ramism as an
almost mechanical technique of invention, and with the important symptom of man’s changing relation-
emphasis on visualization that such a technique sup- ship to the universe—connect with Ramist
ports, what is left for rhetoric? dialectic directly but with rhetoric only nega-
tively or not at all. (1958a, p. 291).
Given his desire to sort things out clearly, Ramus
removed anything from rhetoric that appeared else- Ramus’s rearrangement of dialectic and rhetoric both
where in his syllabus. Where Aristotle and Cicero had indicate what happened in the educational world of the
set up parallel structures for rhetoric and dialectic, 16th century and added force to those happenings.
depending on the nature of their objects, Ramus drew a
strict division. Since invention and disposition (judg-
C. Ramus and printing
ment) are already treated in dialectic, they cannot have The spread of Ramism forms the third pillar sup-
a place in rhetoric. In Ramus’s treatment, rhetoric can porting Ramus’s effect on the history of rhetoric. The
claim only elocution and pronunciation. “The fifth part, impact of his work lies precisely in its popularity. In
memory, is simply liquidated by being identified with both the last part of his book on Ramus and in its com-
judgment” (p. 270). Much of the Ramist reform of rhet- panion volume (1958b), Ong traces “the diffusion of
oric, then, resulted from the demands of his teaching. Ramism” through the humanist publishers. In a word,
Ong recognizes the larger implications of Ramus became a publishing phenomenon, the author
Ramus’s dual stress on visual organization and simpli- of educational best sellers.
fication. Because of its school-text approach, Ramus’s
method proved highly successful, not only in Paris,
In this economy where everything having to do where Ramus led the Collège de Presles and also
with speech tends to be in one way or another
served as dean of the regius professors at Paris. His
metamorphosed in terms of structure and vision,
writings spread through continental Europe and
the rhetorical approach to life . . . is sealed off
into a cul-de-sac. The attitude toward speech has England, where he influenced several generations of
changed. Speech is no longer a medium in which teachers from the Tudor period (1971d, pp. 81-89)
the human mind and sensibility lives. It is resent- through John Milton (1608-1674) (Ong, 1982a). His
ed, rather, as an accretion to thought, hereupon influence on the Puritans carried Ramism to New
imagined as ranging noiseless concepts or England where his educational method and approach to
“ideas” in a silent field of mental space. . . . rhetoric appeared at Harvard University in the 17th and
Thought becomes a private, or even an antisocial 18th centuries.

2. Habits of thought, representing knowledge, and visualism

In tracing the history of dialectic and rhetoric, 1962b, p. 69). He does not claim a causal connection
Ong remarks more than once that rhetoric shaped the but remarks on the growing emphasis on the visual,
ways that people thought. Generation after generation found in Renaissance astronomy, mechanics, and
of young boys learned from classical texts where to physics, as well as in the use of perspective in art and
find ideas, and they imitated the models of expression architecture. This same emphasis appears in “the three
and analysis they found in the classical texts. However, artes sermocinales, or arts of communication—gram-
even as they thought they were doing the same thing as mar, rhetoric, and most particularly dialectic” (p. 69).
Cicero, they adapted to a world that had changed its It is a movement “from a pole where knowledge is con-
mental symbols. Ong finds these “shifts in symboliza- ceived of in terms of discourse and hearing and persons
tion and conceptualization observable in the physical to one where it is conceived of in terms of observation
sciences”; they are related, he tells us, “to another and sight and objects” (p. 70).
series of shifts in the ways of representing the field of The shift appears in different guises. In his histo-
knowledge and intellectual activity itself” (Ong, ry of Ramism, Ong had already identified one: the

COMMUNICATION RESEARCH TRENDS VOLUME 23 (2004) NO. 1 — 7


changing understanding of the commonplaces. In the Ong places the rise of a “system” as opposed to a
older rhetorical tradition, the commonplaces have two “method” of thought. After tracing the history of these
primary senses. First, they are the “headings” under epistemological approaches through the medieval peri-
which one sought knowledge about various topics. od and through the thickets of dialectic, he concludes:
“These headings implemented analysis of one’s sub-
With the method discussion at this point and the
ject: for a person, one might, by a kind of analytic
visualist tide running strong, an important shift
process, consider his family, descent, sex, age, educa- took place in the whole notion of space, signal-
tion, and the like; or more generally, for all sorts of ized if not caused by the publication of
things, one could look to definition, opposites, causes, Copernicus’s De revolutionibus in 1543. . .
effects, related matters, and so on” (Ong, 1977f, p. Copernicus’s astronomy approaches the uni-
149). But commonplaces also referred to “a standard verse from the point of view of purely geometri-
brief disquisition or purple patch on any of hundreds or cal space, in which no direction was more
thousands of given subjects—loyalty, treachery, broth- favored than any other, since neither up-and-
erhood, theft, decadence . . . and so on; these prefabri- down motion nor any other directional motion
cated disquisitions were excerpted from one’s reading had priority over other kinds, any more than it
or listening or worked up by oneself” (p. 150). Though does in a geometrical abstraction. (Ong, 1962b,
such passages were commonly written down in p. 80)
medieval florilegia, Ong follows Havelock (1963) in Copernicus’s understanding of the cosmos opened the
attributing them to a much more ancient oral tradition door for others to set aside notions of method, which
that valued the flow of words and constantly recycled involved direction (literally, in Greek, “method” is
sayings lest they be lost by forgetting. seeking a “way through” a problem, p. 82), and to
By the Renaissance these collections had multi- embrace instead a more abstract arrangement. Such
plied. They served a purpose in schools, where they arrangements of “objects” in “space” almost presup-
became handy compendia of Latin for schoolboys. The pose the visual. Ong offers two comments:
Renaissance ambition to return to the classics also
meant that such collections increased their value. The Thinking of knowledge as governed by the dia-
big change, though, is that such collections appeared in grammatic, easily imagined, and only loosely
applicable notion of system was more satisfying
texts and their pattern of recall no longer depended on
than thinking of it in terms of method and these
memory but on their visual arrangement on a page conundrums [of direction, end, finding a way in
(1977f, pp. 161-163). The rise of the printing press unknown territory, etc.] . . .
transformed such collections by adding an index, by The rise of the notion of system as applied to
arranging things artificially (for example, in alphabeti- the possessions of the mind is only one in a
cal order), by laying things out on a page. Ong terms whole kaleidoscope of phenomena which mark
this “visual retrieval” (p. 166) and shows how the shift from the more vocal ancient world—
Theodore Zwinger in his 1586 Theatrum humanae truly an audile’s world—to what has been called
vitae [Theater of Human Life] literally envisioned his the silent, colorless, and depersonalized
commonplace collection as “scenes.” Newtonian universe. (1962b, p. 83)

Zwinger thinks of the printed page as a map on The western habits of thought have become visual, dis-
which knowledge itself is laid out. Over and connected from the voices and clamor of debate.
over again he compares his work to that of geog- In a wonderful essay, “‘I See What You Say’:
raphers and cartographers. (1977f, p. 174) Sense Analogues for Intellect” (1977b), Ong summa-
rizes the effects of visualism on thinking, going so far
Ong judges Zwinger’s compilation of charts, whose ideas as to show its history in the vocabularies we use. As
are linked by typographic symbols “visually neat” but with rhetoric, the way we talk reveals, in some ways,
“the result is so complicated as to be psychologically the way we think. His list of visual words “used in
quite unmanageable” (p. 176). Even if it were a failed thinking of intellect and its work” includes “insight,
attempt, it demonstrates how thoroughly western thought intuition, theory, idea, evidence, species, speculation,
had shifted from oral arrangements to visual ones. suspicion, clear, make out, observe, represent, show,
The rise of such visual organization occurs along explicate, analyze, discern, distinct, form, outline, plan,
with other changes in the history of ideas. Among them field of knowledge, object” and many others. Aurally

8 — VOLUME 23 (2004) NO. 1 COMMUNICATION RESEARCH TRENDS


based terms, though greatly reduced, still exist. They cal tradition of the West. Ong finds support in his study
include “category, predicate, judgment, response” and of poetry, examining what happens to poems as writers
so on (pp. 133-134). The attention to the visual marks and readers adjust to texts. Where the oral and rhetorical
a difference. “Because sight is thus keyed to surfaces, tradition addressed an audience (literally, hearers), “the
when knowledge is likened to sight it becomes pretty reader, using his eyes to assimilate a text, is essentially a
exclusively a matter of explanation or explication, a spectator, outside the action, however interested” (Ong,
laying out on a surface, perhaps in chart-like form, or 1977c, p. 222). Where the live audience “knows”
an unfolding, to present maximum exteriority” (p. through interaction in an open arena of discourse, the
123). This, of course, stands in contrast to the interior- reader experiences a kind of insulation. This fosters a
ity revealed by sound. different kind of knowledge—more solitary, more
Ultimately, Ong tries to gather material from reflective, a “romantic feeling for isolation” (p. 223).
throughout the western tradition. “I have also attempt- Ong hints here at a much larger project, one that
ed to show how intimately this aural-to-visual shift is connects habits of thought not only with rhetoric but
tied in with educational procedures and with the trans- with the technologies of communication. From the per-
fer of verbalization from its initially oral-aural econo- spective of communication, Ong repeatedly calls atten-
my of sound to a more and more silent and spatialized tion to the difference between communicating
economy of alphabetic writing and of printing from orally/aurally and visually. Though he highlights the
movable alphabetic type, which seems to assemble habits of thought aligned with each, we could equally
words out of pre-existent parts, like houses out of well read him as highlighting the media, something
bricks” (p. 126). that he does increasingly later on in his writings, and
Evidence for the increasingly visual quality of something to which we will return in Part 4.
knowing appears throughout the literary and pedagogi-

3. The Persistence of the word

Throughout his histories of rhetoric and in the nects to a person’s interiority. “Language retains this
course of his sensitivity to visualism in intellectual his- interiority because it, and the concepts which are born
tory, Ong does not lose his ear for sound. Voice matters. with it, remain always the medium wherein persons
discover and renew their discovery that they are per-
A. Voices and hearers
sons, that is, discover and renew their own proper inte-
Ong refers to “the world of sound” and calls it riority and selves” (p. 29). The voice giving voice to
“the I-thou world where, through the mysterious interi- words makes a claim on us.
or resonance which sound best of all provides, persons Whether that voice occurs in first-person speak-
commune with persons, reaching one another’s interi- ing or whether it appears as an authorial voice, a claim
ors in a way in which one can never read the interior of occurs. The voice utters words, which both manifest
an ‘object’” (1962a, pp. 27-28). In addition to opening the interior and connect us to one another. “Every
up the interior, sound always signifies life. In a favorite human word implies not only the existence—at least in
example, Ong reminds his readers that we can see an the imagination—of another to whom the word is
elephant, touch an elephant, smell an elephant, or even uttered, but it also implies that the speaker has a kind
taste an elephant without worry. But if we hear an ele- of otherness within himself” (Ong, 1962c, p. 52).
phant, we’d better watch out (Ong, 1967, p. 112)! Because such words connect, they claim a relationship,
Voice is not just any sound, though. While even the I-thou which Ong mentioned earlier. Ong ponders
an animal cry signifies an interior condition, the human how this relationship can occur with literature and he
voice is “an invasion of all the atmosphere which sur- traces human relationships from the face-to-face,
rounds a being by that being’s interior state, and in the through role playing in drama, to the voice that a read-
case of man, it is an invasion by his own interior self- er hears. All exist within “a context of belief “—a con-
consciousness” (1962a, p. 28). The interior cannot be necting of one with another. Here, to specify that con-
completely exteriorized, but verbal expression con-

COMMUNICATION RESEARCH TRENDS VOLUME 23 (2004) NO. 1 — 9


text of belief, Ong distinguishes “belief that” from Greek philosophy, to objective thought, and to the
“belief in,” noting that voice promotes the latter. To put kinds of analysis that reach a peak in Aristotle.
this in more recognizable communication terms, Parry’s and Lord’s investigations of the Homeric
“belief that” refers to content, while “belief in” refers question—how a bard could compose and recall works
to a relationship. Speaking and literature—indeed all the length of the Iliad or Odyssey without writing—dis-
communication—occur within this context of “belief covered still more about oral patterns of thought. What
in,” of making claims one upon another (pp. 55-57). Ong had seen in rhetoric, Lord and Parry explored in
Without such an imitatively oral or face-to-face poetics. Both described patterns of thought and remem-
context to connect interlocutors, written communica- bering associated with speaking.
tion cannot succeed. Voice does summon belief. But McLuhan’s attempt to put the pieces together—
the process works both ways. Writers, too, must reach he drew on Ong’s Ramus work—showed some of the
out to readers, if only in imagination. The interactive— ways in which the forms of communication shape its
live, interiority manifesting—nature of communication content. In a kind of creative leap, McLuhan under-
is so central that the writer must create a voice and in stood that both context and medium matter, an insight
so doing, create an audience. Before one can write, one he summed up in the now famous phrase, “the medium
must imagine an audience—hearers; that is, one must is the message” (1964, p. 7). McLuhan pointed Ong
re-create the role playing of voice calling on voice. In and others toward the recognition that our own forms
fact, readers pick up the roles defined for them by writ- of communication (writing, for example) affect our
ers, often “the role of a close companion of the writer” own thinking and perhaps in this way prevent us from
(p. 63). Ong finds the roots of this technique in jour- attending to oral thought.
nalism. “With the help of print and the near instanta- Ong’s thinking about oral/aural communication
neousness implemented by electronic media (the tele- received new energy. His Terry Lectures at Yale, pub-
graph first, later radio teletype and electronic transmis- lished in 1967 under the title, The Presence of the
sion of photography), the newspaper writer could bring Word, lay out a wide ranging meditation on the word,
his reader into his own on-the-spot experience, availing both spoken and written.
himself in both sports and war of the male’s strong Ong introduces here the idea of “the sensorium,”
sense of camaraderie based on shared hardships” (p. the patterned, patterning, and coordinated world of
67). Though Ong admits that “readers have had to be sense experience—the use of the human senses togeth-
trained gradually to play the game” (p. 67), he insists er to communicate (1967, p. 1). “By the sensorium we
that voice remains a part of all communication. mean here the entire sensory apparatus as an opera-
These explorations of sound, voice, word, and tional complex” (p. 6). Despite the fact that people
interiority tease out more of the experience of commu- communicate by means of all the senses, the oral/aural
nication. The spoken word of rhetoric differs from the takes on special importance. In commenting on
visual object; knowledge developed in each of these Heidegger’s claim that language is rooted in a “pri-
cases differs one from the other. Ong has a sense that mordial attunement of one human existent to another ...
more is going on with the word than he can quite in ‘speaking silence’,” Ong observes
explain.
All this is true, and in a certain sense common-
B. Word, sound, and the sensorium place, but it is noteworthy that when we thus
By the early 1960s, Ong had come to know the think of silence as communicating, we are likely
to think of it as a kind of speech rather than as a
work of Eric Havelock (1963), Milman Parry (1928),
kind of touch or taste or smell or vision—
Albert Lord (1960), and Marshall McLuhan (1962). ”speaking silence,” we say. The reason is plain:
Havelock describes the period as one of intense intel- silence itself is conceived of by reference to
lectual ferment for those concerned with language, oral sound; it is sound’s polar opposite. Thus even
cultures, and thought (1986, p. 25). Not surprisingly, when we conceive of communication as a trans-
many things fell into place for Ong. Each of these writ- action more fundamental than speech, we still
ers provided additional evidence for what Ong had conceive of it with reference to the world of
noticed abut the word. Havelock’s work on Greek phi- sound. . . (1967, pp. 2-3).
losophy (1963) argued that writing—the move from
Acknowledging that different cultures organize the
oral forms to written ones—began a transformative
sensorium differently, Ong reminds us that people must
process in Greek thought, one that ultimately leads to

10 — VOLUME 23 (2004) NO. 1 COMMUNICATION RESEARCH TRENDS


attend selectively to sense perception and that sound the same dynamic: analysis is a taking apart. But we
has special properties (p. 6). also need to put together, which is the movement of
The spoken word has consequences that go predication or judgment, both actions allied to speak-
beyond simple communication. As we have seen, rhet- ing and to sound. Sound surrounds us, unites us, con-
oric, the art of oral thinking, is tied to cultural forms, nects us to what we know (p. 138). Sound fosters the I-
thought patterns, and human experience. But there is Thou knowledge typical of the knowledge of persons
more. The world of sound is a world of passing time. in relationships (pp. 140-141).
“Sound is more real or existential than other sense Sound has religious overtones as well. In addition
objects, despite the fact that it is also more evanescent” to his reference to animism where things are alive with
(p. 111). A spoken word exists in time, passing out of sound, Ong also considers the Word of God in the
existence even as it is spoken (Ong, 1973/2002, p. 377). Judeo-Christian tradition. Though he does not under-
Even with this, the spoken word seems more real to take a full study, Ong suggests that attention to the ver-
people, especially as a source of power (1967, p. 114), bal or sonic dimension of communication can aid the-
because sound and spoken word manifest interiors and ology. “An oral-aural theology of revelation through
interiority (p. 117). They manifest a presence. Sound the Word of God would entail an oral-aural theology of
unites us—it situates us in the middle of things (p. 128), the Trinity, which could explicate the ‘intersubjectivi-
in contrast to contemplation which, as a visual activity, ty’ of the three Persons in terms of communication con-
removes us from the immediate world. Sound fosters ceived of as focused (analogously) in a world of sound
particular structures of personality. Here, Ong makes a rather than a world of space and light” (1967, p. 180).
strong, though somewhat intuitive claim: “Personality Or, again, “But because the human word is uttered at
structure varies in accordance with variations in com- the juncture where interior awareness and external
munications media and consequent variations in the event meet and where, moreover, encounter between
organization of the sensorium” (p. 131). He explains: person and person occurs at its most human depths, the
history of the word and thus of verbal media has rather
In a world dominated by sound impressions, the
more immediate religious relevance than the history of
individual is enveloped in a certain unpre-
dictability. As has been seen, sound itself signals
kingdoms and principalities” (p. 181). He also suggests
that action is going on. Something is happening, that secularization (or “desacralization”) has connec-
so you had better be alert. Sounds, moreover, tions with the shift from oral communication to writ-
tend to assimilate themselves to voices....A world ten. “The shift of focus from the spoken word and
of sounds thus tends to grow into a world of voic- habits of auditory synthesis to the alphabeticized writ-
es and of persons, those most unpredictable of all ten word and visual synthesis (actuality is measured by
creatures. Cultures given to auditory syntheses picturability) devitalizes the universe, weakens the
have this background for anxieties, and for their sense of presence in man’s life-world, and in doing so
tendencies to animism. (1967, p. 131) tends to render this world profane, to make it an
Sound not only characterizes a way of communicating agglomeration of things” (p. 162).
but also forms humans in response to it. C. Fighting words
By calling attention to the sensorium, Ong also
Sound also brings a polemic element to the fore.
reminds us that depending too much on vision impov-
Ong had noted this in his initial work on Renaissance
erishes knowledge, leading people to discount what
pedagogy. Schools taught boys to fight—with words,
knowledge comes through senses other than sight
but to fight nonetheless. From oratorical debates to dis-
(1977b, pp. 129-131). In fact, many mental processes
putations to contests of words, education harnessed the
depend on sound.
polemic spirit in students. For Ong, this shows yet
To learn to think and understand, it is far more another manifestation of sound. The speaker is bound
necessary to be able to hear and talk than to be up in a particular way with sound/speech. The simul-
able to see. This is a counterindication apparent- taneity of it creates a kind of ego bond that the print
ly denying primacy to sight in favor of hearing. word does not. Print distances, allows some psycho-
(1977b, p. 137). logical space, even a little self-criticism, that speech
Here, Ong argues that vision distances: we need sepa- does not. And so, people fight over words. Many caus-
ration in order to see. Intellectual knowledge follows es contribute to the polemic nature of human interac-

COMMUNICATION RESEARCH TRENDS VOLUME 23 (2004) NO. 1 — 11


tion, but that polemic shows up in styles of talk and styles or means of communication can influence
thought and even in the content of that talk. thought categories or cultural predispositions, this
claim indicates that communication itself develops
Superficially, preoccupation with virtue and vice
along with human consciousness. Ong imaginatively
can be interpreted as an index of the religiosity
of a culture, and it is frequently so interpreted,
plays with some parallels between this development in
particularly in studies of the European Middle human communication and the development of the
Ages. But from what we have seen it should be human psyche.
apparent that the tendency to reduce all of In a kind of McLuhanesque probing, he attempts
human experience, including patently nonmoral an exploration into Freudian psychology: Do the three
areas such as the incidence of disease or of phys- stages of media (oral, written, electronic) relate to
ical cataclysm to strongly outlined virtue-vice or Freud’s psychosexual stages (oral, anal, genital)? He
praise-blame categories can be due in great part finds enough parallels to remark that oral verbalization
to the tendency in oral or residually oral cultures and the flow of words matches “the oral psychosexual
to cast up accounts of actuality in terms of con- state if we think in terms of permissiveness and lack of
tests between individuals. (1967, p. 201) constraint” (1967, p. 93). Writing, like anality, con-
Spoken words, sounds, situate people in the world in strains. The electronic stage may be generative and
combative ways. socially oriented (pp. 101-102). However, Ong honest-
But—and for Ong, this is a good thing—people ly admits that the parallelisms do not always work. The
also fight with words. Words substitute for arms and oral stage “fails in terms of assimilative activity” and
weapons. Talking means that physical fighting has not the direction of interiority (pp. 97-98). The parallels
started. In oral cultures, including the more oral parts also don’t work in terms of ontogenetic and phyloge-
of contemporary culture, people compete with words in netic relationships (p. 103). Despite this, Ong still feels
contests ranging from “playing the dozens,” to swap- that there is something in common between psycholog-
ping insults, to extemporizing a rap song. ical development and the development of communica-
In all of these things sounds/words matter. Sound tion capability.
belongs to human life and helps to establish the human He shifts to more solid ground as he explores the
life-world. Ong’s historical studies also indicate that development of consciousness as outlined in the work
the human relation with words changes over time, as of psychologist Erich Neumann (1949/1954). In
seen in the shifting relationship of rhetoric and dialec- Neumann’s work, he found additional evidence of the
tic. But what else changes? ways the human psyche “feels its relationship to the
surrounding world, to time, and to space” in different
D. Stages of communication, stages of historical epochs. “The experience of being human has
consciousness undergone a kind of sea-change” (Ong, 1977e, p. 44).
The historical evidence Ong follows in The Contemporary humans live in largely artificial worlds,
Presence of the Word reinforces his conviction that not only cities and skyscrapers, but artificial worlds of
human communication unfolds in stages. After an oral communication. Writing, Ong reminds us over and
stage, human cultures gradually adopt writing systems over again, is a technology. As such, it separates us
(chirography or hand-writing first, then print). The his- from the word and in some ways from ourselves.
tory of the West shows a third stage—electronic com- Speech is something natural and that “is why speech is
munication (1967, p. 17). The stages build on one so closely involved with our personal identity and with
another in such a way that oral habits do not disappear cultural identity, and why manipulation of the word
as people learn to write (a phenomenon that Ong calls entails various kinds of alienation” (p. 22).
“residual orality”), nor does writing disappear with the As writing and other communication technolo-
advent of the radio or television. gies emerge, consciousness changes. Ong observed this
Ong noticed parallels between these develop- with the shifting fortunes of rhetoric and with the
ments in human communication and the development observations of Havelock regarding the Greeks.
of consciousness. The modes of communication inter- Revisiting medieval pedagogy in the light of
act with the ways that culture shapes consciousness (or Neumann’s history of consciousness, Ong hypothe-
at least shapes the pedagogical tools by which it shapes sizes that “the modern state of consciousness could
consciousness). More than an acknowledgment that the never have come into being without Learned Latin,”

12 — VOLUME 23 (2004) NO. 1 COMMUNICATION RESEARCH TRENDS


that is the written Latin learned as second language in Early and medieval Christianity had produced a
grammar schools down to the 19th century. theology (as a systematic reflection on belief) that pre-
If writing initially helped thought to separate
sumed texts: the biblical text, the texts of Christian
itself from the human life world so as to help writers, and so on. Ong, however, points out the highly
establish and manipulate abstract constructs, oral nature of this theology. The Bible itself features a
Learned Latin would seemingly have helped at a many-layered orality and these oral structures have
crucial period with special efficiency, for its com- largely found their way into theology (Ong, 1969a, p.
mitment to writing is in a way total, as has been 469). Later, even medieval and Renaissance theology
seen: it does not merely use writing but is con-
trolled by writing. Such a chirographically con-
used oral forms, inherited in and from the original
trolled language would appear to reduce to a new Latin forms in which they worked. Such forms also
minimum connections with sound and thereby produced the polemic quality of theology—a quality
connections with the intimate human life world much in evidence in the Reformation period (p. 477).
in its interiority and darkness. (1977e, pp. 36-37) As theology became more print-based, it developed
The artificial quality of written Latin forces humans to new, less formulaic, and less agonistic formats. While
experience the world abstractly, in the more visual these print-based structures characterize theology
terms Ong had identified. Writing—indeed all commu- today, Ong predicts that more contemporary theology
nication technology—implicates consciousness, both will feature both an orality based on electronic com-
the consciousness of individuals and the shared con- munication and a wider interaction among disciplines,
sciousness of cultures, as manifest in knowledge, sci- led and expanded by the ease promoted by the same
ence, and practices. electronic communication (pp. 479-480).
Technology is important in the history of the The same forces at work in the stages of commu-
word not merely exteriorly, as a kind of circula- nication affect worship as well. Most liturgical activity
tor of pre-existing materials, but interiorly, for it arose in oral cultures and key characteristics of orali-
transforms what can be said and what is said. ty—formulas, mnemonic patterns, rhythmic move-
Since writing came into existence, the evolution ments—remain in worship (Ong, 1969b, pp. 480-481).
of the word and the evolution of consciousness
have been intimately tied in with technologies
Ong argues that many of the problems in the mid-20th
and technological developments. Indeed, all century Roman Catholic liturgical reform stemmed
major advances in consciousness depend on from the clash between this orality and the orality of
technological transformations and implementa- electronic media, a more intimate experience, in which
tions of the word. (1977e, p. 42) the audience (or the community at worship) act more
Contemporary communication media, Ong tells us, like readers than hearers (pp. 481-482). Sensitive to the
make “possible thought processes inconceivable role of sound, Ong also calls attention to the polemic
before. The ‘media’ are more significantly within the and irenic alignments that enter into worship (p. 485).
mind than outside it” (p. 46). The various communica- Finally, he notes that liturgy will change or at least
tion technologies—writing, the alphabet, visual adapt its oral inheritance as it touches on memory,
images, even computers—produce new ways of think- community, participation, and thought processes.
ing because they provide new tools to assist thinking (Ong wrote extensively on religious topics
and they allow thinking to be recorded and even to throughout his career. As in these essays, he applied to
occur outside of the minds of individuals. We read the the religious his observations on communication, psy-
thoughts of others and further them; we share knowl- chological development, media, and so on. He also
edge; we have machines do routine analysis (p. 47). acted as a particularly sensitive observer of the reli-
gious scene, much as he observed communication. A
E. Religious consequences collection of his more explicitly religious essays
In studying the word and its immediacy, Ong calls appears in Faith and Contexts, Volumes 1 and 2, 1992.)
attention to the religious qualities of communication. As
he came to understand the stages of communication, he
applied that model to the religious realm as well.

COMMUNICATION RESEARCH TRENDS VOLUME 23 (2004) NO. 1 — 13


4. Communication media, orality, literacy, and secondary orality

Ong’s work with Ramus and the history of rheto- swing is to oral forms in communication, with
ric combined with his reading of Havelock, Parry, radio, television (oral in its commitments as
Lord, and McLuhan sensitized him to communication compared to typography), public address and
media, communication processes, and their effects on intercom systems, or voice recordings (to
human life and thought. But even before his readings replace or supplement shorthand, longhand, typ-
ing, or print). As a result of this swing, older
on oral cultures—as early as a 1960 College English
relationships are undergoing a profound, if not
essay—he discerned a line leading from ancient Greece often perceptible, realignment. (1962d, p. 221).
to modern communications, traced through education-
al establishments. Here we see Ong laying out the pieces for his later con-
struction of the relationships of oral and literate cul-
From the time of ancient Greece, communica-
tures, even marking the emergence of what he eventu-
tion processes have always been at the center of
ally terms “secondary orality” (Ong, 1971a, p. 296).
western education. Early academic study
focused on grammar, which gave birth to rheto- New forms of communication build on older forms but
ric. Rhetoric formed a matrix for dialectic and each one affects the relationships afforded to human
logic, and all these conjointly help shape physics interaction. Ong remarks on the move from the oral
and medicine, and ultimately modern science. teaching of Socrates to Plato’s written version, Cicero’s
Through the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and later writing out his speeches to Augustine’s reading
into the 19th century, education began with aloud. The manuscript culture of the Middle Ages
grammar, rhetoric, and dialectic or logic, the “retained massive oral-aural commitments” (p. 222),
artes sermocinales or communication arts. (Ong, but print culture largely silenced the voice, though not
1962d, p. 220) the heritage of eloquence (p. 223).
The printing revolution of early modern Europe The 20th century introduced a paradox: “that a
(Eisenstein, 1979) definitively puts texts at the center of society given so much to the use of diagrams and to the
the educational enterprise and for the several centuries maneuvering of objects in space . . . should at the same
thereafter, up to our own, teachers and students wrestled time develop means of communication which special-
with texts. Rhetoric, as we have seen, had moved from ize not in sight but in sound” (p. 224). Such an empha-
the spoken word to an attribute of written materials. sis on sound acts to counterbalance the dominance of
For Ong, the advent of new communication tech- the visual reinforced by printed texts. Though printed
nologies will not remove communication from the cur- texts will not disappear, the more human dimension of
riculum but will have an effect. sound cannot be suppressed.

Probably a great many things are stirring; but it In their whole trend, modern developments in
is certain that many of them can be summed up communications, while they have not slighted
by saying that we are leaving the Gutenberg era the visual, have given more play to the oral-
behind us. As we move further into a technolog- aural, which a purely typographical culture had
ical civilization, we meet with abundant signs reduced to a record minimum in human life. The
that the relationship between the teacher and the sequence of development running from silent
printed word and hence those between the print through audiovisual telegraph to the com-
teacher and a large area of communication, pletely aural radio is an obvious instance of
which included practically all of what we gener- increasing aural dominance. Even television
ally mean by “literature,” are no longer what belongs partially in this visual-to-aural series,
they used to be. These relationships were set up being only equivocally a regression to visualism.
in the Renaissance when a typographical civi- For the visual element in television is severely
lization appeared, climaxing the intense devel- limited. . . . Silent television is hardly an engag-
opment of a manuscript culture which had ing prospect. (1962d, p. 225).
marked the preceding Middle Ages. The present

14 — VOLUME 23 (2004) NO. 1 COMMUNICATION RESEARCH TRENDS


The re-emergence of the oral-aural marks out the an oral culture, to think through something in non-for-
personalist element of contemporary culture. If sight mulaic, non-patterned, non-mnemonic terms, even if it
beholds surfaces and promotes objectivity, then sound were possible, would be a waste of time, for such
opens up the interior, both literally and figuratively (pp. thought, once worked through, could never be recov-
226-27). Ever the observer, Ong notes how such sensi- ered with any effectiveness, as it could be with the aid
tivities emerge in philosophy, literature, advertising, of writing” (p. 35).
and teaching. The centrality of memory and recall shapes other
dynamics of orality. Its thought is additive, stringing
A. Oral cultures, literate cultures
items together, and thus works with aggregates rather
For Ong, it is never enough to remark the align- than with the taking of things apart through analysis.
ments of communication or the connections among its “Without a writing system, breaking up thought—that
modalities. He tries to connect our awareness of com- is, analysis—is a high-risk procedure” (p. 39). It is too
munication to its academic study, to its uses, to its con- easy to forget how things fit together. The necessity of
sequences. Orality and Literacy (1982b), perhaps his remembering, and of remembering in particular ways,
most widely reprinted and translated work, attempts leads to a redundancy in oral expression: better to repeat
precisely that kind of connection. than to forget. Thus, oral cultures tend to be conserva-
Orality and Literacy marks Ong’s most systemat- tive, whether in expression, narrative, government, or
ic treatment of words—both spoken and written. His religion (pp. 41-42). Oral cultures emphasize participa-
subtitle, “The technologizing of the word,” specifies tion or identification with narrative characters or the
how humans use technology to preserve, extend, and objects of knowledge (p. 46). Everything appears in its
modify their words. And—in a crucial step—Ong also situation, since that is how memory works best (p. 49).
shows how human thought patterns interact with the The need to remember leads to specifically oral
way they use words. Not as concerned with matching techniques, rituals of behavior and language. Rhetoric
up the communication changes with psychological is a way of knowing and a way of expressing and a way
stages of growth, he summarizes several decades of of acting. Interaction is expected. Oral folk expect peo-
research to more solidly connect thought patterns with ple to engage each other, but in predictable ways.
communication. The stages of communication media
appear clearly: oral communication in oral cultures; Primary orality fosters personality structures that
writing in chirographic cultures; print in print-based in certain ways are more communal and exter-
cultures; and various media in electronic cultures. nalized, and less introspective than those com-
mon among literates. Oral communication unites
Returning to, and radically extending, some
people in groups. (1982b, p. 69)
themes of The Presence of the Word, Ong describes
oral cultures in terms of “Some psychodynamics of Such group emphasis appears in the narratives and sto-
orality” (his chapter title). Oral cultures dwell in sound ries of oral cultures. Key figures unite the group but
and in the power of sound. As members of writing cul- also help the recall of story. Much easier to remember
tures, we have trouble imagining this situation: to the many adventures of a single Odysseus than the
understand, for example, the power of a name. individual acts of 20 others (p. 70).
Writing and, later, print change this, though the
Chirographic and typographic folk tend to think
change appears gradually. It triggers, in Raymond
of names as labels, written or printed tags imag-
inatively affixed to an object named. Oral folk Williams’ wonderful title, “the long revolution” of lit-
have no sense of a name as a tag, for they have eracy (1961). Writing allows distance, both literally
no idea of a name as something that can be seen. and figuratively. By processing thoughts through texts,
(1982b, p. 33) writing spans miles and centuries. But writing also
allows a psychological distance: one can see one’s
Instead object and name cannot be separated. thoughts recorded and spread out, separate from one-
Oral cultures depend on memory and recall. “You self. Again, the chapter title gives the argument:
know what you can recall” (p. 33). What people think “Writing restructures consciousness” (Ong, 1982b, p.
about depends, too, on such recall. And so, oral cul- 78). Memory gives way to written records, though this
tures must not only remember but organize things too occurs slowly. Neither Plato nor medieval English
through the patterns of recall. These include rhyme and law trusted writing: “Witnesses were prima facie more
rhythm, movement, formulas, and sayings (p. 35). “In credible than texts because they could be challenged

COMMUNICATION RESEARCH TRENDS VOLUME 23 (2004) NO. 1 — 15


and made to defend their statements, whereas texts Printing leads to any number of changes in how people
could not” (p. 96). But over time, people learned to deal with information—changes we largely take for
work with texts, to provide contexts and external guar- granted, but which appear revolutionary when com-
antees, cross-references, and visual methods that out- pared to the information economy of oral cultures.
weighed the textual silences (pp. 99-101). Printed texts foster the use of lists, material “abstracted
Writing has its own dynamic. Its distancing leads from the social situation in which it had been embedded
to precision: one can polish sentences and one can be
. . . and also from linguistic context” (p. 123). Such list-
concise, without the need for repetition. Writing allows
ings seem even stranger when they have no oral organ-
the writer to “eliminate inconsistencies . . ., to choose
between words, . . . [to] erase” (p. 104). “By separating ization, but only one based on alphabetical order. The
the knower from the known . . ., writing makes possi- fixity of print also promotes a particular kind of list—
ble increasingly articulate introspectivity, opening the the index—to guide readers to the fixed location of
psyche as never before not only to the external objec- information within a book.
tive world quite distinct from itself but also to the inte- The visualism of printed books promotes seeing
rior self against whom the objective world is set” (p. the book and its pages as labels, as illustrations of
105). Pedagogical practice amplifies writing’s effect on knowledge (p. 126), something Ong had seen in the
consciousness by teaching people to work with texts, books of Ramus with their graphically arrayed binary
by fostering more analytic thought, and by holding out arrangements of logic. Ong also connects this visual-
the possibility of objectivity. ism to modern science. While observation was not new,
Ong is careful enough to warn against any reduc- “what is distinctive of modern science is the conjunc-
tionism here, but he does urge us to see the web of rela- ture of exact observation and exact verbalization:
tions connected to writing. exactly worded descriptions of carefully observed
complex objects and processes” (p. 127). Where oral
Once writing is introduced into a culture and cultures attend to action, visual ones focus on appear-
grows to more than marginal status, it interacts ance. This bias of print supports science’s need to pro-
with noetic and social structures and practices
vide precise descriptions in ways that other scientists
often in a bewildering variety of ways . . . .
Sooner or later, and often very quickly, literacy
could confirm. As a way of seeing, visualism leads to
affects marketing and manufacturing, agriculture more precise seeing. Ong finds additional evidence of
and stock-raising and the whole of economic life, this visualism in post-print literature’s elaborate
political structures and activities, religious life descriptions and use of typography (pp. 127-128).
and thought, family structures, social mobility, Other marks of modern society connect to print as
modes of transportation (a literate communica- well. Print fostered a sense of language as something
tion system laid the straight Roman roads and written—dictionaries, grammars, “correct” expression
made the ancient Roman Empire . . .) And so on (p. 130). By supplying more books to readers, print
ad infinitum. (Ong, 1986/1999, p. 155) changed the relationship between readers and books.
In “Writing Is a Technology That Restructures First, it supported a sense of privacy (being alone with
Thought” (1986/1999), Ong spells out 14 conse- a book, with no need to interact with others). Second,
quences of writing’s separation or distancing. These it fostered a sense of ownership of words (copyrights,
include, as we have seen, the separation of the knower for example). And print also changed the relationship
from the known, as well as data from interpretation, of readers with themselves. By treating words as things
word from sound, word from existence, past from pres- on a visual surface, print led humans to think of the
ent, administration from other social activities, aca- their own consciousness as a kind of thing or mental
demic learning from wisdom, logic from rhetoric, space (pp. 130-132).
social classes one from another, sound from sight, and B. Traces of older media
being from time (pp. 156-162).
But it all happened slowly. While print changed
Printing speeds the process along, both by increas- the information dynamics of human society, it did not
ing literacy (as more people have access to texts) and by erase the oral. The same thing occurred with the advent
fostering greater visualism. “Writing moves words from of writing. Comparing the oral Homeric epics to
the sound world to a world of visual space, but print Virgil’s written work, Ong notes, “But oral traits did
locks words into position in this space” (1982b, p. 121). not by any means vanish in narrative immediately with

16 — VOLUME 23 (2004) NO. 1 COMMUNICATION RESEARCH TRENDS


the coming of writing. They tapered off gradually and example—but also in a speaking that unveils a changed
unevenly” (Ong, 1977a, p. 195). What evidence sug- psyche.
gests oral habits lingering in western print culture, print
If I may use terms which I fondly believe I have
habits remaining in electronic culture? Ong highlights
originated, I would suggest that we speak of the
two things. First, he comments on what he terms “oral orality of preliterate man as primary orality and of
residue,” the oral modes of thought and expression that the orality of our electronic technologized culture
appear in the writings of the generations new to print. as secondary orality. Secondary orality is founded
Second, he claims that electronic communication has on—though it departs from—the individualized
created a “literate orality,” an oral culture based on introversion of the age of writing, print, and
print, what he terms a secondary orality. Both asser- rationalism which intervened between it and pri-
tions seem almost self-evident, but Ong provides some mary orality and which remains as part of us.
supporting evidence. History is deposited permanently, but not inalter-
Oral residue occurs because people educated for ably, as personality structure. (1971a, p. 285)
oral expression will use those expressions in their writing. The strands and habits of these oralities do not disen-
Manuscript and even typographic cultures . . . tangle easily. Following his usual approach, Ong exam-
sustain traces of oral culture, but they do so to ines them carefully, looking to one characteristic, in
varying degrees. Generally speaking, literature this instance “the use of formulary devices” (p. 285).
becomes itself slowly, and the closer in time a The use of formulas appears constantly in primary oral-
literature is to an antecedent oral culture, the less ity—to describe, to store knowledge, to compose utter-
literary or “lettered” and the more oral-aural it ances, and so on. In fact, the works of Havelock, Parry,
will be. (1971b, p. 25) and Lord spell out how ancient Greek culture depend-
To demonstrate his point, Ong searches Tudor literature ed on the use of formulas, especially in the Illiad and
for oral residue. He find it in particular in “the cult of Odyssey and how the formulas influenced Greek
copia and of the commonplaces” (p. 27). Both come to thought.
English literature from the rhetorical tradition. The for- Today’s electronic culture of radio and television
mer refers to an eloquence never at a loss for words, the still uses formulas but in different ways. “The formula-
“rich flow, as well as ability, power, resources, or ry device is no longer deeply grounded in practical liv-
means of doing things” by which speakers (and later ing since it has now relatively limited use for knowl-
writers) manage language. It is the ability of an epic edge storage and retrieval” (p. 296). Instead we use for-
poet to assemble volumes of material (pp. 33-35). Of mulas as cliches or as starting points for analysis (p.
course, a writer need not marshal words in the same 297). The formula appears as an advertising or political
way that an orator or bard does. In fact, highly devel- slogan, as a catch phrase, as a jingle, almost as a label
oped writing avoids this kind of repetition, since writ- (p. 299). And each of these in some ways resembles the
ers know that readers can turn back and re-read materi- visual form, a connection with literacy, that belies the
al as necessary. oral and reminds us that secondary orality rests on the
We have already seen the second oral residue, the psychological foundations, organizations, and habits of
commonplaces, those ways of organizing material that writing.
seem strange to us today, but which fairly well defined Ong arrives at a similar conclusion from a differ-
the information handling of oral cultures. In another ent angle when he asks whether new media destroy
essay, Ong suggests a third lingering oralism: the use of older media. Once again taking up an historical
epithets in the English epic poetry of Spenser and approach, he remarks “some paradoxical laws”:
Milton (1977a). A new medium of verbal communication not
In addition to the oral residue marking print cul- only does not wipe out the old, but actually rein-
ture, orality also returns as secondary orality in post- forces the older medium or media. However, in
print culture. Ong’s knowledge of the history of rheto- doing so it transforms the old, so that the old is
ric attuned his ear to the similarities and differences no longer what it used to be. Applied to books,
between contemporary speaking and the recorded this means that in the foreseeable future there
speech of earlier eras. Such secondary orality appears will be more books than ever before but that
not just in a more writerly speaking—the television books will no longer be what books used to be.
dialogue or speaking that depends on a script, for (Ong, 1977d, pp. 82-83)

COMMUNICATION RESEARCH TRENDS VOLUME 23 (2004) NO. 1 — 17


People do not abandon communication media that if only because they had more to talk about.
have successfully served them. But they often discov- But writing not only encouraged talk, it also
er new ways to use the old. If Ong is correct that media remade talk. Once writing had established
forms restructure (or at least influence) consciousness, itself, talk was no longer what it used to be.
then new forms change people and how people think (1977d, p. 86)
to the extent that they can never pretend that the new Talk changes, not only because one could talk about
had not touched them. We have a complex cycle of what was written—people no doubt talked about
interaction, evolution, and transformation of commu- Plato’s Dialogues just as we talk about the books on
nication media. best seller lists. Talk changed, too, by becoming more
. . . part of the transformation is effected because literary. Orators could write out speeches to practice
the new medium feeds back into the old medium them before delivering them. People could study text-
or media and makes them redolent of the new. books on speaking, much as we do today.
The conventionally produced book can now New communication media change old media
sound to some degree like the orally pro- and old media remain a part of newer media. The same
grammed book [the transcription of a recorded interaction, evolution, and transformation happens
interview, for example].
with radio, television, and computers today. “A new
Patterns of reinforcement and transformation
have existed from the very beginning in the ver- medium, finally, transforms not only the one which
bal media. . . . When writing began, it certainly immediately precedes it but often all of those which
did not wipe out talk. Writing is the product of preceded it all the way back to the beginning” (p. 90).
urbanization. It was produced by those in com- Our use of computers for instant messaging, for exam-
pact settlements who certainly talked more than ple, affects how we watch television, how we write,
scattered folk in the countryside did. Once they
and how we talk.
had writing they were encouraged to talk more,

5. Digital communication, writing, and interpretation

A. Text likely overlooked or forgotten the fact, that “text as


Digital or computer-based communication not text is part of discourse” (p. 497). Discourse, interac-
only transforms what precedes it, but calls attention to tion between people, somehow gets suspended in a text
specific aspects of textual communication. Digital “until a reader chances along” (p. 498).
communication depends upon a specific code: it is And discourse requires the presence of the word,
information—”a message transmitted by a code over a of a dialogue, of people. Ong defines “the basic sense
channel through a receiving (decoding) device to a par- of presence” as a “person-to-person relationship, not
ticular destination.” But this code is not itself commu- thought-to-word-to-thing relationship” (p. 498). Texts
nication, since communication requires “the exchange manage both to facilitate and to get in the way of these
of meanings between individuals through a common relationships. They interpose themselves and need
system of symbols” (Ong, 1996, p. 3). The latter, how- decoding, but they also allow readers to enter into rela-
ever, makes use of the former. The awareness of this tionships with long-dead writers.
dependence of communication on information leads to This absence calls for fictionalizing. Someone has
a further awareness, that “all text is pretext” (Ong, to play a role: writer or reader or both. And since
1990/2002, p. 497). the reader has to be alive to read, his or her roles
A text, Ong writes, “is not fully a text until some- are more proximate to us... (1990/2002, p. 498)
one reads it, that is, until someone produces from the
And here modern, electronic communications help us
writer’s text something nontextual, a sequence of
in yet another way to understand what is going on with
sounds” (p. 497). But in order to read a text, the read-
texts. The sense of immediacy of electronics gives
er must know the code used to write the text. This
readers a sense of proximity to events reported. That,
dependence on reading reminds us, who have most

18 — VOLUME 23 (2004) NO. 1 COMMUNICATION RESEARCH TRENDS


too, occurs with texts. With a text that works well, The artificial means of storing information in turn
readers enter into the text, “into the immediacy of the began to affect the ways that people think and live (pp.
writer’s experience” (p. 499). But electronic communi- 14-15). Having the tool available means using it.
cation also reveals that this immediacy is highly medi- The process took time, though. “Originally, writ-
ated, and thus somewhat artificial. ing was not so much a ‘communication’ device
(involving interchange between two conscious per-
A paradox is at work here, as always when we
sons)—although it was this to some extent—as it was a
are dealing with the application of technologies
to the word, from writing onward. Electricity
simple ‘information’ system (a coding system),
means generators, machinery, and mechanical although it was not entirely this either” (p. 19). Ong
equipment. It interposed a great deal that is not admits that the process from pre-writing to writing is a
directly human between the written verbaliza- complex one; it involved not only the development of
tion of reporters . . . [and readers]. (p. 503) an efficient tool like alphabetic writing, but also the
mindset to use the tool. Just as the history of rhetoric
Speeding up communication serves to decrease tells the story of evolving human thought, so too does
distance and to increase the immediacy and thus the the story of writing. For writing to work, humans need-
person-to-person quality of communication. Under- ed to adjust psychologically.
standing the digital codes and electronic speeds The contemporary information processing model
helps us to understand better what happens with shows us more clearly that pre-writing storage systems
texts (and what was happening all along, though we work as information storage. They also illustrate how
did not notice). any text works—by deferring or interrupting dialogue.
B. Writing C. Interpretation
From the perspective of code, we also understand The abundance of information resulting from all
writing systems better. “Recent findings have made it of our information storage systems does not become
possible to see an intriguing relationship between immediately intelligible. It requires interpretation. But,
developments leading into writing in its very earliest as with most things Ong explores, a study of the inter-
form and our only recently devised writing with the pretation of stored information tells us about more than
digital computer” (Ong, 1998, p. 4). Reviewing the itself, tells us in this instance about an on-going need
work of Denise Schmandt-Besserat (1992), Ong recog- for interpretation in all communication.
nizes that the coding for numbers used in Sumerian “In a quite ordinary and straightforward sense, to
pre-pictographic writing has affinities with the digital interpret means for a human being to bring out for
storage of information—that information storage another human being or for other human beings (or for
underlies writing. Such an information storage system himself or herself) what is concealed in a given mani-
arises only in “the larger human context, social, eco- festation, that is, what is concealed in a verbal state-
nomic, technological, and other” (Ong, 1998, p. 10). ment or a given phenomenon or state of affairs provid-
Human communication is decidedly oral and humans ing information” (Ong, 1995/1999, p. 183). No com-
have developed technologies to preserve and sharpen munication is complete because one can always say
that communication—from memory systems to artifi- more: dialogue continues; texts require contexts; dis-
cial information storage systems. These grow out of the course needs commentary; and so on. Language itself
human life world. allows this complexity and commentary in its very
Given that writing is a technological product structures of syntax and referentiality (p. 185). It, like
storing knowledge outside the human individual all communication is not a closed system.
and thus encouraging a sense of the known as To examine one communication form or medium,
separate from the knower, it appears to be no as we have seen, shows us how it has transformed what
accident that the prehistory of writing begins preceded it. And so the awareness of the need to inter-
with enumeration of visible, material commodi- pret texts casts light on what happens in conversation.
ties, object-things seen and/or felt as distinct
from human thinkers and verbalizers, such as Besides being complex and supple, verbal inter-
Schmandt-Besserat finds in the commodities pretation is curiously self-propagating. For if, as
with which the Near East tokens deal. (p. 19) has been seen, more than other sorts of interpre-
tation (gesticular, and so on), verbalized inter-

COMMUNICATION RESEARCH TRENDS VOLUME 23 (2004) NO. 1 — 19


pretation moves toward maximized interpreta- they do on a technological one. And that, Ong reminds
tion, it is at the same time never totally maxi- us, fairly defines the hermeneutical circle (p. 197).
mized, never totally completed and thus by its But, then, all communication depends on social
very existence invites further asymptotic move- structures. And therefore all communication requires
ment toward completion. (p. 187) interpretation. “Hermeneutic or explanation stops not
The need for interpretation stems from the nature of when there is nothing left to be explained but when, for
communication. The bringing of people together, the present purposes, in this given existential situation,
mutual revelation of the interiority of individuals, can nothing further is felt to be necessary” (p. 199). Such
never be perfect. But people try. communication inevitably goes beyond propositions
Texts complicate the situation because texts can- and logic; but the history of rhetoric and dialectic and
not explain what lies beyond the text. Ong traces the the history of visualism and visual representations of
history of hermeneutics as a science of interpreting knowledge in the West sometimes mislead us. Ong
texts. Handwritten texts more urgently than face-to- returns to sound: sound reveals the interior. The social
face communication required interpretation because structures of all human life presume those interiors.
here people first experienced the absence of the author, The process of interpretation summarizes much
the absence of the kind of dialogue to which they had of Ong’s explorations and conclusions about com-
been accustomed. Centuries later, “with the deep inte- munication.
riorization of print . . . hermeneutics as a self-con- Since each “I” must sense the “you” whom the
scious, more or less systematized activity comes into “I” addresses before speech begins, dialogue
its own” (p. 196). But digital communication, Ong demands, paradoxically enough, that the persons
argues, really makes us aware of the need for addressing one another be somehow aware of
hermeneutics, since digitization radically separates the interior of each other before they can begin
information from communication. Asking why this to communicate verbally. . . . In verbal commu-
happens now, Ong answers, “One reason that suggests nication, the hearer must be aware that the
itself is that electronic communication has made us into speaker intends the utterance to be a word or
an information society, and information of itself says words and not just noise; the speaker must know
nothing unless it is interpreted or treated hermeneuti- that the hearer knows this, and the hearer must
know that the speaker knows that he or she (the
cally” (p. 197). But there is more than this. Information
hearer) knows it. The hermeneutical circle again.
storage systems themselves call attention to the fact
We are somehow inside one another’s con-
they depend on encoding and decoding outside of sciousness before we begin to speak to another
themselves. They rely as much on a social structure as or others. (p. 203)

Conclusion

If these five areas—the history of rhetoric, the Distinctively American with its unusual ground-
exploration of visualism, the understanding of the ing in classics, religious hermeneutics, the phi-
word, the delineation of the stages of communication, losophy of sociology, and anthropology, this
school of communication studies stands coun-
the situating of hermeneutics—were all that Ong had
terpoised to its Continental and British sisters. It
done, his work would have a significant impact on
has affinities with French semiotics and struc-
communication study. But there is more, more than we turalism, and the breadth of its generalizations
can review here. Ong also carefully observed culture, gives it the feeling of writings from the
particularly in literature and education, but in other Frankfurt school, yet cultural studies in America
areas as well. Gronbeck (1991) argues that Ong repre- is its own creature. (Gronbeck, 1991, p. 9)
sents an important strand in an American cultural stud-
ies tradition, a conclusion echoed by Farrell (2000). It is in this tradition that Ong provides communication
Gronbeck argues that this cultural studies tradition dif- studies more broadly conceived with both a stance
fers from others: towards culture and a methodology to explore it.

20 — VOLUME 23 (2004) NO. 1 COMMUNICATION RESEARCH TRENDS


Gronbeck identifies four key questions that char- Electronic communication absolutely depends on
acterize Ong’s approach. “What are the distinguishing printed texts but also introduces a new orality into
features of media of communication, broadly under- human life. Digital information systems reveal that all
stood?” (p. 11). “What are the psychodynamics of self- the prior communication media also function as infor-
hood? If British and European cultural studies turn out- mation systems.
ward to matters of social structure and political-eco- The need to interpret all this brings us back again
nomic power when contemplating communication to the human interactions—the manifestation of interi-
processes . . . Americans often turn inward to trace the ority—that began it all.
consequences of mediation processes for the individual Though not formally a communication scholar,
self” (p. 12). The third area of Ong’s questioning that Ong has contributed mightily to communication stud-
Gronbeck identifies focuses on the relationship ies in four ways. First, as a cultural historian exploring
between culture and life world, while the fourth calls rhetoric, he has called attention to the link between
attention to “the implications of the interactions of mental processes and communication tools. Second, in
mediation, consciousness, and culture for various his recognition of the visualism promoted by printed
facets of human existence” (p. 13). texts, he reminds us of the role of the sensorium in all
Within all of his explorations of these interac- communication. Third, through his proposal that we
tions, the human interaction matters most for Ong: the think of the modes of communication (primary oral, lit-
personal, the interior. All the technological systems erate, secondary oral) as stages building on one anoth-
humans create—memory systems, rhetoric, dialectic, er, he has helped to identify the extraordinary com-
writing, printing, electronics—ultimately serve this plexity of human communication and provided an
interaction. hypothesis to guide further exploration. And, fourth, by
Ong’s explorations remind us, too, that the tech- his insistence on the living word, he has kept the
nological systems of communication have their own human at the center of all communication, reinforcing
effects. Humans adapt to them in ways that we do not the link between the interpersonal and any other kind
often recognize. Each time he looked at communica- of mediated communication.
tion he discovered more of these psychological adjust- If all of this seems natural to us today, we should
ments as well as a resistance to change. Ramus’s texts, credit Ong for introducing so much, in such detail and
with their visual aids, revealed something about rheto- clarity, as to make it seem readily apparent and so
ric. Early printed texts showed an oral residue. much a matter of common sense.

Editor’s Afterword
W. E. Biernatzki, S.J.

Father Walter Ong, S.J., was widely known and tions on whatever topics his companions might intro-
highly regarded in academic circles. Those who knew duce, from fly fishing, to psychoanalysis, to linguistic
him personally saw a different, but related side of his philosophy, or space travel. Often, he knew the topic so
personality: a seeker of knowledge at all levels, inter- well that other parties to the conversation could only sit
ested in the world, eager to know its many facets. In his back and absorb his contributions. At the same time, he
youth, as an Eagle Scout, he had to earn many merit was genuinely interested in others’ work and their
badges, an accomplishment that both appealed to his ideas, listening patiently, then injecting his own per-
inquiring nature and introduced him to a wide range of spectives on the subject.
diverse subjects, both practical and theoretical. Ong, the polymath, was thus well-equipped from
That thirst for knowledge of all sorts carried over the start to explore the hidden nooks and crannies of
into both his intellectual life and his day-to-day inter- western intellectual history, and not only to bring into the
ests and recreations. He was quick to join conversa- light unexpected treasures but also to relate them to the

COMMUNICATION RESEARCH TRENDS VOLUME 23 (2004) NO. 1 — 21


vast, complex and ever-evolving chart of reality being those paths. The best imaginable tribute to his learning
drawn by both modern sciences and humanistic studies. and his memory would be for those who knew him and
Walter was interested in the work of the Centre learned from him to push on with the explorations.
for the Study of Communication and Culture and in
this journal, Communication Research Trends, from
their very inception, in the 1970s. He recognized that References
the focus of the Centre and the journal coincided close-
Eisenstein, E. (1979). The printing press as an agent of
ly with his own preoccupation with the nature of infor-
change: Communications and cultural transforma-
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the modern world. He contributed the major contents of Cambridge University Press.
two issues of the journal, articles on “Information Farrell, T. J. (2000). Walter Ong’s contributions to cultural
and/or Communication” (1996), and “Digitization studies: The phenomenology of the word and I-thou
Ancient and Modern: Beginnings of Writing and communication. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press.
Today’s Computers” (1998). Gronbeck, B. E. (1991). The rhetorical studies tradition and
At the same time, he was a Jesuit, a vowed reli- Walter J. Ong: Oral-literacy theories of mediation, cul-
gious, deeply embedded in the matrix of Catholic ture, and consciousness. In B. E. Gronbeck, T. J.
Farrell, & P. A. Soukup (Eds.), Media, consciousness,
Christianity. This embedding doubtless contributed
and culture: Explorations of Walter Ong’s thought (pp.
greatly to his ability to draw out the meanings implicit 5-24). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
in his insights and to relate them into a big picture. The Havelock, E. A. (1963). Preface to Plato. Cambridge, MA:
unbroken current of Judeo-Christian history, running Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
through the broader stream of Western intellectual his- Havelock, E. A. (1986). The muse learns to write:
tory, was available to him not merely as a problemati- Reflections on orality and literacy from antiquity to the
present. New Haven and London: Yale University
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Press.
level of his life. He spent most of his life in a Jesuit uni- Lord, A. B. (1960). The singer of tales. Cambridge, MA:
versity faculty community, with a variety of “men Harvard University Press.
astutely trained,” sharing a common set of religious McLuhan, M. (1962). The Gutenberg galaxy: The making of
and moral values, but often able to argue vigorously for typographic man. Toronto: University of Toronto
a wide range of individual interpretations from many Press.
McLuhan, M. (1964). Understanding media: The extensions
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of man. New York: McGraw Hill.
ment on Walter would be impossible to analyze with Neumann, E. (1954). The origins and history of conscious-
scientific precision, but it had to be significant. ness. (R. F. C. Hull, Trans.). New York: Pantheon
Walter had a notable effect on all who knew him Books. (Original work published 1949)
well, but probably on none more than his students. Ong, W. J. (1952). The Mechanical Bride: Christen the folk-
These are scattered far and wide, not only in America lore of industrial man. Review article of The
Mechanical Bride: Folklore of Industrial Man. By
but in many countries around the world. Many were
Herbert Marshall McLuhan. Social Order 2 (Feb.),
impressed not only by the “bare bones” of his theoriz- 79-85.
ing but also by his interest in their own languages and Ong, W. J. (1958a). Ramus, method, and the decay of dia-
cultures, bringing the theories alive to them through his logue: From the art of discourse to the art of reason.
questions about their own ways of knowing and com- Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
municating. That questioning was no mere pedagogical Ong, W. J. (1958b). Ramus and Talon inventory: A short-
title inventory of the published works of Peter Ramus
gimmick, either, but it was evident that he was contin-
(1515-1572) and of Omer Talon (ca. 1510-1562) in
ually learning from their answers. His willingness to their original and in their variously altered forms.
learn while teaching was, in itself, a valuable lesson, an With related material: 1. The Ramist controversies: A
opening for the students into an ever-expandable uni- descriptive catalogue. 2. Agricola check list: A short-
verse ripe for their own future exploration. title inventory of some printed editions and printed
His insights and ideas broke new pathways for compendia of Rudolph Agricola’s Dialectical inven-
understanding how we think and communicate. But tion (De inventione dialectica). Cambridge, MA:
there remains unexplored territory beyond the ends of Harvard University Press.

22 — VOLUME 23 (2004) NO. 1 COMMUNICATION RESEARCH TRENDS


Ong, W. J. (1962a). A dialectic of aural and objective correl- lution of consciousness and culture (pp. 82-91). Ithaca
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Ong, W. J. (1962c). Voice as a summons for belief: the word: Studies in the evolution of consciousness and
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gomena for cultural and religious history. New Haven Ong, W. J. (1982b). Orality and literacy: The technologizing
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gy (pp. 284-303). Ithaca and London: Cornell Beginnings of writing and today’s computers.
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COMMUNICATION RESEARCH TRENDS VOLUME 23 (2004) NO. 1 — 23


Book Reviews leges—and privileges come only at the expense of
reciprocation in the form of agreed-upon responsibili-
Bivins, Thomas. Mixed Media. Mahwah, NJ and
ties” (p. 41). Learning even this much philosophy can
London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2004. Pp. xii,
provide a framework for making ethical decisions
229. ISBN 0-8058-4257-8 (pb.) $29.95.
about issues such as the interesting case studies that
“Stop thinking about what you have the right to many chapters present. Some cases are familiar to read-
do and start thinking about what is the right ers. Should reporters lie about their identity to investi-
thing to do.” –Fred Friendly gate an issue? Did tennis great Arthur Ashe’s right to
This quote from Fred Friendly, Edward R. privacy outweigh an alleged public right to know about
Murrow’s collaborator on See It Now who resigned as his AIDS diagnosis because he was a celebrity?
president of CBS News over coverage of the Vietnam Readers who persevere through the models will
War hearings sums up the essence of this book. It is eventually find readable and common sense summaries
obvious that the author wants to help journalists, pub- of major points such as:
lic relations professionals, and advertising personnel The media are obligated to a vast array of
learn how to make ethical professional decisions based claimants and must discharge those obligations
on understanding and weighing competing classical satisfactorily in order to act ethically. And while
philosophies. Unhappily there is a large gap between obligations may differ among the various media,
ethical theory and professional praxis that this book is commonalities do exist in such areas as truth
unlikely to close. telling and prohibitions against harm. (p. 44)
This heavily footnoted book that includes a sub- But philosophy is tough going for the uninitiat-
stantial bibliography opens with a discussion of what ed—probably a high percentage of working journal-
constitutes an ethical issue followed by a chapter on ists—and “truth” is no simple concept. A chapter on
who are moral claimants. It presents complex models “Media and Professionalism” examines that issue
for each of the three fields listing and weighing the along with root questions such as the nature of profes-
competing claims of employees, stockholders, clients, sions and whether any of the media occupations might
the general public, news sources, and so forth. As I qualify. Here the fields appear to diverge. Journalism
struggled through this tedious, complicated chapter, I has never aspired to professional status because it
tried to envision any of the city editors I worked for in resists the idea of an official exam or credentials to
11 years on a daily newspaper making it past the second qualify (a violation of libertarianism) while public rela-
page. Ditto my supervisors in corporate PR. All I could tions professionals are more likely to seek such status.
think of was the city editor who refused to read any Once again, a complex discussion ends in a common
memo longer than a paragraph. In the fast-moving, bru- sense conclusion: “Being a professional assumes a
tally practical world that these news, PR, and advertis- level of ethicality beyond that of societal norms . . . the
ing professionals inhabit, the abstruse, complex analy- media may garner the benefits of professionalism by
sis that Bivins recommends is virtually unimaginable. merely acting as if they were professions” (p. 70).
This is too bad because there is good material in I found this discussion interesting because of my
this book if the reader has more patience to pursue it academic background and readings in the literature of
than any decision-maker I ever worked for. The book is professionalism. My former city editor (a Marine vet-
essentially a short course on the philosophical under- eran who once threw a chair to express exasperation
pinnings of ethical decision-making on media issues. with something) might have used barracks language to
According to the author, a basic philosophical clash describe his vast unconcern with the topic.
between the libertarian and social responsibility mod- A major section of the book briefly digests the
els of media underlies many of the ethical dilemmas ethical theories of major philosophers (Plato, Aristotle,
that communications professionals face. Locke, Kant, John Stuart Mill, etc.) whose ideas are
“Roughly speaking libertarianism holds that free- relevant to media ethics. This chapter also outlines the
dom should be unbounded; there should be no restric- philosophical battles between competing schools of
tions on an individual’s freedom to do what he or she thought such as the social contract and utilitarianism,
pleases” (p. 40). In contrast, in the social responsibili- free speech, virtue ethics, and so forth. It’s almost like
ty model, “businesses are seen as operating at the reviewing all of Philosophy 107 or Political Philosophy
behest of the public; thus their rights are really privi- 302 in one chapter. The material is probably germane

24 — VOLUME 23 (2004) NO. 1 COMMUNICATION RESEARCH TRENDS


to a battle over whether to run a particularly gruesome to reach. Bivins obviously knows his material. The pro-
photo in a newspaper but I tried to imagine any city fessionals could benefit from his wisdom and expert-
editor I worked for mentioning John Stuart Mill or ise—but not as it is offered in this book. Think of my
Aristotle in those circumstances. Not likely. chair-tossing city editor. That’s the audience Bivins is
The author raises some interesting issues such as trying to communicate with. This book will not do that.
the different possible meanings of truth in journalism —Eileen Wirth
vs. truth in PR and advertising and the relationship Creighton University
between persuasion and facts. PR and advertising prac-
titioners who resent the equation of persuasion with Bochner, Arthur P., and Carolyn Ellis. (Eds.).
falsehood might appreciate some of what Bivins says. Ethnographically Speaking: Autoethnography,
The book’s final chapter is perhaps the most use- Literature, and Aesthetics. Walnut Creek, CA:
ful to professionals. It contains a checklist for moral AltaMira Press, 2002. Pp. i, 412. ISBN 0-7591- 0129-
decision making, asking good and useful questions that 9 (pb.) $29.95.
a city editor might even ask. For example, “What Ethnographically Speaking represents a compila-
immediate facts have the most bearing on the ethical tion of ethnographic alternatives as developed for the
decision you must render in this case?” (p. 174) “List 2000 Couch-Stone Symposium, the millennium meet-
at least three alternative courses of action” (p. 176). ing of the Society for the Study of Symbolic
Each of the checklist items is followed by a compact Interaction, and revised for inclusion in this edited vol-
explanation of what specific questions to ask and what ume. Participating authors, representing over 30 differ-
evidence to examine. At last the author offers a practi- ent disciplines, reflect “a wide range of people . . . who
cal framework that could help a professional under share an interest in work that crosses the boundaries
pressure resolve an ethical dilemma based on reason between social science, literature, and the arts” (p. 3).
and principles instead of hunch or instinct. Organized around the themes of “Culture Embodied:
When I finally reached this chapter, I wished that Performing Autoethnography,” “Wounded Storytellers:
the author had adopted a classic journalistic strategy: Vulnerability, Identity, and Narrative,” “Ethnographic
lead with the conclusion. Had he done so, I think there Aesthetics: Artful Inquiry,” and “Between Literature
is a fair chance that some media professionals might and Ethnography,” the book provides three broad cate-
use this book to resolve their ethical dilemmas, or at gories of materials: concrete forms of experimental
least to ponder them. They could search the book for ethnographic representation, methodological papers,
the material they need to understand some issues on the and cultural and critical works.
checklist while skimming over less relevant parts of the Through a complex interweaving of representa-
book. Journalists, especially, are pros at skimming tional examples of (auto)ethnographies, scholarly trea-
reams of complex material to find what they need. It’s tises, and critically reflective essays, Bochner and Ellis,
a basic survival skill. Sadly, I fear that few media pro- albeit through their contributing authors, draw upon
fessionals will reach the concluding chapter unless ethnographic roots to ground their exploration of inter-
someone advises them to. relationships among various disciplinary threads; the
Overall, this was a challenging book to read and resulting work illustrates the power and range of poten-
evaluate. There is a great deal of excellent information tial applications and uses of ethnographic research,
including an appendix containing eight ethical codes or while acknowledging existing criticisms and limitations.
statements of principles from various groups of jour- While not intended for only a communications audience,
nalists, public relations, and advertising professionals. this work is of particular interest to communication
There are the wonderful and readable case studies cov- scholars as Mary and Kenneth Gergen introduce the
ering episodes of questionable ethics. Some of these, book by explaining “Ethnographic Representation as
such as the Arthur Ashe vs. USA Today example leave Relationship.” Interludes are provided to transition or
even libertarian journalists very uncomfortable about connect section to section and a final closing collection
their advocacy of unfettered media freedom. of articles brings the reader full circle back to the con-
The book might be more useful as a college media ference planners’ reflections on this experience.
ethics text than as a guide to ethics for professionals. I Ethnographically speaking, Gergen and Gergen
wish the author would write a second version more argue “Like other forms of research, ethnographic
attuned to the mindset of the audiences he most wishes inquiry traditionally functions as a means of representa-

COMMUNICATION RESEARCH TRENDS VOLUME 23 (2004) NO. 1 — 25


tion. Ethnographers attempt to represent the lives, prac- eled against autoethnography (and of narratives of
tices, beliefs, values, and feelings of some person or self), [as being] based on a misunderstanding of the
group. . . .[this body of literature would suggest] that genre in terms of what it is, what it does, and how it
representation does far more than communicate about a works in a multiplicity of contexts” (p. 222).
subject; it simultaneously creates forms of relationship” Autoethnographies in particular, and narratives in gen-
(p. 12). They conclude “there is no ‘one best way’ in the eral, both construct and reflect our constructed reali-
matter of representation; relationships can be many and ties. We come to understand ourselves and others
varied and to apply a single criterion to the matrix is to through lived experiences. Specifically “autoethnogra-
constrain our potential” (p. 31). The varieties of repre- phies can encourage acts of witnessing, empathy, and
sentations fill the remainder of the book. connection that extend beyond the self of the author
“Culture Embodied” contains three examples of and thereby contribute to sociological understanding in
“Performing Autoethnography:” ethnodrama (Pelias), ways that, among others, are self-knowing, self-
torch singing (Jones), and an approach to research- respectful, self-sacrificing, and self-luminous”
based theater (Gray, Ivanoffski, and Sinding). In gener- (Sparkes, p. 222).
al, stories of autoethnography begin “with the experi- Multi-layered, polyphonic narratives typify
ence of one person, but others make it over to them- “Ethnographic Aesthetics.” The interconnected rela-
selves and give it new uses and interpretations” tionships, underlying the theme of the entire book, are
(Jackson, 1989, p. 18, qtd., p. 53). Historically, per- explicated in the poetry, art, text, and storytelling that
formance artists have communicated and interpreted form a collage of “Artful Inquiry.” Congruently,
culture through performance texts. Experiments with autoethnography is clearly illustrated, as Ellis (1999,
performance texts include ethnodramas, the most com- qtd., p. 283) describes, as “an autobiographical genre
plicated of performance texts. Ethnodramas, as exem- of writing and research that displays multiple layers of
plifies by Pelias and discussed by Gray, Ivanoffski, and consciousness. Back and forth autoethnographers gaze,
Sinding, “merge natural script dialogues with drama- first through an ethnographic wide-angle lens, focusing
tized scenes and the use of composite characters” outward on social and cultural aspects of their person-
(Denzin, 1997, p. 99, qtd., p. 58). Lockford, author of al experience; then they look inward, exposing a vul-
this interlude, explains how each of these three chap- nerable self that is moved by and may move through,
ters asks us to consider how the actors (and the schol- refract and resist cultural interpretations” (p. 283).
ars who created them) construct, deconstruct, and/or The modes of expression and evaluation of social
rebuild their respective cultures (through the perform- knowledge (e.g., written word, film) work the hyphen
ance of these forms of scholarship). (introduced by Picart in the previous section) “Between
“Wounded Storytellers” is aptly titled as these Literature and Ethnography.” Griots, according to
narratives convey stories of vulnerability and identity. Stoller, are West African bards who take on the social
Kiesinger offers the strongest theoretical discussion of burden of words; they are the repositories of history
narrative reframing and its utility, premised on the and culture who convey the lessons of culture from
assumption that our life stories become the “frame- generation to generation. Stoller’s use of narrative and
works of meaning out of which we act, think, interpret, dialogue has been an attempt to maintain representa-
and relate” (p. 107). Narrative reframing allows us to tional fidelity to African ways of talking social life.
“reinvent our accounts in ways that permit us to live Congruently, Angrosino’s purpose is to discuss issues
more fulfilling lives. . .contextualize our stories within that relate to the emerging craft of literary ethnography
the framework of a larger picture. . .[and] requires that from the anthropological tradition and in light of the
we assess the degree to which we live our stories ver- process of experimentation “collectively labeled ‘alter-
sus the degree to which our stories live us” (pp. 107- native ethnography’” (p. 328). Tillmann-Healy further
109). Illustrative narratives include erotic mentoring argues that the criteria by which we judge narrative
(Rushing) and sexual identity transformation (Dent). ethnographies are different from those used to evaluate
Jenks explicitly addresses practical concerns and theo- traditional science, but not deficient.
retical issues that surround (auto) ethnographic, quali-
Narrative ethnographers write for those who
tative research, as illustrated through her “mom” role.
wish to be engaged on multiple levels: intellec-
Sparkes concludes this lengthy section by challenging tually, emotionally, ethically, and aesthetically;
the “universal charge of self-indulgence so often lev- to confront texts from their own experience; and

26 — VOLUME 23 (2004) NO. 1 COMMUNICATION RESEARCH TRENDS


to participate as coproducers of meaning. er who takes such observations as the point of these
Narrative ethnographies embrace, in Denzin’s studies or disparages at finding in this volume some
terms, a “dialogical ethics of reading.” (p. 340) new, definitive word on emotion and communication
Reflective essays by Frank, Richardson, Goodall will miss the book’s true riches. And these are several.
Jr., and Ellis and Bochner conclude the volume. First, the range of subjects investigated mirrors the
Individually, they offer personal insights on the emerg- impressive breadth of Zillman’s research in media use
ing dialogue and collectively these, with the other 25+ and gratification. All the major promontories of the
authors, “give readers a sense of the experience and mass media—news, sports, entertainment—are
feeling of the [2000] conference” (p. 391) that explored explored, as are the outcroppings of violence, pornog-
in great depth and from a variety of disciplinary per- raphy, eroticism, and horror. Second, the high overall
spectives the emerging patterns, issues, and contribu- quality of these essays makes them a good introduction
tions of (auto)ethnography. to the scope of contemporary communication research.
—Mary Ann Danielson Especially useful are the essays’ literature reviews and
Creighton University bibliographies, which comprise a handy reference to
major works in the field. The most significant aspect of
Bryant, Jennings, David Roskos-Ewoldsen, and the book, however, is methodological: it charts the
Joanne Cantor. (Eds.). Communication and Emotion: breadth of Zillman’s multidisciplinary approach.
Essays in Honor of Dolf Zillman. Mahwah, NJ and The nexus of this approach is Zillman’s continu-
London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2003. Pp. vii, ally evolving “three-factor theory of emotion”—intro-
610. ISBN 0-8058-4032-X (hb.) $89.95. (Special pre- duced in 1978—which Zillman himself updates in the
paid price, $49.95). book’s final essay. As Zillman notes, William James
From the heights of Aristotle and Shakespeare to reversed “the common sense sequence that, as we
the trough of pop psychology, the advice is unwavering encounter danger, we experience fear and then decide
and untiringly the same: Some variation of “bite your to run. He argued that we run first, and that then, while
tongue,” “wait until you’ve cooled down,” or “count to running, we become aware of bodily changes and expe-
ten.” The wise person reins turbulent passion through rience fear” (p. 545). James’ axiomatic two-step
reason. Through the prism of Dolf Zillman’s “three- sequence of events inspired “two-factor” theories of
factor theory of emotion” and its refraction into “exci- emotion. Zillman deemed these “incomplete” for their
tation-transfer,” the old adage sounds thus: failure to account for the initial skeletal-motor reac-
tions involved in emotional behavior. This missing
Responding ‘emotionally’ to threats of self- third component appears as the first factor in Zillman’s
esteem, social status, social power, or economic three-factor theory.
standing not only tends to lack adaptive utility Using recent discoveries in neurophysiology to
but also can be counterproductive and maladap- true his model, Zillman argues that emotional reactions
tive. . . . Staying calm and collected in devising
may be triggered automatically, i.e., without prior
strategies for effective action would better serve
their welfare and self-interest. (p. 46)
thought or reasoning. In other words, the neural cir-
cuitry that activates fight-or-flight responses bypasses
So do Bryant and Miron quote Zillman in one of the neocortex. Incorporating the discoveries of neuro-
the 23 essays collected here in tribute to Zillman’s pro- science moves communication research out of the
lific work on communication and emotion of the last vagueness of work based on hypothetical constructs.
three decades (largely at Indiana University and most As useful and clever as these might be, reason, imagi-
recently at the University of Alabama). Much of what nation, and empirical observation only go so far in pen-
Zillman and his followers conclude about the conse- etrating communication and emotion. For example,
quences of unrelieved emotional tension, subsequent apart from the primary emotions, fear and anger, the
outbursts, and the like resounds with ho-hum familiar- classification of emotions is fraught with disagreement
ity. For example, in persons unable to master their and seems based more on semantic argument and idio-
anger, i.e., people of “limited cognitive capacity,” this syncrasy than science.
deficiency “manifests as ‘inability of extremely agitat- In essence, Zillman’s work is an attempt to corre-
ed and aroused persons to conceive and execute ration- late emotional behavior with corresponding physiolog-
al, effective courses of action . . .’”(p. 45). Yet the read- ical chemistry and brain topography. This serves as a

COMMUNICATION RESEARCH TRENDS VOLUME 23 (2004) NO. 1 — 27


corrective mechanism to theoretical error. Thus encephalitis-spreading ticks. “Residual excitation from
Zillman’s claim that emotional behavior may occur the initial report thus should ‘artificially’ enhance the
without prior deliberation is based upon recent neuro- affective reaction to the second report, even creating
physiological research, which Zillman summarizes unnecessarily intense fear of the ticks” (p. 558).
thus: Not every essay in this collection makes use of
“three-factor theory,” “excitation-transfer theory,” or
The amygdala has emerged as the pivotal struc-
“misattribution.” One of the strongest pieces is Hans-
ture for the operation of triggers. A direct path to
this structure is via the sensory thalamus. An
Bernd Brosius’ “Exemplars in the News: A Theory of
alternative route is from the sensory thalamus the Effects of Political Communication.” Brosius
through the sensory cortex to the amygdala. The examines the journalistic practice of using single indi-
direct path takes about half the processing time, viduals to typify a problem. Although vivid, such
allowing responses to be made prior to full exemplars are not representative and tend to exert an
awareness and contemplation of the circum- undue influence on how a problem is perceived.
stances. (p. 547) Another strong essay is David R. Roskos-
Ewoldsen’s “What is the Role of Rhetorical Questions
This description figures into the first of the three
in Persuasion?” The question is thoroughly examined
factors that account for emotional behavior and how it is
through an exemplary literature review that reveals
experienced. Zillman terms the factors “dispositional,”
intriguing findings—for example, rhetorical questions
“excitatory,” and “experiential.” Roughly, the first two
improved learning by inducing curiosity (p. 305)—and
refer to the pre-reflective, immediate motor and arousal
identifies knowledge gaps, “no research has been con-
responses induced by a stimulus. The third factor, the
ducted looking at the influence of personal versus
“experiential,” refers to the conscious appraisal and syn-
impersonal rhetorical questions in a persuasion con-
thesis of immediate experience. The “experiential” fac-
text” (p. 306).
tor describes how reason and learned behavior may
Each chapter includes its own reference list. An
check inappropriate responses and also control the inten-
author index and a subject index appear at the end of
sity and duration of our moods. The understanding and
the volume.
judgments that we pronounce upon our emotional reac-
—Tony Osborne
tions may in turn become neurologically embedded and,
Gonzaga University
for better or worse, alter our “emotional preparedness for
future encounters” with emotional triggers (p. 551).
Dodge, Martin and Rob Kitchin. Mapping
Although reason serves to control and determine
Cyberspace. London and New York: Routledge, 2001.
the appropriateness of emotional behavior, it doesn’t
Pp. xii, 260. ISBN 0-415-19884-4 (pb.) $36.95.
always attribute the right cause to emotional arousal.
Though Mapping Cyberspace addresses some of
Such “misattribution” is a central factor in accurately
the most recent sources of information, the underlying
assessing the mass media’s impact on behavior. The
problem of visualizing information has a long history.
idea of “misattribution” figured into Zillman’s early
In fact, the method it describes has existed for a num-
preoccupation with media violence and aggressive
ber of centuries. The struggle for the spatial represen-
behavior and spawned the “three-factor theory” (and
tation of knowledge can trace its modern history at
the symbiotic “excitation-transfer theory”).
least to early 16th century printings of the logical trea-
Misattribution occurs because there is a time lag in the
tises of Tartaret and Celaya (Ong, 1958, pp. 74-83).
decay of emotional arousal. Therefore, the residual
Mapping Cyberspace updates and surpasses these
effects of an emotion may persist long after the stimu-
efforts, applying the spatialization of knowledge to the
lus has disappeared. For example, after exposure to
multiple discourses of cyberspace (the World Wide
four consecutive stimuli, the residual effects of these
Web, Gopher space, email, IRC chats, news groups,
may be “misattributed” to a fifth condition, giving rise
domain names, the physical infrastructure, and so on).
to the “transfer of excitation.”
To make their project work, Dodge and Kitchin intro-
The conclusions drawn from excitation transfer
duce the reader to cyberspace, geography, and cartog-
seem to be where Zillman’s theorizing is least convinc-
raphy. Spurred on by an idea for a coffee table book of
ing. For example, he hypothesizes that a television
the stunning maps generated by those trying to chart
viewer is subjected to news of a plane crash followed
the growth of the Internet, they instead developed a
immediately by a report on the territorial expansion of

28 — VOLUME 23 (2004) NO. 1 COMMUNICATION RESEARCH TRENDS


treasure trove of information about those discourses and the “imaginative mappings of cyberspace.” Here
that make mapping possible. they show how much of the thinking about cyberspace
Their review of the relevant literature in Chapter (including its very name) arose from science fiction.
1 highlights the dichotomies that underpin our notions They plumb that fiction for additional clues as to how
of cyberspace: space vs. spacelessness, place vs. place- people shall continue to place this virtual space.
lessness, industrial vs. post-industrial, public vs. pri- A last chapter suggests future directions for
vate, broadcasters vs. listeners, real vs. virtual, nature research and thinking. They suggest continuing the line
vs. technology, and fixed vs. fluid. After so situating begun here:
the problem, Dodge and Kitchin turn to the “geogra-
Mapping cyberspace, as we have demonstrated,
phies of the information society” (Chap. 2) and exam-
is a multifaceted project; one that consists of ele-
ine social geographies; political structures; the rela- ments that are philosophical, theoretical, empiri-
tions among place, community, and identity; spaces of cal, and practical. It is a project that is only par-
surveillance; the globalization of trade; and city plan- tially captured by our overarching questions:
ning. These in turn open onto the “geographies of What does cyberspace look like? How is cyber-
cyberspace” (Chap. 3): online communities, power space changing social relations? Will cyberspace
relations, identity, personal interaction, and so on. make geography obsolete? (p. 207)
The rest of the Mapping Cyberspace addresses
Each of these questions spawns its own set of follow-
the cartography. A helpful introduction to the idea of
up questions, which Dodge and Kitchin spell out in a—
maps orients the reader but also raises key issues (data
dare we say?—”map” of future research.
quality, user knowledge) and problems (ethics). The
This book presents an excellent overview of
subsequent, richly illustrated chapters examine maps of
cyberspace and thinking about it. Its hyperlinks to
cyberspace. The first set (in Chapter 5) illustrate the
mapping projects and its 25 page bibliography increase
physical components of the Internet: “maps of infrastr-
its value tremendously. The book also has an index.
cuture; maps of traffic; and attempts to map the tempo-
—Paul A. Soukup, S.J.
ral aspects of ICTs [information and communication
Santa Clara University
technologies]” (p. 81). Here we find maps that trace the
References
locations and growth of the Internet as well as show the
Ong, W. J. (1958). Ramus: Method and the decay of dia-
various ways people have tried to illustrate the interre- logue. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
lationship of its parts. These form the most familiar of
maps to the non-specialist since in one way or another Einstein, Mara. Media Diversity: Economics,
they rest on the usual notions of physicality. Ownership, and the FCC. Mahwah, NJ and London:
Chapter 6 moves to the analogical process of “spa- Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. 2004. Pp ix, 249. ISBN
tializing cyberspace.” These include maps that attempt 0-8058-4241-1 (hb.) $59.95. (Special prepaid price,
to show the “topography” of the information spaces $29.95).
online: how does email relate to listservs? What about In Media Diversity, Mara Einstein explores the
other kinds of information? Dodge and Kitchin review notion of diversity identified in the title. She suggests that
both flat and 3-dimensional maps, as cartographers
attempt to include more data points for the more com- television’s reliance on advertising as its primary
plex information. Chapter 7 addresses the social dimen- source of revenue is the reason we have so few
sion of cyberspace presenting various maps of asynchro- program choices. This economic structure inher-
nous space. These maps of social groups take their data ently puts limits on program content that far out-
from email systems, mailing lists, and news groups. weigh anything that occurs due to media consol-
idation. These limits include time length for pro-
Time, however, proves a more difficult aspect to
gram, a “lowest common denominator” mentali-
map. What should representations of synchronous ty because advertising perforce requires that pro-
social spaces include? Chapter 8 shows the reader chat grammer generate large audiences, and finally,
rooms, MUDs, and virtual worlds, in which partici- programming cannot be too controversial or
pants track both social location and virtual physicality. denigrate consumer products or their producers
Dodge and Kitchin conclude their work with a because they are footing the bill. (p. vii)
return to theory as they consider how people think
about cyberspace. A fascinating chapter turns to fiction Chapter 1 provides an extensive overview of the
U.S. regulatory tradition in the area of broadcasting.

COMMUNICATION RESEARCH TRENDS VOLUME 23 (2004) NO. 1 — 29


Specifically, regulation aimed at safeguarding, and world. ... This integrated structure makes it vir-
increasing, diversity of content is presented and dis- tually impossible for an independent company to
cussed. Einstein argues that given the restrictions on succeed because of exceedingly high barriers to
government regulation imposed by the First entry. (p. 151)
Amendment, the FCC and Congress attempted to Chapter 5 examines the effect of fin-syn rules on
achieve diversity of content through outlet and source, diversity, which in this instance was operationalized as
that is, structural regulation. The chapter concludes diversity of genres. The author found that “it may be pos-
with a brief overview of studies of media diversity, sible to say that fin-syn contributed to a decline in diver-
specifically diversity in television, minorities and sity, since the drop [in diversity] occurred at the same
diversity, and concentration and diversity. time as the rules. Similarly, the repeal of the rules led to
Chapter 2 explores the genesis and implementa- an increase in the diversity of genres within two seasons
tion of the so-called financial interest and syndication after its repeal” (p. 176). Hand-in-hand with the increase
rules (fin-syn) that were aimed at weakening television in number of genres represented in prime-time went the
networks’ monopoly over production and distribution concentration in the production sphere. In 1970, 20 pro-
of programming: ducers, about a half of which were independents, pro-
The broadcast networks controlled the pipeline duced approximately 67% of prime-time content. In
to the American viewing public. The fin-syn 2002, six producers (including the four largest networks)
rules eliminated the networks’ stranglehold on produced approximately 82% of content.
the industry and limited them to making money In Chapter 6, program producers and network
from advertising and from selling the rights to executives discuss the prime-time selection process.
what limited programming they could still pro- The repeal of fin-syn rules, followed by unprecedented
duce for a single payment. (p. 68) vertical integration of electronic media, resulted in a
Also discussed are the anti-trust investigation by the situation where networks again have a financial inter-
Justice Department in the 1970s and President Nixon’s est in most programs that are being aired. Networks’
relationship with the media in general and with net- gatekeeper power in many cases curtails not only busi-
works in particular. ness success of producers, but also their creativity.
Chapter 3 offers a detailed account of the demise In the concluding chapter, Einstein overviews the
of fin-syn rules, from its beginning in the early 1980s causes for the drop in diversity and quality of television
to their final repeal in 1995. President Reagan was content. They include: (1) Flawed approach to regula-
instrumental in prolonging the battle that pitted net- tion. Government (society) wants to achieve greater
works against Hollywood producers, both independent diversity and quality, but is banned from regulating
and large studios. Technological changes, most notably content. The history has shown that structural regula-
the spread of cable networks, led to the fin-syn rules tion does not achieve this policy goal. (2) Proliferation
and prime time access rule being repealed in 1993. of outlets stretches the available production talent too
Chapter 4 analyzes the structure of television thinly. (3) All broadcast media depend on advertising
industry with the focus on broadcast networks. It con- as primary source of income. This dependence has
cludes that the major networks, despite the fact that direct effect on the kind of content that will be pro-
their combined share of viewing audience fell from duced and shown.
over 90% to around 50%, continue to exercise a domi- The author concludes:
nant influence on what is being produced. Reasons for What is needed is a new definition of diversity—
that are twofold. First, networks are the sole providers or perhaps even a new policy goal since diversi-
of mass audience. Second, as a result of industry con- ty is so ambiguous. What is also needed is a
solidation, they are now parts of larger integrated space within the media marketplace that is insu-
media companies. lated from advertising and its accompanying
need to produce large, homogeneous audiences.
Vertical integration has led to concentration, It is only in this way that we will be able to have
which has in turn limited the diversity in pro- content that serves multiple audiences, and puts
gram suppliers and program outlets, at least in public interest over profit motive. (p. 226)
terms of the largest outlets. . . . This concentra-
tion of power denies access to viewpoints that —Peter Lah S.J.
communicate a different perspective of the Loyola University of Chicago

30 — VOLUME 23 (2004) NO. 1 COMMUNICATION RESEARCH TRENDS


Elasmar, Michael G. (Ed.). The Impact of from outside the region (primarily from the U.S.).
International Television: A Paradigm Shift. Mahwah, Moreover, he develops a much more sophisticated
NJ and London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2003. analysis of why audiences choose local programming.
Pp. x, 213. ISBN 0-8058-4219-5 (hb.) $49.95; 0-8058- He begins with the obvious issue of language as a filter
4220-9 (pb.) $25.00 for audiences in choosing programs, arguing that even
The argument of this book is one that has been with dubbing, American programs are not as close to
around for more than 20 years: that the claims of audience language, experience, and culture (cultural
Cultural Imperialism about the dangerous impacts of proximity is the phrase that captures this). But he adds
foreign television has no basis in empirical evidence to this these elements—the impact of family, religion,
for audience effects. This was first raised by a critical schooling, personal networks, and travel—to argue for
researcher himself in 1981 when Fred Fejes suggest- a complex mix of factors that directs audience choices
ed that media imperialism had no evidence about toward more familiar programs from national and
audience impacts. regional sources. He adds to these culturally unifying
The present book under the editorship of Michael factors the important notion of class and its attendant
Elasmar of Boston University seeks to bring together distinctions in cultural capital that different segments
what evidence there is on audience effects of watching of society bring to program choice. Yet he does not take
foreign programs. The conclusion of Elasmar (who a simple individual audience member approach but rec-
authors or co-authors four of the 10 chapters) is that ognizes the structural realities of international televi-
there are still few studies of audience effects and that sion distribution and scheduling, including the showing
evidence does not account for much of the variance of many Hollywood films on television. Finally, he
even though the 28 studies almost all showed some uses a series of in-depth interviews among a variety of
impact on audiences. The centerpiece of the argument Brazilian audience members to define the variety of
is a meta-analysis in Chapter 8 of these 28 studies. choices that different class members make regarding
Although one might argue with some of the technical local, regional, and global programming. Not surpris-
assumptions of the analysis, the work does help to clar- ingly, it is the middle and elite classes who tend to par-
ify the continuing lack of good studies of audience ticipate more in global programming because their cul-
effects of watching foreign (often American) programs. tural capital (education, income, employment, travel)
The question to be asked is why this dearth con- allows them more contact with the world beyond
tinues decades after the challenge by Fejes. This ques- national borders and national culture.
tion, regrettably, the book does not answer. Two The chapter by Alex Tan and colleagues shows a
responses are possible: first and most importantly, sophisticated analysis of different theories that may be
there is no simple answer about media effects any- appropriate to the study of television impacts of foreign
where, even on much studied topics like U.S. chil- programs, but in reporting his own studies among dif-
dren’s exposure to violent television, and certainly not ferent national audiences, he comes to a conclusion that
in a complicated area like the viewing of foreign pro-
is a theme throughout the book: the process of influ-
grams; and second, the issue of cultural imperialism
ence by television is more complex than cultural impe-
though far from dead in many peoples’ minds has
moved out of the policy limelight these days and has rialists thought. This is echoed by many of the other
few scholars devoting time and effort to the topic. authors because their studies have run into the same
Even with this critique, there is still much to be complications that the television violence studies expe-
learned from this book. Elasmar has focused his atten- rienced in this country in the 1970s. We may be con-
tion on a central failing of the media/cultural imperial- vinced that there is an effect, but to demonstrate it con-
ism argument: what about the audience in this whole vincingly is not easy. When we consider that many of
debate? There are six chapters reporting new data or the studies reported in the book were poorly funded
summarizing older studies done by the authors. Of and were done under difficult field conditions, it is not
these, the one by Joseph Straubhaar is by far the surprising that better data were not gathered. The con-
strongest. What Straubhaar does is to summarize much clusion of these studies is that the cultural imperialists
of his previous work on the pattern of choice of Latin overstated the simple connection between foreign pro-
American audiences toward those programs that are
gram presence and a number of negative consequences
either national or Latin American in origin over those
for audiences.

COMMUNICATION RESEARCH TRENDS VOLUME 23 (2004) NO. 1 — 31


The final chapters of the book report the meta- groups. Originally identified by Putnam and Stolh
analysis that shows that there are small impacts on audi- (1990), bona fide groups are defined as demonstrating
ences but consistently indicating some consequence of “two important and interrelated characteristics: stable
watching foreign programs. Elasmar and Hunter cor- yet permeable group boundaries and interdependence
rectly observe that none of the 28 studies that corre- with their relevant contexts” (Frey, p. 4). Bona fide
sponded to the requirements of the quantitative meas- group research challenges the traditional “container”
ures indicated an overwhelming impact and that very notion of examining groups (which may or may not be
little of the variance in the dependent measures could be within natural settings) and examines groups whose
accounted for by exposure to foreign programs. “external environments and internal group processes
In the final two chapters, Elasmar gives his ver- are intrinsically and intricately related” (p. 7). Thus,
sion of an approach that would provide a final answer bona fide groups reflect a both/and perspective where-
to the question along with recommendations in the by external and internal contexts interdependently
final chapter of how such a paradigm study might be affect the group and cannot be studied in isolation.
implemented. The contents here seem to be reasonably Frey’s text is divided into six parts (in addition to
coherent but the paradigm outlined may illustrate how an introduction by Frey and an epilogue by Stohl and
complicated a task is at hand. And the question to be Putnam), which range in contexts from familial groups
asked is, if it could be carried out, would it allay the and boundaries to mediated electronic groups. The
cultural concerns of people in other countries? I think positioning and ordering of the text carefully lays out
not. The issue that surrounds the question of cultural for the reader a micro-to-macro approach of under-
imperialism is one of power and not of individual standing bona fide groups. A distinguishing contribu-
change. As long as there is a feeling that American cul- tion of the studies is that many are collaborative efforts
ture represents at least a threat to someone’s culture, where scholars and practitioners are actual members of
language, values, or identity, then there will continue to the groups themselves, thus providing credence to the
be critics of influence of that culture. notion of bona fide groups in natural settings. In addi-
This book takes up a challenge from more than tion, the variety of theories, methodologies, and analy-
two decades ago and examines the evidence for claims ses in these studies provides an eclectic approach to
that are still around though dressed in different lan- study bona fide groups. Regardless of one’s own philo-
guage. It brings together that evidence and identifies sophical grounding, this text offers a fresh and engag-
the complexity of the process of media influence. The ing approach to understanding groups.
challenge to rectify this lack will depend on moving the Two chapters, which make up Part I, “Tales from
audience issue back into the public policy limelight. the Home and Hood: Managing Group Boundaries and
Each chapter has its own reference list/bibliogra- Borders,” examine important groups in which individ-
phy. The editors provide both an author and a subject uals can directly relate: families and neighborhoods. In
index for the whole volume. Chapter 1, Petronio, Jones, and Morr look at privacy
—Emile G. McAnany dilemmas family members face and how their individ-
Santa Clara University ual and shared boundaries affect decisions regarding
References the management of privacy issues within the family.
Fejes, F. (1981) Media imperialism: An assessment. Media, They studied privacy issues through a thematic analyt-
culture and society, 3, 281-289. ic technique based on questionnaire responses from
family members. In the second chapter, Buchalter
Frey, Lawrence R. (Ed.). Group Communication in examines a neighborhood in Queen Village from a case
Context: Studies of Bona Fide Groups. (2nd ed.) study perspective (which includes longitudinal inter-
Mahwah, NJ and London: Lawrence Erlbaum views). She examines how “the definition of a neigh-
Associates, 2003. Pp. v, 446. ISBN 0-8058-3149-5 borhood is challenged and negotiated” (p. 59) by its
(hb.) $99.95; 0-8058-3150-9 (pb.) $45.00. members and concludes that everyday interactions and
Working in groups is an inevitable event in our spatial relationships dramatically affect how individu-
lives; however, many may not take into consideration als understand themselves and their environment.
the various internal and external intricacies of small Part II of the text, “Community Groups:
groups. In this second edition, Frey’s editorial work Engaging in Group Decision Making, Deliberation,
captures the essence of small groups and represents a and Development” highlights two research studies with
collection of research studies that involve bona fide

32 — VOLUME 23 (2004) NO. 1 COMMUNICATION RESEARCH TRENDS


specific communities. Although most group research HIV/AIDS support group. Yep et al. conclude by stat-
emphasizes how the past, present, and future affect ing that regardless of the “closed” nature of a group,
group decisions, these two chapters reveal the magni- the group is interdependent with and influenced by var-
tude of how these factors influence and develop a com- ious contexts; thus, it is never “closed.”
munity. Grounded in Bormann’s rhetorical vision and Part IV, “Cooperatives and Collaborations:
structuration perspectives, Howell, Brock, and Hauser Communicating Amidst Multiple Identities,
(in Chapter 3) explore the process of how individuals Boundaries, and Constituents” consists of three chap-
come together to create a youth community group and ters and reflects organizational groups that are inher-
overcome the challenges of redeveloping the city of ently made up of parties at all levels with vested inter-
Detroit. As Howell et al. state, “all shared a belief that ests. Oetzel and Robbins, in Chapter 7, examine how
cities could no longer look to big business or big gov- the organizational structure for a cooperative super-
ernment to solve their problems; community members market shape the identities within its hierarchical struc-
had to develop their own solutions” (p. 87). Thus, indi- ture. With a top-down structure, the cooperative pro-
viduals made up of youth, community activists, and motes autonomy of groups, thus a variety of identities
others formed an emergent group who because of vest- exist. Although the organization thrives economically,
ed personal interest, identification with, and commit- the dialectical nature of cooperatives and paradoxes of
ment to rebuilding communities, created Detroit employees create multiple identities that can shape and
Summer (a multicultural youth program). change the organizational principles as well as inhibit
In Chapter 4, Tracy and Standerfer focus on the effective communication between units of the organi-
dialogue of several school board meetings in the zation. The future challenge of cooperatives is to find a
process, deliberations, and selection of a superinten- balance between economic and social concerns in order
dent. The research identifies how a group (in this to create more interdependence and coordination
instance, a school board) constructs and re-constructs among organizational units.
its identity and boundaries throughout various deliber- In Chapter 8, Lange’s research involves the com-
ative processes. The chapter emphasizes the impor- munication surrounding environmental collaborations,
tance of how the group history shapes current and specifically with a case study of the Applegate
future decisions via not only decision-making, but Partnership. Through interviews, co-facilitation of meet-
rather deliberative functions. ings, and examination of written materials, Lange
Chapters 5 and 6 make up Part III of the text, unfolds the many challenges of this collaboration which
“Groups Confronting Crisis: Contextual Effects on include but are not limited to “power, labor-management
Group Communication,” which explore circumstances negotiations, intraconstituency disagreements, public
that are rare, yet sometimes have the most devastating interest groups concerns of environmental issues…
consequences for groups, crisis situations. Through the challenges, however, the Partnership was
Houston, in Chapter 5, examines the timeline and successful in accomplishing its goals; both instrumental
circumstances regarding the 1996 Mt. Everest tragedy and relational goals through what Lange calls “transfor-
via structuration and bona fide group perspectives. mative dispute resolution” (p. 227).
Houston puts it best by stating “although the successful Finally, Keyton and Stallworth, in Chapter 9
scaling of a mountain may depend on an individual study the collaboration of a Drug Dealer Eviction
climber’s skills and expertise, in crisis situations, the Program made up of rental owners, law enforcement
permeability of group boundaries and effective intra- officials, and organized neighborhood communities,
group and intergroup communication are critical to sur- among others, whose purpose was to remove drug deal-
vival” (p. 154). ers from rental properties. Keyton and Stallworth argue
In Chapter 6, Yep, Reese, and Hegron focus on a that collaborations “are unique in that participants are
“closed” support group of Asian-Americans living with already members of other organizations that are aware
HIV infection. Closed group meeting notes, exchanges of problems in their environment” (p. 237). Through
between group members, clinical observations, and multi-method data collection, communication and
explanations of interventions became the data for the- group processes were examined. The authors conclude
matic content analyses. This research sheds light on that unless all parties have agree-upon objectives and
how culture and stigma operate within and affect the shared decision-making, a collaborative cannot be suc-
internal communication of the Asian-American

COMMUNICATION RESEARCH TRENDS VOLUME 23 (2004) NO. 1 — 33


cessful. “A collaborative’s outcomes are inextricably …) communication influences the group process. They
linked to its interaction processes” (p. 259). conclude by stating “members of the Internet support
In order to understand the dynamics of bona fide groups give and receive social support and that these
groups whose boundaries and borders go beyond geo- groups can and do develop a strong sense of group
graphical contexts, Part V of Frey’s text is entitled identity” (p. 330).
“Global Groups: Interfacing the Macro and the Micro” Krikorian and Kiyomiya, in Chapter 13, apply the
and includes two chapters. In Frey’s words, “the inter- bona fide group perspective to online discussion news-
dependence and interaction of groups at the global groups. By examining actual newsgroups and provid-
level offers opportunities to understand how macro- ing data on how online groups communicate, they
level contexts influence micro-level group practices develop a model of bona fide newsgroups. In addition,
and products” (p. 13). they also extend their model with the self-organizing
In chapter 10, Sherlblom looks at international systems theory and show how the two perspectives can
business consulting teams and their communication be studied with various online groups.
processes by examining the boundary and context In chapter 14, Meier describes what could be
influences on team recommendations. Through focus referred to as “what you see is only part of what you
groups, questionnaires, written reports, and team proj- get” in terms of group processes and communication.
ect notes, Sherlblom identified several contexts of the Meier examines a German company and its “group-
teams (i.e., culture and language differences, isolation ness” via videoconference meetings by focusing on the
by corporate sponsors, working with subteams in dif- interactions of the meeting participants. Conclusions
ferent countries, access to technology) as well as addi- indicate that several verbal and nonverbal factors
tional contexts of political, economical, and technolog- (including technological features) do impact groupness
ical infrastructures in various countries, and consumer in business meetings and that a bona fide group per-
analyses that affected the team’s decision making, spective provides a unique way to study spatially dis-
communication, and recommendations. tributed work groups.
Chapter 11 centers on a case in Poland during the Finally, Stohl and Putnam provide an epilogue
transformation from a communist country to a democ- that includes the state of bona fide group research, a
racy (p. 293). Parrish-Sprowl, as a participant observer, critique of group communication research, and sugges-
examined Eco-S, a newly formed recycling company tions for future research. They conclude by stating that
via macro and micro structures that shaped the compa- “this volume demonstrates both the viability and the
ny’s communication and decisions. Parrish-Sprowl potential for a bona fide group perspective” (p. 413).
concludes that “the dramatic events in Poland provide Overall, Frey’s text engages the reader to want to
a historically unique opportunity to understand how know more about, or conduct one’s own study, via the
changes at the macro level influence and, in turn are bona fide group perspective. The applicability of this
influenced by changes at the micro level—in this case, text is useful for educators, medical practitioners, and
in the groups that helped forge those changes” (p. 304). corporate managers, among others, who are interested
Thus, as demonstrated in these two chapters, the study in understanding how the internal and external contexts
of bona fide group dynamics is critical in understand- impact and affect all facets of group decision-making.
ing international issues as they are multi-faceted in The text is also excellent for students, as it not only
their macro/micro boundaries and borders. identifies the variety of small group contexts, but also
Even when individuals are alone at their comput- demonstrates a variety and an equal balance of method-
ers, they are really never in isolation. The last part of ological approaches to studying group communication;
the text is Part VI, “Mediated Groups: Negotiating it is an exemplar survey of bona fide group research.
Communication and Relationships Electronically” and The text also contains a table of contents, an
includes three chapters focusing on online communica- extensive list of references following each chapter, a
tion groups. In Chapter 12, Alexander, Peterson, and brief description of each of the authors, an author
Hollingshead examine the communication among index, and a subject index.
Internet support groups through qualitative and quanti- —Donna R. Pawlowski
tative methods. They focus on four different types of Creighton University
support groups and how the group membership, intra-
group and external (i.e., referrals, links to other sites

34 — VOLUME 23 (2004) NO. 1 COMMUNICATION RESEARCH TRENDS


Greene, John O. and Brant R. Burleson. (Eds.), (c) function-focused skills (informing and explaining,
Handbook of Communication and Social Interaction arguing, persuasion, conflict, emotional support, and
Skills. Mahwah, NJ and London: Lawrence Erlbaum narrative), (d) skills in close relationships (friendship
Associates, 2003. Pp. xvi, 1048. ISBN 0-8058-3417-6 across the life-span, romance, couples, parenting), and
(hb.) $195.00; 0-8058-3418-4 (pb.) $75.00 (e) skills in public and professional contexts (negotia-
Communication has always claimed to be a prac- tion, group decision making, pedagogy, health care, and
tical discipline, concerned with the how, as well as the intercultural communication competence).
why, of message sending and receiving. Communica- Contributors were all challenged by the editors to
tion students and scholars alike are continually address core questions about what it means to be
intrigued and challenged with identifying specific skilled in a particular context, the practical significance
skills to help them communicate more successfully, of possessing a communication skill, the consequences
with a variety of people, on myriad topics, in different of low skills in an area, methodological issues encoun-
contexts, and across many types of relationships. tered in assessing skills, the manner in which individ-
Morreale, Spitzberg, and Barge (2001) argue that most ual-difference variables affect skills, and the implica-
of us in the discipline, in fact, find ourselves feeling tions for training and development.
like we are still enrolled in a beginner’s class in rela- Distinctive features of this handbook include up-
tionships—at least some of the time. The daunting task to-date reviews of research in each area, emphasis on
of usefully illuminating empirically supported strate- empirically-supported strategies for both developing
gies for developing new social skills is met at multiple and enhancing skills, and broad treatment of multiple
levels by Greene and Burleson’s Handbook of relationships across the lifespan. At the same time, as
Communication and Social Interaction Skills (2003). the editors admit, there are important communication
Excellent texts that highlight interpersonal skills skill domains that were not represented in the chapters,
typically aim at two goals: to offer an overview of the such as computer-mediated communication, listening,
field of interpersonal communication and, then, to help social perception, and presentational skills.
the reader build and enact new interpersonal skills (i.e., At the same time, however, this handbook fore-
DeVito, 2003, offering an emphasis on skill building, grounds skills topics that have been neglected by com-
listening, cultural sensitivity, empowerment skills to munication and relational scholars. Childhood social
increase relational effectiveness, and presentation skills has been little-investigated by communication
skills; see also Lynch, 1995; Verderber & Verderber, scholars, even as children and adolescents suffer social
2004). Building on communication constructs and the- exclusion, ineffective peer group entry attempts, teas-
ory, such books are directed at undergraduate students. ing, bullying, and increasing aggression from angry
Offering a significantly more comprehensive and in outsiders (Sunwolf & Leets, 2003). The chapter by
depth description of theory, up-to-date research find- Hart, Newell, and Olsen takes on social-communica-
ings, and social interaction skills (954 pages of text, 37 tive competence in childhood, offering an original in-
cross-disciplinary contributors, and 24 chapters), depth discussion of relevant research from molecular
Greene and Burleson’s new handbook is directed at the genetics, behavioral genetics, physiology, and tempera-
teaching-scholar (yet retains a surprising accessibility ment that will enhance the understanding of ineffective
for students and laypersons). At the same time, the edi- communication in childhood for interested scholars.
tors assembled contributions that would be of specific A number of other excellent under-represented
value for clinicians, therapists, educators, and trainers. topics are covered, for example: (1) Distressed emo-
One of the strengths of this book is its cross-disci- tional states (anger, fear, anxiety, sadness, shame, hurt)
plinary scholarly talent: authors are preeminent and the gap between what messages receivers are need-
researchers, not only from communication, but from ing and senders are actually sending is taken on in
social psychology, family studies, business manage- Burleson’s chapter on emotional support skills; a par-
ment, and health care, to name a few. The handbook ticularly useful discussion of the paradigms in research
chapters are organized into five units: (a) theoretical/ in this area includes the naturalistic paradigm, interac-
methodological issues (communication competence, tion analysis, message perception paradigm, as well as
skill acquisition, assessment, and training), (b) interac- the experimental paradigm. An excellent model of
tion skills (nonverbal, conversation, message produc- emotional support as communication is offered, includ-
tion, message reception, and impression management), ing a discussion of less well-known model/theories

COMMUNICATION RESEARCH TRENDS VOLUME 23 (2004) NO. 1 — 35


(e.g., optimal matching model, sensitive interactions scholarship and pedagogy in social skills research. Our
system theory, and theory of conversationally induced interpersonal relationships are continually created, sus-
reappraisals). tained, repaired, and changed by the skills with which
(2) A unique perspective on “narrative” as skill is we succeed or fail in sending or interpreting social
offered by Mandelbaum (How to “Do Things” with messages. Readers of this handbook will find that their
Narrative), significantly expanding typical approaches abilities to understand, teach, and personally enact new
to narrative as a communication methodology, to argue relational communication skills will be provoked,
through research findings that narrative is, in fact, a enriched, and challenged.
communication skill; particularly well-discussed is the Each chapter has its own reference list; the book
neglected topic of joking and laughter in everyday talk provides both a subject and author index covering all
and the bipartite nature of storytelling as shared com- the chapters.
munication. (3) Samter’s unfolding of friendship inter- —Sunwolf
action skills across the life span fills important gaps in Santa Clara University
two understudied directions (childhood and older References
adulthood); the chapter’s organization includes friend- DeVito, J. A. (2003). Messages: Building interpersonal com-
ship activities, gender differences, conflicts, and prag- munication skills (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn and
matic competencies in every age grouping. Finally, (4) Bacon.
the creative examination of impression management Lynch, P. L. (1995). Communication skill book: Practice to
strategies and skills by Metts and Grohskopf not only theory. Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt Publishing.
Morreale, S. P., Spitzberg, B. H., & Barge, J. K. (2001).
maps the concepts in useful frameworks, but usefully
Human communication: Motivation, knowledge, and
connects situated social identity (facework and polite- skills. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
ness theories) with a dynamic model of impression Sunwolf, & Leets, L. (2003). Communication paralysis dur-
management metagoals. ing peer group exclusion: Social dynamics that prevent
The attention contributors gave to future direc- children and adolescents from expressing disagree-
tions will be particularly useful to scholars and gradu- ment. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 22,
ate students interested in pursuing new directions in 355-384.
research that focus on useful relational skills and build Verderber, K. S., & Verderber, R. F. (2004). Inter-act:
on what we already know. Rowan, for example, Interpersonal communication concepts, skills, and
expands informing and explaining skills by concepts contexts (10th ed.). New York: Oxford University
such as transformative explanations and typological Press.
theory, with suggestions for work in mass media sci-
ence news, web pages, and communication in universi- Gurak, Laura J., and Mary M. Lay (Eds.). Research
ty classrooms. Hample turns “arguing skills” on its in Technical Communication. Westport, CT and
head by effectively focusing on the experience of the London: Praeger, 2002. Pp. xi, 266. ISBN 1-56750-665-
process of arguing, with exciting claims about arguing 8 (hb.) $64.95 (Telephone orders: 1-800-225-5800).
well and arguing badly. Moving persuasion as a com- “Technical communication,” as described in the
munication skill in exciting new ways, Dillard and introduction, is a rich and broadly-conceived field that
Marshall set out agendas that suggest new ways to “covers events as diverse as organizational issues,
explore relational implications of person-to-person Internet and online communication, technical writing,
influence, acknowledging the effects of mood and anx- gender and political studies, and so on.” A unifying
iety on the skills needed. common element “is an interest in the relationship
Taken as a whole, this handbook describes clear between applied areas—in particular, sciences and
summaries of programmatic research, useful conceptu- technologies—and the ways in which language is used
al models for making sense of prior findings, and prac- to convey, construct, and communicate those areas.”
tical directions for communication skill training in the This book focuses on “methods and perspectives one
real world. Beyond accomplishing a work that is both can bring to the study of technical communication.” Its
scholarly and practical, one major value of Greene and 12 chapters fall into two categories: “foundational
Burleson’s handbook is the consistent thoughtfulness research methods and issues,” in the first six chapters,
with which these impressive contributors engaged in and “perspectives on applying and contextualizing
forward skills-thinking, suggesting the stage for future one’s research” in the remainder (p. vii).

36 — VOLUME 23 (2004) NO. 1 COMMUNICATION RESEARCH TRENDS


Chapter 1, the editors say, is “a good starting This book is the first in a series, “Crossroads in
place for the book,” since it “addresses the ethical Qualitative Inquiry,” edited by Norman K. Denzin and
issues one must face when conducting research”—a Yvonna S. Lincoln (p. ix).
concern “lacking in technical communication studies,” Hartnett writes from his experience “of 12 years
but one that “is important in an age when all human of writing about and protesting at prisons, and nine
subject research is under an increasingly tight spot- years of teaching college in Indiana and California
light” (p. vii). prisons” (p. xi). It is an undisguised argument for
In discussing ethical issues, in Chapter 1, the prison reform and against the death penalty, which is,
authors—Lee-Ann Kastman Breuch, Andrea M. Olson, at the same time an effort to present in the form of poet-
and Andrea Breemer Frantz—stress the importance of ry statements about prison life and conditions in the
“a reflexive attitude that encourages self-criticism of United States that have value as empiriical findings of
research conduct,” particularly as that conduct impacts qualitative research. He regards the “prison-industrial
audiences (p. 2). Five issues are held to be “especially complex” as “one of our most serious threats” to seeing
important for ethically conducting research in technical America, in the tradition of Walt Whitman, “as the
communication. They are consent of participants, con- world’s best and most radical experiment in democra-
fidentiality, avoiding manipulation of data, reliability cy, ...even when that experiment is botched in many
and validity of research methods, and the role of the ways—as are addressed here in relentlessly painful
researcher” (p. 5). detail” (p. 1).
Susan M. Katz describes the importance and The author’s choice of poetry to express research
value of ethnographic methods that achieve “a level of findings is certainly unusual. He justifies it as follows:
detail that is not otherwise available.” But she empha-
Whereas many activists and scholars have made
sizes that they are demanding of “a great deal of time...
this argument in prose, I pursue it via poems that
patience...and a great deal of faith that order will arise are laden with research, hence merging the evi-
out of the chaos” (p. 23). dence-gathering force of scholarship with the
Chapters 3 through 6 consider, respectively, “ana- emotion-producing force of poetry. In doing so, I
lyzing everyday text in organizational settings,” histor- hope to inhabit the cosmic (and of course slight-
ical methods, surveys and questionnaires, and “experi- ly crazy) bird’s eye view that makes Whitman’s
mental and quasi-experimental research.” poems so maddening, sometimes funny, and
The remaining six chapters “discuss applying and often miracuously insightful regarding what is
contextualizing one’s research within certain critical best and worst about America (pp. 1-2).
perspectives,” according to the editors (p. ix). Those He introduces the mostly-in-poetry body of the book
perspectives are “identifying and accommodating audi- with a 24-page prose “Introduction: A Reader’s Guide
ences” (Chapter 7), “the means and uses of usability to Investigative Prison Poetry,” to explain his
research” (Chapter 8), the connection between feminist approach. He admits that many have found his inves-
research and technical communication research tigative poems difficult to understand, in large part
(Chapter 9), cultural studies (Chapter 10), research “because they so actively refuse to fit into traditional
methods from science and technology as a framework genres of textual production” (p. 2). Some poets criti-
for the study of technical writing (Chapter 11), and (in cize them as “not poetic enough and too information-
Chapter 12) how research in ethnography, rhetorical heavy,” while scholars find them “emotionally charged
analysis and survey research “are changed and compli- and politically savvy while not understanding the need
cated when conducted over the Internet” (p. xi). to convey it in poetic form.” Some activists disliked the
An index and biographical sketches of contribu- stress on “mutual reciprocity of obligations for both
tors are provided. References follow each chapter. oppression and liberation”—not one-sided enough for
— W. E. Biernatzki, S.J. effective muckraking (p. 2). He notes that most of the
objections center on genre: “Is it poetry?” (p. 3).
Hartnett, Stephen John. Incarceration Nation: Subsections of the Introduction are ended with
Investigative Prison Poems of Hope and Terror. selections from poems written by prisoners. It also
Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press, 2003. Pp. xiii, 181. includes discussions of the work of John Dos Passos,
ISBN 0-7591-0419-0 (hb.) $65.00; 0-7591-0420-4 Carolyn Forché, and Peter Dale Scott “as models of
(pb.) $24.95. how to merge historical materials, political analysis,

COMMUNICATION RESEARCH TRENDS VOLUME 23 (2004) NO. 1 — 37


investigative muckraking, self- exploration, and poetry The book is composed of 15 chapters and is
. . .” (p. 23). organized into three sections: political communication
The poems by Hartnett himself form the main part issues, the campaign team, and campaign concerns.
of the book. They are sprinkled with factual information, Powell and Cowart review conceptualizations of polit-
including statistics about the horrors of the “prison-indus- ical communication in Chapter 1, and define it them-
trial complex,” foreign and domestic, as well as the gov- selves as “the study of the communication processes
ernmental and social structures that make and keep it what that contribute to the exchange of ideas in the demo-
it is. There are ample notes citing sources of quotations cratic political process” (p. 16). The breadth of subjects
and factual information, but no index. reviewed reflects this broad conceptualization, as the
—WEB book reviews issues and research in all aspects of cam-
paign communication. For example, advertising in dif-
Powell, Larry, and Joseph Cowart. Political ferent media, online campaigns, public opinion polls,
Campaign Communication: Inside and Out. Boston, campaign speeches, political debates, news media cov-
MA: Pearson Education, Inc., 2003. Pp. x, 310. ISBN erage, campaign spending and fund raising are just a
0-205-31843-6 (pb.) $45.80. few of the subjects of or within chapters. Presidential
Is it political communication, or political commu- campaigns are the primary focus in examples, but a
nications? number of state level races are used to demonstrate the
Your response to that, Powell and Cowart say, issues surrounding political campaigns as well.
may depend on your perspective, either from the aca- Considering the dual nature of the book, the
demic study of political communication, or the profes- research and theory is presented in readable summaries
sional activities of political consultants. While the aca- that would be useful for a political consultant to review,
demic community may refer to it as a single academic without having to be immersed in numerous scholarly
discipline “to represent a holistic process” (p. 5), polit- journal articles. A thorough bibliography at the end of
ical consultants use the plural to refer to the numerous the book can be utilized to track down specific studies.
messages used by a campaign. This semantic distinc- The political communication scholar will find a
tion represents the larger issue of potential misunder- number of relevant theories briefly presented in the
standings between academics and professionals regard- book. While one chapter is dedicated solely to media
ing political campaigns, and this book bridges the gap theory, research related to theory is woven into each
between the two groups as well as their perspectives. chapter. This approach clarifies the relevance of
The approach taken by Powell and Cowart is research to specific aspect of political campaigns, sup-
unique when compared to other books on political porting the “inside and outside” approach Powell and
campaigns and communication. They provide perspec- Cowart take.
tives on political campaigns from inside the campaign Each chapter includes interviews with political
from the point of view of a political consultant consultants on a topic covered in the respective chap-
(Cowart), and from outside as an observer or researcher ter, and also concludes with “Questions for
(Powell is on the faculty at the University of Alabama Discussion” that would be appropriate for stirring dis-
at Birmingham). The issues raised are considered not cussions in college classrooms or other interested
only from the practical perspective of a political con- groups. For example, the concluding chapter addresses
sultant, but also the scholarly perspective of a “Ethical Questions in Political Communication,” and
researcher. Of consultants and scholars, they say “nei- its “Questions for Discussion” provide ethical scenar-
ther will reach full productivity until they understand ios and raise questions to the reader how he or she
each other” (p. 5) would deal with the problem. A substantial bibliogra-
The book is informative not only for people who phy (pp. 280-300), and index (pp. 301-310) conclude
may be interested in studying or working on political the book.
campaigns, but also voters who want to understand —Joan Conners
campaign strategy, in order to answer the question Randolph-Macon College
“why do they (campaigns) do what they do?” The
inside view of the campaign, and the outside observer Price, Monroe E. and Stefaan G. Verhulst (Eds.).
and researchers’ view, are both necessary to “make the Parental Control of Television Broadcasting. Mahwah,
average citizen a more informed voter” (p. 278). NJ and London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2002,

38 — VOLUME 23 (2004) NO. 1 COMMUNICATION RESEARCH TRENDS


Pp. xxv, 314. ISBN 0-8058-2974-4 (hb.) $74.95; 0- istics of different devices. Examples from different
8058-3902-X (pb.) $34.50. European countries are provided.
The protection of minors from exposure to con- Part II, “Ratings Systems: Comparative Country
tent that might harm them has been an important social Analysis and Recommendations,” provides a typology
concern worldwide, with debate often centering on the of the rating systems that have been in use across
balance between broadcaster and parent responsibility. Europe (developed as “stand alone” systems, not to
Price and Verhulst note that broadcasting policy delib- interface with a given technical device as discussed in
erations in the 1990s focused increasingly on the devel- Part I). The comparison across countries shows how
opment of rating systems or other tools that would the ratings systems developed are a product of each
increase parents’ ability to control the media environ- country’s internal media history and are further shaped
ment within their homes. by its social and political circumstances. This can lead
In 1997, as a guide for future policy in the to differences in who administers the rating system
European Union, the European Parliament mandated (state, industry, third party), the nature of the method-
an investigation of measures that would facilitate ology followed in coming up with a rating, and what
parental or guardian control over television programs kind of information is provided the viewer about the
that minors might watch. Included in that investigation program (e.g., descriptive or evaluative). Additionally,
was an analysis of the various types of technical in this section, the authors discuss the variability of rat-
devices available to assist parental control of television ing systems across media. It concludes with recom-
broadcasting and the types of rating systems for con- mendations about the types of rating systems that are
tent that could be used together with the technical most likely to be effective for families across different
devices or on their own. In addition, the inquiry exam- countries in the future.
ined other efforts to increase media literacy within The third part, “Family Viewing Alternatives:
families and throughout the society. This volume sum- Economic Justifications, Social Efficiency, and
marizes the results of the investigation initiated by the Educational Support,” addresses three other issues con-
European Parliament. It takes into account not only the nected with the development of policy around the
views of parents but also broadcasters, producers, edu- parental control of broadcasting content. First, from an
cators, media specialists, and other relevant parties economic point of view, are there efficiency or equity
across the European Union. Drawing upon data gener- concerns about the type of information or services
ated from the individual countries, the book provides available to consumers? Are some groups in society
historical insights into broadcasting systems and regu- disadvantaged in terms of their access to information
lation, as well an analysis of current ratings systems in about program content or their ability to act on that
practice by the European Union Member States. In line information, and if so, what types of regulations are
with the objective of guiding policy in the future, the most helpful to these groups? Second, what is current-
authors also offer recommendations. ly known about the efficacy of the rating systems in
The book’s introduction situates the problem of place to date? Research from different European coun-
protecting the child viewer from potentially harmful tries and the U.S. is reviewed here. Third, this section
programming within the more complex multi-channel, considers what types of public education campaigns
multi-set household, in a broadcasting system that is are desirable or necessary for rating systems to reach
moving from analogue to digital. Also provided in the their potential. Included are information programs
introduction is a summary of the main conclusions implemented by broadcasters or non-profit organiza-
reached in the study, including its recommendations. tions, those aimed at parents and those conducted with-
Following this substantial introduction, the book is in educational institutions, and specific efforts initiated
divided into three main parts. The first part, “Technical within Member States.
Devices and Rating Systems,” provides a comprehen- Finally, the volume contains two lengthy annexes
sive examination of technical devices that can block or (appendices). The first annex (pp. 133-238) provides
filter content and the specifications of the rating systems more detailed descriptions of individual Member
that would accompany them. It lays out the factors that States’ rating systems for cinema, video, TV, and the
can affect the choice of a technical device, such as the Internet. The second annex (pp. 239-281) provides the
transition from an analogue to a digital broadcasting sys- specific objectives of the study as mandated by Article
tem, and compares and contrasts the technical character- 22b of the Television Without Frontiers Directive of the

COMMUNICATION RESEARCH TRENDS VOLUME 23 (2004) NO. 1 — 39


European Parliament and Council in 1997, the list of tory of research into sexual appeals, and Jonathan
persons/groups contacted about the study, the refer- Schroeder and Janet Borgerson draw on the use of
ences consulted, and more details about the methodol- fetish in two Absolut Vodka print advertisements as a
ogy of the project. The book concludes with an author tool for analyzing visual consumption. These three
and subject index. chapters lay out the foundations, history, and power of
—Christine M. Bachen visual imagery of sex in advertising.
Santa Clara University Not only do the essays represent theoretical
points of view, some also provide considerations for
Reichert, Tom and Jacqueline Lambiase (Eds.). Sex practitioners. Section II of the collection lays out four
in Advertising: Perspectives on the Erotic Appeal. chapters on the responses to sexual advertising. For
Mahwah, NJ and London: Lawrence Erlbaum example, Michael LaTour and Tony Henthorne sug-
Associates, 2003. Pp. xii, 294. ISBN 0-8058-4117-2 gest, among other findings, that mild sexual appeals
(hb.) $65.00; 0-8058-4118-0 (pb.) $29.95. seem to be viewed as appropriate, whereas receivers
This review might catch even more attention if may view more explicit images as inappropriate. As the
the word “sex” appeared in a font much larger than the authors put it, “It is clear that there is a difference
other title words. As if a play on its content, the cover between what is considered ‘sexy’ and what is consid-
of this book displays the word “SEX” in two-inch let- ered ‘sexist’ in the present moral and cultural environ-
ters above the half-inch “in advertising.” The under- ment” (p. 103).
current of this book is indeed the platitude that “sex Collin Brooke introduces the notion of “sex as a
sells,” but its coverage of the material is far-reaching subset … of what [he] would call spectacle advertis-
and insightful. ing” (p. 137). His definition of advertisement asserts
This edited volume is a comprehensive collection that advertisers compete for the consumer’s attention
of essays that approaches sex in advertising from a just as companies compete for their money. The relent-
variety of disciplines. The book is organized in five less pursuit of attention can wear an audience out thus
parts: Research Approaches to Sex in Advertising, resulting in acquiescence; hence his chapter on
Consumer Responses to Sex in Advertising, Cultural “Sex(haustion).”
Impact and Interpretation, Contexts and Audiences, Section III presents chapters on sexual imagery
and a Conclusion with a synthesis chapter written by and its relationship to culture. James Twitchell exam-
the editors that identifies areas for future research. ines the impact of Adcult and gender (reprinted from
The organizing principle of this volume is that his 1996 Adcult) and Wilson Bryan Key proposes that
research into sex in advertising is rich and diverse, and there are serious socio-cultural impacts of years of sub-
that research is often fragmented by missed opportunities liminal sexual imagery and sexual embeds in advertis-
to reach across disciplinary lines. As the editorss put it, ing. His chapter provides examples and images from
some of his influential work in subliminal advertising.
Because scholars from both the sciences and
Jean Kilbourne explains the disconnection that sex in
humanities have been discussing sexual appeals
inside disciplinary boundaries, this collection
advertising creates: “Sex in advertising has far more to
allows dialogue to occur across those boundaries do with trivializing sex than promoting it, with narcis-
to create synergy among these varied perspec- sism than with promiscuity, with consuming than with
tives. (pp. 3-4) connecting” (p. 174).
Section IV extends general cultural responses to
Sex in advertising research is as varied as sexual sex to examine specific contexts within which sexual
appeals themselves. The contributors represent the dis- advertisings exists. Barbara Stern examines the evolu-
ciplines of Journalism, Marketing, Business, English, tion of masculinism; Gary Hicks describes (and pro-
and Communication. The volume addresses qualita- vides numerous visual examples of) contemporary
tive, quantitative, and definitional issues (p. xi). homoerotic appeals; and Lambiase sets the tone for
Section I provides an overview of the scope of research on sex in advertising on the Internet.
research involving sexual appeals. It is here that the The work of Reichert and Lambiase is ambitious.
breadth of research becomes evident. Reichert lays out Like the topic of sex itself, working with sexual
the foundation of social scientific research through a appeals as one’s unit of analysis can be misunderstood,
comprehensive identification of major types of sexual rejected, or simply ignored. This volume represents
content in advertising. Juliann Sivulka provides a his-

40 — VOLUME 23 (2004) NO. 1 COMMUNICATION RESEARCH TRENDS


great strides toward drawing together disparate edition of the book should include mention of Adbusters
research interests. Where appropriate, some articles magazine—and its collection of anti-ads. Ironically,
include photographs. This book has separate subject Adbusters magazine uses most of the strategies
and author indexes. described in this chapter to sell their own products
—Pete Bicak (magazines and shoes) while denouncing the entire con-
Rockhurst University cept of manufactured desire and a consumer culture.
As contemporary media such as the Internet con-
Sturken, Marita, and Lisa Cartwright. Practices of tinue to evolve and redefine globalization by the level of
Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture. New York: access it offers users, it will have a massive impact on
Oxford University Press. 2001. Pp. 385. ISBN 0-19- the evolution of visual culture as well. Chapter 9, The
874271-1 (pb) $37.95. Global Flow of Visual Culture, provides a bridge from
Practices of Looking, as the cover suggests, pro- established concepts of independent media to the con-
vides a clear introduction to visual culture by bringing temporary reality of media convergence. The authors
an interdisciplinary approach to evaluating the images even tip their hats to the notion that the Web is such a
that surround us in popular culture. Marita Sturken and convergent medium, that to address the visual apart from
Lisa Cartwright thoroughly examine how the theories the textual and aural and is to overlook the source of the
and practice of art, design, advertising, mass commu- medium’s appeal. To date, the web is the only medium
nication, and psychology can decode the forms and capable of truly convergent communication—sound,
content of images used in contemporary media. video, text, and imagery (both 2-D and 3-D) presented in
These theories and concepts are illustrated by con- a non-linear interactive format on demand.
cise text coupled with relevant illustrations. With over In the face of the reality of media convergence,
175 illustrations, Practices of Looking contains a lucid the second edition of the book should include more
visual example of nearly every concept in the book. information and criticism of interactive convergent
Nine chapters on topics such as the evolution of media. The concept that truly convergent media can no
“the gaze,” consumer culture, and the impact of scien- longer be examined from a purely visual standpoint is
tific images lead the reader through a comprehensive a reality that has become far more apparent in the past
overview of visual culture. Theories are presented in few years—and may require a redefinition of the con-
historical, cultural, and critical contexts for the reader cept of visual culture.
to absorb. The sheer range of topics and theories cov- Overall, Practices of Looking is a superb text for
ered in the text should prove useful to any instructor both beginning and advanced students in visual culture
looking to enhance the quality of critique and/or dis- and communications related courses. Granted, some
cussion in a relevant course. chapters could already use a refresher due to the
A few chapters are of particular interest for design volatile nature of online cultural and technological
educators. Chapter 4, Reproduction and Visual growth, but that is to be expected of any book includ-
Technologies, includes several examples of recontextu- ing coverage of the medium. The text is both easily
alization of images through both reproduction and understood and engaging to the reader, and presented
manipulation. Design students rejoice in their newfound in a manner that allows for thorough absorption of
ability to use software to create photorealistic fiction— most topics.
and a good dose of critical thought in this arena would —Joel Davies
be a welcome addition to a design curriculum. Creighton University
Chapter 6, Consumer Culture and the
Manufacturing of Desire, reads as both a critique of Thomas, Douglas. Hacker Culture. Minneapolis:
consumerism and of the advertising and design profes- University of Minnesota Press, 2003. Pp. xxvii, 266.
sions—as well as a how-to guide for aspiring designers ISBN 0-8166-3346-0 (pb.) $19.95.
and advertisers to create effective advertising and Ethnographers, Clifford Geertz once cautioned,
branding campaigns. When taught within the context of face a difficult balancing act in capturing and rendering
ethics, students can learn how the professions have used intelligible the experience of other cultures. The trick is
imagery and text to create a consumer culture that is to get close enough to view the world from the sub-
easily manipulated. The chapter ends with a section jects’ perspective and grasp how a culture creates and
covering anti-ads and advertising criticism. A second uses symbols to define itself. Yet the ethnographer

COMMUNICATION RESEARCH TRENDS VOLUME 23 (2004) NO. 1 — 41


must also maintain enough distance to place both expe- is the origin of the term “hacker,” a piece of late 1950s
rience and culture in a broader, comparative context. MIT slang, which Steven Levy chronicled in his defin-
Get too close and you’re awash in myopic jargon. Stray itive 1984 work, Hackers. Solutions to programming
too far with arcane, alien concepts and you cease to problems were termed “hacks.” The goal was to create
represent [exit] the subjects’ world. the most elegant solution by using the fewest number
The most readable and interesting parts in Hacker of command lines. Eliminating lines of program
Culture are those instances where the author quotes instruction without affecting the outcome came to be
others or gives a straightforward historical account. In called “program bumming” (Levy, p. 26).
these bits the reader will catch the clearest glimpses of Thomas uses milestones in pop culture to mark
hacker culture. Thomas is less successful when he steps the shifting sensibilities of hacker culture, which he
back and attempts further illumination by covering the places in two general camps, old (1960s) and new
subject with tired, 1990s postmodern dogma. Too (1990s). In the 1960s, the first generation of hackers
often, this results in more opacity than insight, more drew inspiration from writers such as Isaac Asimov and
triteness than profundity. Philip K. Dick, whose science fiction depicted a future
For example, Thomas makes much of the playful “of possibility that is familiar enough to be recogniza-
ways that hackers might alter the spelling of words, ble yet strange enough for us to take notice to the ways
such as representing “t” with a plus sign (+), “e” with in which our future might change” (p. 20). By compar-
“3,” and the letter “l” with the number “1.” In the space ison, the foreboding “cyberpunk” fiction of William
of one page, Thomas brings Martin Heidegger, Walter Gibson influenced the hacker of the 1990s. “The world
Benjamin, and Plato heavily down upon the subject. of cyberpunk portrayed a high-tech outlaw culture,
Here is a sample: where the rules were made up by those on the fron-
tier—not by bureaucrats. It was a digital world, where
What one finds in these substitutions are never
the only factor that mattered was how smart and talent-
merely substitutions, but rather translations. In
choosing this word, which I do advisedly, I want
ed you were” (p. xii). Gibson coined the term “cyber-
to follow Walter Benjamin in his assessment of space” in his novel Neuromancer (1984):
translation as a “mode.” [To comprehend trans- Cyberspace. A consensual hallucination experi-
lation as a mode] Benjamin writes, “one must go enced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in
back to the original, for that contains the law every nation, by children being taught mathe-
governing the translation: its translatability.” matical concepts. . . . A graphic representation of
The process of hacker translation does return to data abstracted from the banks of every comput-
the “law governing the translation,” but it does er in the human system. Unthinkable complexi-
so in a manner that is concerned neither with ty. Lines of light ranged in the nonspace of the
fidelity nor license but with questioning lan- mind, clusters, and constellations of data. Like
guage’s relationship to technology itself. (p. 57) city lights, receding . . . (p. xii).
Such passages beg for parody. What might one make of Thomas notes that hacker culture exploded into
an electric “kar kare” sign? the national consciousness with the 1983 movie
Such theoretical musings aside, the first of the WarGames, which influenced a new generation of
book’s three parts, “The Evolution of the Hacker,” pro- hackers and “had a greater impact on hacker culture
vides a useful synopsis of the main stages in the evolu- than any other media representation” (p. 26). How
tion of hacker culture, from the first “phone phreaks” to hackers are portrayed in the mass media occupies the
the recent “script kiddies,” who don’t perform “true book’s second part, “Hacking Representation.” At
hacks.” “‘True hacks’ are the result of understanding stake is the clash between a subculture and its parent
how things work (or, sometimes, don’t work) and tak- culture over how the former is defined and portrayed.
ing advantage of those flaws, oversights, or errors in an Unlike other youth subcultures, whose symbols and rit-
original way. This level of hacking requires intimate uals have been appropriated and commercialized by
knowledge of computers, programs, and computer lan- mainstream culture, hacker culture has successfully
guages” (p. 43). In contrast, a “‘script kiddie’ is some- resisted incorporation.
one who hacks, usually using someone else’s prewrit- Hackers “have occasionally documented their
ten hacking script or program, without really under- own culture to resist media interpretations of their
standing what he or she is doing” (p. 43). Worth noting activities” (pp.157-158). Salient examples of the hack-

42 — VOLUME 23 (2004) NO. 1 COMMUNICATION RESEARCH TRENDS


er voice are “The Hacker Manifesto,” a 1985 essay by Levy, S. (1984). Hackers: Heroes of the Computer
The Mentor, and the electronic magazine Phrack, Revolution. Garden City, NY: Anchor Press..
whose issues Thomas quotes extensively. Subcultures
that are defined by fashion are easily incorporated. Wicks, Jan LeBlanc, George Sylvie, C. Ann
However, while there is a hacker style, the core of Hollifield, Stephen Lacy, and Ardyth Broadrick
hacker culture—knowledge and mastery of technolo- Sohn. Media Management: A Casebook Approach.
gy—is invisible and thus resistant to incorporation. (Third Edition). Mahwah, NJ and London: Lawrence
Rather, episodes of destabilization to hacker culture Erlbaum Associates, 2004. Pp. x, 326. ISBN 0-8058-
occur when hackers reach adulthood and give up hack- 4715-4 (pb.) $39.95.
ing to work as computer security experts, for example. This new edition involved all the primary authors
In the book’s final part, “Hacking Law,” Thomas of the second (1999) edition in its writing and revision.
aims to show how hacking is “transformed in the eyes “Each author reviewed the relevant scholarly and trade
of law enforcement, from exploration and mischief into literature to update the theories, research, industry
dangerous criminal behavior, resulting in new chal- practice, trends, examples, and appropriate statistics in
lenges to the law, questions of constitutional rights, a their chapters, as well as to add information on the
new era of political “hacktivism,” and the political edu- Internet and new media,” according to the Preface (p.
cation of a new generation of hackers” (p. 176). He ix). “Our goal is to give students practice in solving
treats several high-profile cases that raise new legal simple and complex problems and provide professors a
issues and show that while hacking “is changing as fast variety of choices for assignments” (p. ix).
as the technology that accompanies it. The issues that Based on feedback from a “user survey,” chap-
remain, however, will always be ones that focus prima- ter order and the central approaches of the previous
rily on human relationships, and cultural attitudes edition were deemed appropriate and therefore were
toward technology, change and difference” (p. 237). retained. The 10 chapters that comprise the core of the
Among other things, Hacker Culture purports to be book each consist of a systematic presentation fol-
part theoretical reflection and part ethnography. While the lowed by two to five case studies and assignments
level achieved in each of these endeavors is uneven, designed to help students apply the material to practi-
Hacker Culture does open a portal into hacker culture. cal situations.
This best occurs when hackers “speak” for themselves. Topics covered by the 10 chapters are manage-
Here, for example, is The Mentor explaining the forma- rial decision making, leadership and the workforce,
tion of a hacker in the essay that first appeared in Phrack motivation, the global structure of media organizations,
(1985) as “The Conscience of a Hacker”: technology and the future, regulation and self-regula-
tion, planning, market analysis, marketing and
But did you, in your three-piece psychology and research, and budgeting and decision making. An
1950s techno-brain, ever take a look behind the example of a case especially appropriate to present-day
eyes of the hacker? Did you ever wonder what
conditions is case one in Chapter 6, “Regulation and
made him tick, what forces shaped him, what
Self-Regulation,” which calls for students to “develop
may have molded him? (p.73) . . . We’ve been
spoon-fed baby food at school when we hun- a plan and procedures for protecting employee health
gered for steak. . . . The bits of meat that you did and safety in the event of a terrorist attack” (p. 149).
let slip through were pre-chewed and tasteless. A final chapter presents two additional
We’ve been dominated by sadists, or ignored by “extended case studies” designed to get students to
the apathetic. The few that had something to apply “concepts covered throughout the book” (p.
teach found us willing pupils, but those few are 284). “One goal in both extended cases is to give stu-
like drops of water in the desert.’” (pp. 77-78) dents a chance to consider major problems they are
likely to face at various points in their careers” (p.
Notes to chapters and an index appear at the end
285). These revolve, in case one, around change at a
of the book.
newspaper, and, in case two, “newsroom restructuring”
—Tony Osborne
necessitating downsizing of staff.
Gonzaga University
References,.an author index, and a subject
References
Gibson, W. (1984). Neuromancer. New York: Ace Books. index are provided.
— WEB

COMMUNICATION RESEARCH TRENDS VOLUME 23 (2004) NO. 1 — 43