Holism: Perspective to Understanting Communication Environments

Posted: October 8, 2010 in Communication, culture, Media, Popular Culture
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After visiting several places, such as cosplay, movie house, bar, temple, race track and a museum,  here I synthesize the conclusion of our explorations for our Communication Environment class with framework in which I understand the holistic nature of communication environments.

Communication environments are communication spaces or contexts where and when people communicate. A traditional view shared about understanding communication environment is that of looking at organizations means of communication to measure how effective and efficient are the stakeholders using the available communication tools or media that they have. Thus, in this traditional perspective, communication experts audit the communication systems and subsystems as nodes of interconnected individuals that consume and utilize media or communication technologies.

Another way of looking at communication environment departs from the traditional evaluation of media use in organization. This takes a more holistic, integrative and interpretive approach to construct frames of interdepence among communication elements operating in specific contexts.

Holistic Framework of Understanding Communication Environments

Communication environments are spaces, places, settings, or contexts for social interactions which are situated in time. In dramaturgy, Goffman argues that communication is a staged act or performance within a setting – time and place. In this framework, Goffman’s sphere of communication is illustrated as a physical and constructed realm of space or place, mapped as point or unit in a micro and macro world.

The framework deviates from the linear representation of communication as argued in Lasswell’s model, but it still presents the interdependent elements of the communication sources, media, message, audience and effect contextualized in an identifiable place. This framework demonstrates that any place is a communication environment which is a part of wider environment that build upon interrelated economic, political, social and cultural contexts.  

Considering dramaturgy and the silver bullet theory in understanding communication environments have applications and limitations. Dramaturgy may help in examining the roles and performance of actors in a communication situation, but it may not be so useful in describing and explaining the backdrop that influence the performance. The silver bullet theory have implications to explain the agenda of establishment owners and the way they communicate to their customers, but it is constrained to explain or describe how people in their spontaneity communicate within an environement. Hence, holism, as lense that looks at the complexity of the situation as to its parts and whole provide a perspective to understand communication environments.

Communication environments are traditionally categorized as thinking, economic, technological, cultural, social and political environments. Culture, politics, economics and sociology are wider contexts of communication environments. Their interplay creates and defines the construction of a place.

 There are two realms of a place, first is that of its objective nature as physical space, and the other is that of its abstract nature as a socially-constructed space.

 As physical space, the environment is understood as an entity with individual identity, but typified to be unit among others of similar nature. It has a structure to deliver or provide the product or services that it offers, and using technology, media or tools. It has people; its existence depends on people. A place that shares a space in human life serves specific functions. People create environments and share them with other people.

 Beyond the walls or boundaries of that space is that of its constructed reality. People find meaning and attribute meaning that place based on its function and value for them. Places have their stories and rich histories that people know of or may have forgotten. The meaning, value, function and history of a place are socially shared and constructed. People keep a communication environment or turn away from it because of its constructed and physical realities.

 The state of a constructed and physical space is influenced by the wider environment. Places exist to serve some purpose in the society. Politics, economy, society and culture are environments that create other environments. Places exist because it is legislated or it serves social, cultural and economic purpose. Without fulfilling some functions, communication environments would not exist.  Before they exist, they are constructed in the mind and then put into reality as ordinate in a geopolitical map.   

 A place, viewed holistically, is a communication environment, simply because it is a context of human social interaction where meaning is constructed and shared. A place shares a message to people through its history and function. This message is extended by the technology and facilities that the structure integrates to serve its purpose. People find and add meaning or value to a place through the behaviors they perform, as well as through the stories they share about the place.  A place impacts people and affect their lives and this manifests in their patronage, perceptions, attitude and behavior towards the place.

As a locus of interaction, people who come in a place have to deal with other people who are there. Public spaces offer potential interactions and relationships between strangers, or a place that could strongly bind familiar people together. Beyond this, a certain place adds to the many existing environments that give shape, form and identity to a community, a society or a nation.

People make the spaces as they need them or as they want to. People talk about places. People communicate in places. Places are not only contexts, but also media that extends people. People fashion and construct them, which in turn recreates the people. Places vary in functions, but they all shape the people who inhabit or visit them.

The places we have visited are away from our homes or work places. They are not the usual place in which we spend most of our life hours. Each place that we had been is distinct in function, structure, type and audiences that they cater to. But all of them can be understood as places of escape from the reality of daily life – home, work or school. Each offers life on its own, an alternative to the routine of daily living. Recalling observations and accounts of my experiences in these places, I see the value of understanding communication environments holistically.

A holistic perspective in understanding communication environment, extends our knowledge that the process of communication affects and is affected by the wider and more complex communication environment. It informs of the ecology of communication as intricate web of interdependent elements that create the map of that environment, as well as  illustrate the socio-cultural nature of the individuals in interactions. It also emphasizes the interdepence between the external and internal worlds that define and create communication environments, the physical and constructed realms that shape the elements in the communiacation process.

  1. Bea says:

    I also consider the population size an integral component of the communication environment. The dynamics of communication seems to change when a population grows from being dyadic to group to communities to a slew of communities.

    The bigger a communication environment is, the more prone it is to social loafing. Where does the information stop and where does it flow? How do values and imaging emerge and re-emerge? My questions revolve around those kinds of things…

  2. rodrigo2.0 says:

    Great questions bea, the audience or population you are referring to, is indicated in the demography – the characteristics of public and individuals in interaction within an environment. About the information it begins in that place, or from the people who have been in that place, as these are externalized knowledge of the place that is shared as subject and object of discourse. Information stops when it is not internalized and passed on to others.

    Values and imaging are self and social constructions. We associate these to objects relative to its economic, political, social and cultural contexts. The population you are referring to are the very people who reside, inhabit or visit the place, they operate in the construction of the environment. The larger the population the more that the place persists as a utilitarian environment, and without people the place lose its meaning, function, value and all is left to history.

    On this note, while people can create the environment, people can sanctify or desecrate the same; people can build and destroy environments; people can put a place in the map or erase it in the social memory. People alone is not the whole of an environment, but a place is a people’s place for it is physical state that is also constructed.

  3. JennyO says:

    Nakaka-nosebleed kayong dalawa. Pass the tissue, please! 😀

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