Introduction to Communication Theory
COMS 2350, Spring 2015
Exam Three (Take-Home)
The purpose of this exam is to assess understanding of the theories we have been studying recently and your ability to understand how these theories apply to your everyday life. Answer the following question in no more than seven typewritten page paper (Times New Roman font, 12 characters per inch, double-spaced, 1 inch margins all the way around, and including page numbers), plus a cover sheet. If you can print this front-to-back (double-sided), please do to save paper.
Think about (or imagine) a conflict that you have had (or could imagine having) with someone close to you, such as a family member, friend, or roommate. Imagine, too, that you just finished talking about this conflict to someone else, an OU student who has not yet taken COMS 2350. This other COMS student tries to advise you about how to deal with the communication difficulty you have been having, using the linear model of communication to say something like the following:
“Communication is pretty straightforward. A source simply has to pick the right words to convey her/his thoughts and then convey these thoughts/words to the receiver through a channel (sound, sight) that is relatively free of noise. And, of course, the receiver has to see or hear the message and decode the words. There’s nothing else to it. If you have been having trouble: (a) you haven’t encoded your thoughts into the correct vocabulary, (b) you used a channel that was too noisy to convey the message, and/or (c) the receiver didn’t get your meaning (either because she/he didn’t pay attention or because you used too fancy a vocabulary: words that were too advanced for the receiver’s vocabulary).
Having recently studied both cybernetic and semiotic theories of communication, you realize that your fellow COMS major (who has not yet taken 2350) has too simplistic an understanding of communication. Please write an essay that examines the insights of our readings and lectures about cybernetics and semiotics to explore possible communication problems that are simply not recognized by the linear model.
To focus your analysis, please organize about half of your essay so that it examines cybernetics. Even more specifically, discuss at least two insights from Weiner (2007) and four insights from Watzlawick, Beavin, and Jackson (1967) that either contradict or simply go well beyond the linear model. Discuss how these insights challenge the linear model and shed novel light on possible causes of communication difficulties that you might be having (with your family member, friend, or whomever you have in mind).
In the second half of your essay, focus on semiotic theory. First, discuss at least two ideas in Locke that you think are pertinent, either because they reveal that Locke’s (2007) view of the abuses of words suggests that his implicit theory of communication is the linear model or because you think Locke was speaking as an early semiotician (that is, he was not a linear model theorist). After discussing Locke, discuss at least four ideas drawn from semiotic theory as we discussed it in class that either contradict or simply go beyond the linear model (you may use Sebeok (2007) if you dare, but you can simply draw on lecture and not use Sebeok at all). Discuss how these insights challenge the linear model or shed novel light on possible causes of communication difficulties that you might be having (with your family member, friend, or whomever you have in mind).
Please discuss the ideas you select both abstractly (explain the ideas as you understand them from reading and/or lecture) and as you think they might explain communication difficulties you might be having with your friend, family member, or whomever you have in mind. The best essays will be ones that draw on both general ideas and supporting and refining ideas. I will also be more impressed by detailed attempts to link the concepts and insights to plausible problems you might be having with the family member (or whomever).
NB: Provide author identifying information and page numbers for all direct quotations and close paraphrases of readings (e.g., Weiner, 2007, pp. 114-115). When you quote or paraphrase from class lecture, provide source information, as illustrated in the following parenthetical (Babrow, personal communication, February 26, 2015), but do not bother to provide a bibliography. Also, be precise when you quote and when you provide page information; don’t give me page ranges for areas where you roughly remember getting some paraphrased information.
Lastly, although you do not have to read anything outside the syllabus to excel on the exam, if you do any outside reading, you MUST note whenever you draw on this information. Clearly mark all quotes and close paraphrases and provide author identifying information in every instance. Any unacknowledged use of other writers’ text will result in a zero on the exam and subject the writer to a charge of plagiarism that is submitted to OU administration for further scrutiny.
And one more time: the most powerful essays will show abundant evidence that the writer has drawn thoughtfully from readings and paid careful attention to class lecture.
Exams will be graded according to the following criteria:
Thoroughness of your support (How carefully and thoroughly do you draw on course materials to address each element in the essay prompt given the page limitations?) 50 points
Logic (Do your thoughts flow in a logical sequence; are they clearly expressed and free of grammatical and spelling errors?)