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The Gaps of Which Communication Is Made

A summary of John Durham Peters' 1994 article in Critical Studies in Mass Communication

William White

on 20 March 2015

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Transcript of The Gaps of Which Communication Is Made

The Gaps of Which Communication Is Made
Love and Justice
So the distinction between "mass" and
"interpersonal" lies in the orientation of speaker and listener to their interaction.
Mass Communication
Universality of address
"Exoteric" or public
Anonymity of audience
Discourse [many voices]
"A history of communication theory could be written in terms of the anxiety of messages lost in transit" (p. 125)
In the 1930s, regulators determined that radio broadcasting didn't count as a "common carrier." According to the ICC, with radio there is no "transmission of intelligence," since reception is left to chance: there is no guarantee that anyone will hear a broadcast message. This is why there is a legal ban on personally addressed broadcast messages.
Mass Communication as the Basic Form of Communication
Radio Broadcasting and the Enigmas of Open-Ended Reception
Early 20th centuries concerns about
the differences between broadcast
and telephony show a deep anxiety
about connection.
Plato Theorizes Mass Communication
From the beginnings of Western thought, love, philosophy, and writing have all been seen as having to do with connection.
Similarly, the philosophy of interpretation (hermeneutics) implies that transmission
in the hope of being heard and understood is the fundamental act of communication.
"Just as love should emerge from knowledge of each other's soul, so a good rhetoric must be oriented to the types of souls in its audience" (pp. 121-122).
"Socrates is thus critical of practices--instrumental love, audience-blind rhetoric, and writing--that interrupt the mutuality of philosophic soul-sharing" (p. 123).
"In contrast between Socrates's and Jesus's view of broadcasting we find the seeds of later debates about the proper social role of broadcasting. Socrates privileges
a private and esoteric mode of communication, in which the audience is carefully selected by the speaker. Jesus, in contrast, tells of a radically public and exoteric mode of generally available meanings, in which the audience sorts itself out by its responses" (p. 124).
Interpersonal Communication
Specificity of address
Esoteric or private
Mutual recognition
Dialogue [1-on-1 engagement]
We need mass communication because we can't be in dialogue with everyone.
"'The use of the radio telephone for communication between single individuals...is a perfectly hopeless notion. Obviously,if ten million subscribers are
crying through the air for their mates they will
never make a junction.'" -- Herbert Hoover
(p. 126)
Quoting Ricoeur, 1981:

In writing, "the narrowness of the dialogical relation explodes. . . . Discourse is revealed as discourse in the universality of its address . . . discourse escapes the limits of being face to face" (p. 129).
The distinction between face-to-face communication & broadcasting emerges
as soon as we begin to think about how
people communication.
Full transcript