Communicology is a tradition in the human sciences studying discourse in all of its semiotic and phenomenological manifestations of embodied consciousness and of practice in the world of other people and their environment.
Since the foundational work during the 1950s by Jürgen Ruesch in Semiotic Approaches to Human Relations (1972), and by Ruesch and Gregory Bateson in Communication (1968), a widely accepted understanding of the networks of human discourse includes: (1) the intrapersonal level (or psychiatric/aesthetic domain), (2) the interpersonal level (or social domain), (3) the group level (or cultural domain), and (4) the intergroup level (or transcultural domain). These interconnected network levels contain the process outlined by Roman Jakobson’s theory of human communication (1971, 1972). In homage to the phenomenological work in semiotics and normative logics by Charles S. Peirce and Edmund Husserl, Jakobson explicated the relationship between an Addresser who expresses (emotive function) and an Addressee who perceives (conative function) a commonly shared Message (poetic function), Code (meta-linguistic function), Contact (phatic function), and Context (referential function). Operating on at least one of the four levels of discourse, these functions jointly constitute a semiotic world of phenomenological experience, what Yuri M. Lotman (1994) termed the semiosphere.
Communicology is the critical study of discourse and practice, especially the expressive body as mediated by the perception of cultural signs and codes. It uses the methodology of semiotic phenomenology in which the expressive body discloses cultural codes, and cultural codes shape the perceptive body – an ongoing, dialectical, complex helix of twists and turns constituting the reflectivity, reversibility, and reflexivity of consciousness and experience. Communicology theoretically and practically engages in the description, reduction, and interpretation of cultural phenomena as part of a transdisciplinary understanding. The scientific research result is description (rather than prediction) in which validity and reliability are logical constructs based in the necessary and sufficient conditions of discovered systems (codes), both eidetic (based in consciousness) and empirical (based in experience). The methodology is inherently heuristic (semiotic) and recursive (phenomenological), being a logic in the tradition of Cassirer, Peirce, and Husserl.
Historically, the tradition of communicology emerged in 1931 when the American anthropologist and linguist Edward Sapir wrote the entry “Communication” for The encyclopedia of the social sciences. Here, Sapir was building on the monumental work of Ernst Cassirer (1957, 1995), who also wrote on the logic of the human sciences. Cassirer’s semiotic phenomenology and Edmund Husserl’s existential phenomenology were elaborated in Germany by Karl Bühler and in the USA by Wilbur Marshall Urban (1971). Urban’s doctoral student Hubert Griggs Alexander was a graduate student in philosophy at Yale University studying under Ernst Cassirer, Edward Sapir, and Benjamin Lee Whorf. In 1967, Alexander wrote the first textbook devoted to explicating the connection among communication, linguistics, and logic (1988). Then in 1978, Joseph A. DeVito wrote the first university textbook, Communicology. Last, the theoretical and applied foundation of communicology as a scientific discipline took firm shape with the publication of The human science of communicology (Lanigan 1992).
At the intercultural level, “communicology” is now widely used as an appropriate translation for the French communicologie and the German Kommunikologie. This shift in labels to communicology and communicologist has been due largely to a systematic effort to avoid misunderstanding. The confusion was encouraged by the historical ambiguity of what is “information theory” and “communication theory.” While Shannon and Weaver (1949) appeared to conflate the two, Jakobson proposed in 1960 to distinguish communication theory from information theory with reference to the semiotic and phenomenological aspects of human communication, as studied by the “rhetorical branch of linguistics.” Clarity of usage was not soon achieved, although a serious effort was made at the First World Congress on Communication Science, held in Berlin in 1977, following upon the 1976 publication of DeVito’s Communicology. Communicology now clearly distinguishes itself from information theory on the ground that communicology studies the full range of semiotic levels in discourse, i.e., the semantic (meaning), syntactic (patterning), and pragmatic (practicing) forms of discourse. By comparison, information theory (sometimes called signal theory) is more typically concerned with the syntactic parameters of physical signal systems (informatics), e.g., the electrical impulses that make up computer memory. Thus, communicology proposes to replace “communication theorist” by communicologist. Suggested by DeVito in 1978 and by Vilém Flusser, who first used the term “communicology” in lectures during 1977–1978 and published his mature theory in 1996 as Kommunikologie, the name was acknowledged worldwide by the proceedings at the First World Congress on Communication and Semiotics in Monterey, Mexico, in 1993. The institutionalization of the terms “communicology” and “communicologist” took place in 2000 with the founding of the International Communicology Institute.
- Alexander, H. G. (1988). Communication. In H. G. Alexander, The language and logic of philosophy. Lanham, NY: University Press of America, pp. 11–32. (Original work published 1967.)
- Cassirer, E. (1957, 1995). The philosophy of symbolic forms. vol. 1: Language; vol. 2: Mythical thought; vol. 3: Phenomenology of knowledge; vol. 4: The metaphysics of symbolic forms (trans. R. Manheim). New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. (Original works published 1923, 1925, 1929.)
- DeVito, J. A. (1978). Communicology: An introduction to the study of communication. New York: Harper and Row.
- Flusser, V. (1996). Kommunikologie [Communicology]. Schriften 4 (eds. V. Eckstein & S. Bollman). Mannheim: Bollmann.
- Flusser, V. (2002). Writings (ed. A. Ströhl; trans. E. Eisel). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
- Holenstein, E. (1976). Roman Jakobson’s approach to language: Phenomenological structuralism (trans. C. Schelbert & T. Schelbert). Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.
- International Communicology Institute (2000). At http://communicology.org.
- Jakobson, R. (1971). Linguistics and communication theory. In R. Jakobson, Selected writings. Vol. II: Word and language. The Hague: Mouton, pp. 570 – 579.
- Jakobson, R. (1972). Verbal communication. In R. Jakobson, Communication. San Francisco: W. H. Freeman, pp. 37 – 44.
- Lanigan, R. L. (1992). The human science of communicology: A phenomenology of discourse in Foucault and Merleau-Ponty. Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press.
- Lotman, Y. (1994). The universe of mind: A semiotic approach to culture. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.
- Ricoeur, P. (1979). Main trends of research in the social and human sciences: Part II. New York: UNESCO, 1978. Repr. as Main trends in philosophy. New York: Holmes and Meier.
- Ruesch, J. (1972). Semiotic approaches to human relations. The Hague and Paris: Mouton.
- Ruesch, J., & Bateson, G. (1968). Communication: The social matrix of psychiatry. New York: W. W. Norton.
- Sapir, E. (1931). Communication. In The encyclopedia of the social sciences. New York: Macmillan, pp. 78 – 81.
- Shannon, Claude E., & Weaver, W. (1949). The mathematical theory of communication. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press.
- Urban, W. M. (1971). Language and reality: The philosophy of language and the principles of symbolism. New York: Books of Libraries Press and Arno Books. (Original work published 1939.)
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