- The process of establishing meaning, found in all social situations, and hence a very wide-ranging concern of social scientists generally. Conventionally studied by social psychologists, semiologists, students of mass media , and linguists, communication studies has increasingly become established as a field of inquiry in its own right (for example in Communications Departments), and is often allied to cultural studies.Communication occurs through at least five modes. Intrapersonal communication concerns internal conversations with one's self . Interpersonal communication concerns face-to-face interaction , such as that analysed by Erving Goffman, and often studies paralanguages such as body movements (see body language ) and spatial arrangements. Group communication involves the study of group dynamics , whilst mass communication involves messages sent from mass sources in mass ways to mass audiences, often to make mass money. A fifth and growing form of communication has been called extrapersonal communication and concerns communicating with non-humans: this could mean ‘talking to the animals’, but most frequently it refers to the way we communicate with machines, computers, and high technology (for example through video games or bank-teller machines).Communications research often works from a simple model which asks ‘who says what in which channel to whom and with what effects?’ The resulting description of the ‘communication structure’ that exists in every (simple or complex) social system is sometimes criticized for depicting too linear a flow since feedback loops can occur at all stages of communication. Nevertheless, the central components usually involve senders (producers), messages (codes), and receivers (audiences). A distinction must also be made between the formal and actual structures of communication. The former is defined by publicly recognized social roles (such as the hierarchy of offices in a bureaucratic organization) whereas the latter refers to the structure of interaction as it actually occurs (which may include various forms of informal communication through unofficial channels).The structure and effectiveness of communication can have substantial consequences for the functioning of social systems. This is well illustrated in the study of formal organizations, notably for example in research influenced by contingency theory , which often placed systems of communication at the heart of the analysis. See also content analysis ; critical theory ; cybersociety ; Internet ; language.
Dictionary of sociology. 2013.