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Some Ideas on the Philosophy & Rhetoric of Communication

Updated: Mar 28, 2019

Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash

The conversation about the philosophy and rhetoric of communication provokes an underlying argument about ways to understand (or label) the qualitative study of communication. Do we work from theories or something else? Are we explaining, defining, or exploring? Do we accept traditional academic labels for "narrative" and "discourse," or have we uncovered more in-depth concepts? Also, are these, indeed, "concepts" or conceptualizations? Then again, are we presenting IDEAS rather than concepts?

The phrasing seems to matter A LOT to many scholars within this field. I'm also reminded, too, that if we say something is a field of study, some people might even interrupt to interject their preferred phrasing (e.g., "It's not a 'field of study' as much as it is an 'area of study,'" etc.) The particulars matter, especially within more philosophical discussions rooted deeply in philosophical teachings from Antiquity through Post-Modernity (and, even there, some argue that we are not living in a "post" modern situation at all, but instead a time that continues to rely upon modern notions of progress).

Everyday interaction in the public forum is an aspect of communication that can be analyzed and evaluated from various perspectives, including—but not limited to—the following:

  • Interpersonal Communication: Often considered an area of study, or a branch of philosophy of communication or applied communication studies, interpersonal communication tends to examine the theories that drive patterns of interaction. There is a praxis model at the heart of interpersonal communication because of its attentiveness to interactions with others in various situations, including the workplace, friendships, etc.

  • Rhetoric of Technology: In this framing, the discourse of technological impact on the human condition is of great concern.

  • Media Ecology: Closely related to studies in rhetoric and philosophy of technology, Media Ecology is a tradition that invites us to look at the impact of media environments, as notably explored by scholars Marshall McLuhan, Neil Postman, and many others. Postman is usually credited with deciding upon the phrase "media ecology" to represent technologically mediated, ecological inquiry established by McLuhan and other early media ecology scholars (see Postman, 1970; Strate, 2017).

  • Sociolinguistics: This has its own identity as its own field of study within linguistics. However, my sociolinguistics background has helped me understand the exploration of pragmatics that emerges in many aspects of interpersonal communication study, so I basically refuse to stop adding it to my list of academic interests.

My plan is to use this blog as a place to parse out interesting ideas, theories, concepts, etc., that I might like to expand in full-length papers. I also plan to start sending some work out for review soon. This is the next piece of the academic puzzle for me now. Thanks for reading!


Postman, N. (1970). The reformed English curriculum. In A. C. Eurich (Ed.), High School 1980: The shape of the future in American secondary education (pp. 160-168). New York, NY: Pitman.

Strate, L. (2017). Media ecology: An approach to understanding the human condition. New York, NY: Peter Lang.

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