Communication Is More Than the Sum of Its Parts

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How the heck did they come up with such a system, and why does it work so well?

by PinkMoose

My major in college was communication. The first question people used to ask me after hearing that that was my major is “What is communication?” And typically my response was “I have no idea.”

It wasn’t that I didn’t understand the word. The issue was more that the subject of communication is so all-encompassing that crafting a one-sentence response seemed a little daunting. It’s very different from being asked, “What is biology?” to which I could respond, “It’s the study of life” even though I haven’t taken biology since 2006. Every professor I had in the communication department had a different definition for what the major was – no two could agree on a definition.

Before I graduated from college last May, I thought I would take a stab at defining what communication meant to me. After having completed the major, I felt I was in a position to clarify the term.

So here is my definition: Communication is the conveying of thoughts and ideas through the manipulation of symbols. Symbols are arbitrary concepts that are created by their users but which nonetheless help create a unified social reality.

Why did I want to study a field that seems so arbitrary and potentially unfocused? Precisely because it is those things! And it interests me deeply that while the term “communication” might mean something different to every single person on this planet, to survive, we humans have learned to use its symbols – both verbal and nonverbal – to connect with one another.

Maybe the real question we should be asking about communication is how the heck did we come up with such a complex system and why does it work so well?

What does communication mean to you? I look forward to reading your comments.

By Guest Blogger Rachel Freeman I SAN FRANCISCO STATE UNIVERSITY: Creative, outgoing, detail-oriented. Undergrad degree – cum laude – in communications. Currently pursuing a master’s in broadcast and electronic communication arts. Currently Social Media Consultant at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney. Not-so-secret passion: Baseball (go, San Francisco Giants!).

2 Responses to Communication Is More Than the Sum of Its Parts

  1. Louis Carabini says:

    Pretty broad huh?.A bachelor s degree in communication can result in several different types of jobs because of its flexible nature. As a degree communication combines convincing arguments with the appropriate channels to deliver your message most effectively.

  2. Hi,
    I have a definition for language: Language is a system of symbols; a mix of sounds, gestures and marks that we put together according to commonly agreed sets of rules, and that we use to encode and decode information.
    Communication could be defined as the way we share the system with each other.
    I agree with you on its importance in the world: whenever a business project goes belly-up, someone is sure to blame it on a lack of communication, and human relationships seem to founder for the same reason.
    Maybe the search for happiness should be replaced by a search for better communication?