The Psychology of Communication


1.2 Communication is Important

Communication is an aspect of all systems. It is the "glue" which holds the elements together to form a system. My own Department of Communication Studies could perhaps be better named Department of Media Studies. It focuses on communication among people using media, leaving communication among the elements in an atom and among the planets in the solar system to their respective disciplines. The discipline I am carving out here and in two previous books - A History of Media [GARDINER 2002] and Media: Past, Present, and Future [GARDINER 2006] - is closer to Media Studies. However, unlike the various departments of Communication Studies, which do not have courses in interpersonal communication, it embraces memory and speech as a first generation of media. My argument is that the various media form a system only when considered as extensions of the nervous system. In this book, Communication Studies refers to the traditional concept of the discipline and Media Studies to this extended (and admittedly eccentric) concept.

I conducted an experiment on myself by recording the time I spent communicating. In Figure 1-2, which summarizes the first 26 weeks of my experiment, you can see that I typically spend over 70 hours a week - that is, over 10 hours a day - communicating. (The atypical times were that big dip in the middle, which corresponded to a trip to Europe. Mundane maintenance matters take more time when you are away from home - you have to find places to eat and to sleep. You can figure out the reason for the other dip during the first week of the new year for yourself).

You may argue that my life is not typical, since as a professor I am in the communication business. However, communicating has been a large part of most jobs and, as we move from an industrial society based on energy, into a post-industrial society based on information, the number of jobs and the proportion of each job based on communication is increasing.

The second most striking finding of my experiment was that I was never tempted to record for any half-hour period (my unit of analysis) that I was thinking. This was embarrassing at first, since, as a scholar, I should be spending a lot of time thinking. However, I gradually began to realize that I was thinking all the time, but there was always some type of communication involved. Since so much of my time was spent communicating, then I should devote much time to acquiring communication skills.