On the first day of my Communication 101 lecture, the class every freshman at BU’s College of Communication has to take, my professor spent a grueling fifteen minutes going over the difference between “communication” and “communications”. Dr. Vigil told us to always use the singular, “communication” because it is already understood to be plural. Communication is a transferal of information and messages between people. “The imparting or exchanging of information or news,” is how it is defined by Google. Yet, simply as these references seem, considering my professor spent as long as she did explaining the idea, obviously there’s much to debate over the term.
A lot of people think of the way people interact on a day to day basis and the study of communication as two different things. I think they are the same. I think the discipline of communication is just an advanced knowledge of the way people communicate. People who have earned their degree in communication know the technical terms for certain phenomenon or examples of types of communication whereas an average person doesn’t. Writing, speaking, corresponding, blogging, and social networking all fall under the umbrella of “communication”. Most people have the ability to speak, blog, write, and correspond, but “communication” embodies all of these forms of sending and receiving messages.
However, I think the term implies a certain understanding of people and interaction that the average blogger doesn’t necessarily have. Where a communication professional can pinpoint and apply different forms and techniques of interactions, a blogger is merely posting for her own benefit and enjoyment.
As electronic forms of communication become more popular and incorporated more deeply into our lives, true communication becomes more consciously necessary. This may enlarge because of the very term itself. The term “communication” is vague, impersonal, and conveys a certain type of authority. This is because communication is a highly varied field of study, in which, say, the individual blogger is only one cog in the wheel. The study of the way we interact with others is constantly widening, incorporating “inquiry by social scientists, humanists, and critical and cultural studies scholars”.
No matter how we approach it, there is no doubt that “communication” is an abstract term. When we reference “communication” are we talking about a blogger? Or, are we talking about a public relations professional? Communication can mean anything, and it is this ambiguity that gives communication the power that it has. It’s common for people to question communication as a profession. How do you support yourself by studying the way people interact? I actually think communication is prevalent now more than ever because, when we consume greater amounts of data, we feel the impulse to respond, even with a thumbs up! Various forms of communication surround us on a daily basis. Whether that is an advertisement on the T, a news article in the Globe, the television we watch, a text message, a Snapchat, an Instagram post, the amount of communication we partake in is unmatched.
As a freshman in this field, the all encompassing nature of communication is the reason I chose to study in the communication field. Not only am I interested to know how people communicate with one another, but I am also intrigued by ways in which we can enhance communication in order to persuade or to inform. When all is said and done I think the ambiguous study of communication ultimately validates the discipline because it can be taken to mean so many different things to different people, which, if you ask me, is the ultimate purpose of the field: to touch as many people as possible.