The "Concept" of Communication -
���SHE JOURNAL OF COMMUNICX r1o.v Vol. 20, June 1970, p. 201-210 The ���Concept��� of Communication FRANK E. X. DANCE Abstract This essay examines multitudinous definitions of ���communication��� in the light of the meaning of ���concept��� as reflected in the literature of the philos- ophy of science. The examination produced 15 main themes from the definitions. Among the 15 conceptual components there are three upon which the definitions rather critically divide. These three points of con- ceptual split are examined for their impact on theory construction in com- munication. Some suggestions are made for conceptual clarification. In the process of theory construction a concept determines the behavioral field observed which, in turn, affects the principles derived which, in turn, affect the hypotheses generated which, in turn, affect the laws and the system of laws stated which, all together, compose the theory c0nstructed.l The concept is basic to any study of communication or the communicative process. The concept determines the field which the theorist, experimenter, or historian will choose to study.��� The concept of communication with which one starts will substantively affect any additions to Frank E. X. Dance (Ph.D., Northwestern, 1959) is Profesror of Communi- cation at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. His research and publi- cation interests have centered in the areas of human communication theory and adult speech communication. Mr. Dance has served as President of the ICA, editor of the Journal of Communication, and is the current editor of The Speech Teacher. ���Although the vocabulary of meta-theory is subject to many interpretations, one schema for theory construction suggests the following system: 1. Assumptions underlie all behavior and theory building 2. concepts and their corresponding definitions structure 3. obscrved behauiors from which 4. principles (general observations not stated in testable form) are drawn, from which a 5. hypothesis, or theorem ( a general observation stated in testable form), is extracted, based upon which a 6. law(s) ( a state- ment expressing tested relationships between facts) is formulated, a num- ber of which laws constitute a 7. system (a concatenation of laws), leading to a 8. theory (an interrelated system of laws capable of explanation and prediction). ���The setting up of classes in such a way that knowledge can be ordered, related, and explained is dependent upon concept formation.���Ernest G. Bormann. Theory and Research in the Communicutive Arts. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1965, p. 84. ���mest Bormann states it this way:
202 The Journal of Comnzunication, Vol. 20, June 1970 an already extant theory of communication or any efforts directed toward the development of a new theory. Concepts serve as a real, if unstated, rule for making observations and organizing e~perience.~ Although psychologists and psycholinguists have considered and studied conccpt-formation it is the scholars in the philosophy of science who have concentrated on the study of the ���concept.��� Abraham Kaplan observes that ���What makes a concept significant is that the classification it institutes is one into which things fall, as it were, of thernselve~.���~ The concept is basic to theory and theory construction since it is the point of research origination and, as is the case with all points of origination or de- parture, radically affects the determination and reaching of the desired destination or goal. The main purpose of this essay is to examine the multitudinous definitions of communication in the light of the meaning of ���concept��� as reflected in the literature of the philosophy of sci- ence. One possible result of such an examination is the derivation of the essential components of the concept of communication as reflected in the definitions. A second, though admittedly less plausible, result would be the synthesis of the components into a single definition of the concept of communication. A concept is the result of a generalizing mental operation. The initial apprehension and perception of individual acts, or realities, lead to the grouping of percepts and the labeling of such grouping. The grouping is the concept, and the name, or ���term,��� serves as the label for a specific concept. A concept is a generic mental image abstracted from percepts and generally relies on an origi- nally inductive process rooted in objective reality. Everyday concepts, such as ���dog��� or ���food,��� seem manifest to all. Other concepts depend on cognitive structuring for their existence. Herein is the difference between ordinary, common concepts and extraordinary or scientific concepts. ���Some features of the world stand out, almost begging for names. Concepts of clouds, thunder, table, dog, wealth, hunger, color, shape, and the like, name Margaret J. Fisher. A Methatheoretical Analysis of the Literature on Theory-Construction in. Speech-Commzrnication. Master���s Thvsis. Milwau- kee: University of Wisconsin, 1969, p. 26. Abraham Kaplan. The Conduct of Inquiry. San Francisco: Chandler Publishing Co., 1964, p. 50.