“Communication Theory is Useless”: Four reasons that is not true – PART I

Reason 1: Post-positivism

Whether you admit it or not, gossip is ever present in your life, as it is mine. The news-like occurrences commonly classified as gossip permeates personal and professional public spheres, which is an example of post-positivism. “According to the post-positivist perspective, a good theory is one that is accurate (i.e., in agreement with observations), testable (i.e., capable of being falsified or proven wrong), logically consistent, parsimonious or simple, broad in scope, and useful in generating predictions and explanations about interpersonal communication” (Baxter & Braithwaite, 2008, p.7). Logically, we all understand that gossip runs rampant in all personal circles or professional environments, i.e. offices, and it isn’t solely oratory. Gossip exists in all communication mediums from text messages and emails to body language, like a inconspicuous eye roll at just the right time. “[Gossip] occurs everywhere, in many forms across history and across cultures” (Waddington, K., & Michaelson, G., 2012, p. 23) and this type of interpersonal communication is both logically consistent and testable.

An experiment conducted on the television show, Big Bang Theory, explored an experiment in the popularity of gossip within the control group of their friend circle (Lorre, C., & Prady, B., 2011). The experiment was designed to discover whether gossip was more popular than mundane facts, which validates it as a post-positivist theory in the context of communications because it is testable (capable of being proven wrong), logically consistent, and though this is a fictional example from mass media it is accurate when compared to common personal experience and the gossip research conducted by  Kathryn Waddington and Grant Michaelson in their afore cited book regarding gossip in organizations.

Stay tuned for the next reason communications theory isn’t useless as demonstrated by book clubs. Calling all bookworms: be sure to be back here on February 28th!

All Citations – Full Series

Baran, S. J., & Davis, D. K. (2011). Mass communication theory: foundations, ferment, and future (6th ed.). Boston, MA: Wadsworth.

Baxter, L. A., & Braithwaite, D. O. (Eds.). (2008). Engaging theories in interpersonal communication: multiple perspectives. Los Angeles: Sage Publications.

Ellis, S. (2007). Onward, Christian Soldiers. British Heritage27, 18-24. Retrieved January 17, 2014, from http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.msvu.ca/docview/217034325

Horkheimer, M. (1982). Critical Theory. New York: Seabury Press.

Lorre, C., & Prady, B. (2011). The Herb Garden Germination [Television series episode]. In Big Bang Theory. New York City: CBS Broadcasting Inc.

Marks, L. (1991). The Knights of Labor and the Salvation Army: Religion and Working-Class Culture in Ontario, 1882-1890. Labour/Le Travail, 89-127.

Waddington, K., & Michaelson, G. (2012).Gossip and organizations. New York: Routledge.

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