9501. Discuss these examples of non-human communication from the point-of-view of A) the systems model, and B) the society model:


school of fish

9502. Make up a society model that describes a situation with which you are familiar - school, family, friends. Convert this to a person/message system model. Keep adding detail to the model until you have a S-W model that describes your own communication with one member of the society. Discuss the relative usefulness of the various levels and kinds of models for studying the situation.

9503. Suppose that the linguistic studies of dolphins that are currently underway lead to our being able to communicate ideas back and forth between the two. In this situation would you recommend that we

  1. Accord the dolphin that status of "human", or
  2. Expand our definition of "human" communication to include "human and dolphin" communication?

9504. In his novel The Bicentennial Man Isaac Asimov explores the definition of "humanity." Read the book and comment on the role that communication plays in determining the humanity of the lead character. (The lead character is a robot.)

9505. In his article "Computing Machinery and Intelligence" (reprinted in Hofstadter, The Mind's I) Alan Turing introduced a test that could be applied to decide whether or not a computer exhibits intelligence. Read the article and comment on the extent to which communication plays a role in the "Turing Test."

9506. Give an example of how jargon might develop within the following kinds of organizations:

9507. Organizations often exhibit two distinct communication systems. The formal system is defines the flow of authority within the organization and is often hierarchical in form. The informal communication occurs among sub-groups who "get together" for various reasons (e.g., to have lunch together, to discuss soap operas or sports or whatever, to work out organizational problems that don't "fit" within the formal structure).


Select an organization for study and consider the following questions:

  1. Identity the formal communication network. You should be able to draw a chart that shows the flow of responsibility.
  2. What informal communication exists within the organization?
  3. How do the two systems relate to one another? When might formal communication be more effective than informal communication, and vice-versa?

9508. The following statement is taken from Wilden 1987, page 76.

The social self is an invisible and intangible open system with a complex mind and emotional system and many other modes and systems of communication, but without any boundary in any way similar to the biological boundary of the skin. And rather than existing "in our head" or "inside the body", the social self exists only in relationships, relationships between selves and others in society in history.

What does he mean by this?

9509. In the first two chapters of his book, Cat's Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut defines a karass as:

We Bokonists believe that humanity is organized into teams, teams that do God's Will without ever discovering what they are doing. Such a team is called a karass.... "If you find your life tangled up with somebody else's life for no very logical reason," writes Bokonon, "that person may be a member of your karass."

Chapter 41 contains this passage:

"My God," she said, " are you a Hoosier?"

I admitted I was.

"I'm a Hoosier, too," she crowed. "Nobody has to be ashamed of being a Hoosier."

"I'm not." I said, "I never knew anybody who was."

"Hoosiers do all right. Lowe and I have been around the world twice, and everywhere we went we found Hoosiers in charge of everything."

"That's reassuring."

"You know the manager of the new hotel in Istanbul?"


"He's a Hoosier. And the military-whatever-he-is in Tokyo...", said her husband.

"He's a Hoosier," said Hazel. "And the new Ambassador to Yugoslavia."

"A Hoosier?" I asked.

"Not only him, but the Hollywood editor of Life magazine. And that man in Chile..."

"A Hoosier, too?"

"You can't go anywhere a Hoosier hasn't mad his mark," she said."

Hazel's obsession with Hoosiers around the world was a textbook example of a false karass, of a seeming team that was meaningless in terms of the ways God gets things done, a textbook example of what Bokonon calls a granfallon. Other examples of granfallons are the Communist parts, the Daughters of the American Revolution, the General Electric Company, the International Order of Odd Fellows-- and any nation, anytime, anywhere. As Bokonon invites us to sing along with him

If you wish to study a granfallon,
Just remove the skin of a toy balloon.

Discuss the definition of the term "community." Is there such a thing as a "false community?"

9510. Consider the meeting of two ancient societies - e.g., the Greeks and the Romans, the Spanish and the Aztec. Examine the effects of their meeting. Find examples of peaceful and violent meetings.

9511. Examine the history of the conflict between the Greeks and the Turks regarding the island of Cyprus. What role does social communication play in this conflict.

9512. Ref: Journal of Peace Research, author? "title?": Read this article and comment on the use of communication in the establishment of European colonial empires.

9513. Subgroups have different cultural characteristics from one society to another, and some subgroups may not exist in some societies. For example, the meaning of being a member of the poor may be very different in the United States as opposed to India or Scandinavia. And, it is at least possible to imagine a society in which the poor would not exist. Choose one of the subgroup categories described in this chapter and discuss how it might differ from one society to another. Might there be a society in which the subgroup does not exist?

9514. We assume that the cultural characteristics of our society are "the truth," and we use these "truths" as the basis of our communication. This is equally true of our communication with members of other societies. We tend to "know about" other societies based on the characteristics of our own. Choose a society that you "know" about and research it in some depth. What assumptions did you make about the society that turned out to be untrue?

9515. The following quotation is taken from Boulding 1985, p. 138.

We try to find a person's opinion by him or her a questionnaire, and the act of filling out the questionnaire alters his or her opinion. Predictions, if they are believed, can be either self-justifying or self-defeating. If a respected authority says prices are going up and people believe it, then prices will go up as a result of the prediction.

Discuss this quotation in light of the "self/society" model of human communication.

9516. If you are a college student, you are surrounded by many communication systems. Which of the following that exist on your campus?

  1. The library
  2. Campus mail
  3. Campus telephone system
  4. Clubs and social organizations
  5. Campus computer network
  6. Lecture classes
  7. Discussion classes
  8. Campus radio station
  9. Faculty advisors
  10. Campus cable television
  11. Final exams

Evaluate each in terms of the "self/society" model. Do the systems mainly promote communication among selves or within society -- or both?

9517. Consider our definition of the subgroup, "family." Do you agree with the definition? How might you change it? What additional family subgroups would your changed definition include? What subgroups would it exclude?