Learning Across Traditions

Critical Tradition


Critical Tradition defines communication as discursive reflection or discourse in which the implicit assumptions behind what is said can be freely questioned and discussed as needed to achieve genuine mutual understanding.

Critical theories argue that power structures in society prevent genuine communication by systematically excluding the voices of less powerful groups or otherwise thwarting discursive reflection.

“Critical Theory” comes from the work of a group of scholars known as the “Frankfurt School” – they rejected the economic determinism of orthodox Marxism but carried the Marxist tradition of critiquing society

Relevant Concepts


Postmodernism – in the literal sense means that it evolved after modernism. It is actually a broader term that is used in various fields such as philosophy, art, music and critical theory. Postmodernism serves as a striking contradiction to classical foundations of philosophy in critical theory and philosophy. Many see postmodernism as a continuation or rather an extension of modernism. It stresses on the role of language, power relations and motivations and openly attacks the views of stringent classifications such as men versus women, white versus black and the imperial versus colonial


Marxism – In Marxism communication practices are seen as the result of tension between individual creativity and the social constraints on that creativity. Language is seen as a way to restrict individual expression as the language of the dominant class makes it difficult for the working class to fully understand their situation in turn hindering them from finding the means to emancipate themselves. For an uneducated person, in listening to the budget debate or an entrepreneurship conference they may not be able to fully grasp what is being discussed even though it may be useful to them because that is not the language they use and understand. The dominant language defines and perpetuates the oppression of marginalized groups. It is then up to the critical theorist to create new forms of language so that the dominant ideology can be revealed and new competing ideologies can be heard.

Socio-Psychological Tradition


Communication as interpersonal influence. It conceptualizes communication as social interaction and influence. The psychological factors such as traits, emotions, attitudes, and cognitive processes affect the communication process.

Speech Accommodation Theory – theory of communication developed by Howard Giles. It argues that, “When people interact they adjust their speech, their vocal patterns and their gestures, to accommodate to others.” It explores the various reasons why individuals emphasize or minimize the social differences between themselves and their interlocutors through verbal and nonverbal communication. This theory is concerned with the links between language, context, and identity. It focuses on both the intergroup and interpersonal factors that lead to accommodation, as well as the ways that power, macro and micro-context concerns affect communication behaviors. This theory describes two main accommodation processes.

  1. Convergence – adjustment of speech patterns to match other people and the surrounding environment. It involves delivery and content of a message. Environmental factors such as music also influence accommodation.
  2. Divergence – emphasizing the differences in communication between individuals.


This group work helped me learn how to work with people outside my circle of friends. Though, I had difficulties in meeting with my team, it made me realize that the real essence of having a group is divide the task and row your boat together. As a future media practitioner, it is essential to understand how a group functions – that every member should function accordingly to meet the goals of the group.


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