Category Communication

Remembering Sam Becker and university citizenship

Sam Becker, for whom the University of Iowa Department of Communication Studies building is named, and whose six decades career was highly accomplished, passed away on November 8.  While I was a doctoral student at Iowa in the 1990’s, Becker was already retired but still ever-present, and by the sheer randomness of graduate student office […]

When the map seems larger than the territory

On one of the websites for students of rhetorical theory, conversation has recently focused on the status of psychoanalytic criticism and the question of whether its insights are being willfully ignored by the larger field.  Josh Gunn kicked off the discussion, in part, by noting that despite recent interest, “rhetorical theory — at least on […]

The future of globalized literary history

A 2008 special issue of New Literary History (vol. 39) is focused on the future of literary history (and, relatedly, comparative literary studies) given globalization.  To some extent one can track the complicated history of World Literature through the early and influential essays of Rene Wellek, who advocated for comparative scholarship even as he warned […]

An approaching Singularity?

When Ray Kurzweil published his bestseller, The Singularity is Near, in 2005, the skeptical response reverberated widely, but his track record when it comes to having made accurate predictions has been uncanny.  In the late 1980’s it was Kurzweil who anticipated that soon a computer could be programmed to defeat a human opponent in chess; […]

Remembering Harold Pinter

Several of the obituaries for Harold Pinter, the Nobel prize winning playwright who died on Christmas Eve, see the puzzle of his life as centered on the question of how so happy a person could remain so consistently angry.  The sense of anger, or perhaps sullenness is the better word, arises mainly from the diffidence […]

Whale communication

Every couple weeks I receive alerts from a grants database configured to send me information about communication research informing me of sponsored projects relating to animal communication.  I am always surprised to see these alerts since the field of speech communication in which I’m trained (and in contrast to scholars of the science of language […]

The limits of global connectivity

The idea that everyone and everything is networked is an ancient one but now a thoroughly pervasive way of describing the world; it is a commonplace that influence, wealth, and ideas shape the unfolding of human history via increasingly dispersed and vertically organized arrangements.  Two essays in the new (January/February 2009) Foreign Affairs, written from […]

Cosmetic surgery and ugly ducklings

A recent issue of Configurations (vol. 15, 2007, pgs. 1-99) focuses on those plastic surgery transformation television shows, especially Fox’s The Swan.  Introducing the essays that follow in the issue, Bernadette Wegenstein cites the crazy wider statistics:  (a) since 1997 the number of plastic surgery procedures in the United States has increased 446 percent; (b) […]

Paula Vogel’s “How I learned to drive”

Tonight I had the opportunity see Paula Vogel’s remarkable Pulitzer Prize-winning “How I Learned to Drive” in production at the Georgia State University theatre.  The show relies on a very small cast, only five in all, a fact that lends some irony to the fact that three of them play multiple roles described in the […]

Remembering the radio “War of the Worlds”

Seventy years ago this week Orson Welles and his Mercury Theatre on the Air performed a radio broadcast version of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds which immediately became a legendarily contested example of the power of mass mediated communication.  The broadcast, enlivened with simulated but realistic-sounding journalistic reporting, told the story of a Martian […]

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