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  • Written by  Guy Allenby
  • // Tuesday, 22 May 2012 16:28
Guy Allenby

The next communication revolution

It doesn’t matter whether it’s a child in Mozambique talking to his mother or a Manhattan stockbroker talking to her boss -- if you set aside what they’re saying, if you peel away the cultural, social, religious, personal and political distinctions between us -- what you are ultimately left with is one human being talking with another human being.

At its core, human communication is about one individual and their relationship to other individuals, right?

To most of the modern world, at least those of us who were born and brought up in the developed world in the late 20th and early 21st century this seems an immutable truth. It’s the way things are.

But there are other ways of viewing our basic interactions with each other -- in ways that haven’t been founded in the Western, individualist way of seeing the realities of human communication.

That is to say that view we have of the way we interact with each other that dominates the modern, developed world is a view and not the view.

As some communication academics are pointing out, the individualistic model that emerged in Europe and America in the 18th century -- in the Age of Enlightenment or Age of Reason – could benefit from a re-think or an upgrade that takes in other ways of seeing things.

As communication academic, the Hawaii-based Yoshitaka Miike and others have pointed out: notions of what constitutes human communication is overwhelmingly slanted towards what’s been called the Eurocentric view.

This Eurocentric mentality, they say, is grounded in the core values of rationality, liberty, self-interest, material progress and rights consciousness.

An Asiacentric view of communication on the other hand – rooted as it is in the Confucian, Hindu, Buddhist and Taoist – the emphasis is more on the interdependence and intertwining that makes up our relationship with each other, our environment and, indeed, our view of reality.

Among other things Miike maintains that human communication is a process whereby we are reminding ourselves of or interdependence and interrelation between everything and that it’s a process that reduces our egocentricity.

Miike suggests that in our increasingly globalised and multicultural world, this collective and interdependent mindset can only enrich our lives.

It’s not that individuality and independence need to be suppressed, he hastens to add, but that communication can be thought of as a more integrated process and might offer an antidote to our loneliness and division.

It’s a long, long way from the individual self-based view of human communication that predominates.

And how might this change things? Perhaps the point is that how we view the way we communicate has enormous bearing on how we actually communicate.

After all, new research, new discoveries, new ways of understanding our everyday lives – through science, through literature, through sociology – directly affect the way we perceive our lives to be and, in turn, the very way we perceive and live them.

Perhaps the field of communication is no different. Perhaps if we were to re-think and expand our idea of human communication beyond just self and other it might change the way we relate to each other and our world