Sociology of Communication

Communication begins at birth as we begin to learn how to signal to our caregivers what we need and they begin to interpret the signs we send. This process continues throughout childhood as we first learn to mimic our parents and then begin to learn from the greater world around us – neighbours, friends, the stories we hear, the television we watch, the things we learn in school. As we become involved in the process of communication within the public sphere, we both reflect and contribute to the greater discourse of the human race, allowing these ideas to shape and define us at the same time that we are helping to shape and define these ideas. “By the ‘public sphere’ we mean first of all a realm of our social life in which something approaching public opinion can be formed” (Habermas, 1974). Thus, mass communication often brings about shifting versions of reality depending upon who is doing the telling and how we choose to interpret the message. This process contributes to our concepts of racism as it develops within different groups, to our changing definitions of women and finally to the various ways in which we see the truth.

Sociological studies have demonstrated how concepts of race and discussions of race shift and change depending on the context in which they are considered. This is the focus of Nina Eliasoph’s study into everyday racism (1999). What she discovered was that white people have a greater tendency to speak out about race when in a smaller, more intimate crowd than when they are in a larger, more general group setting. The significance of this is that racism is evident in both settings as individuals either choose to stand on their principles or blend into a larger group as a means of identifying themselves within that group. This is perhaps better explained by Walsh, “how people look at the world is grounded in where they place themselves in relation to others.

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