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Relationship Equals Sum Media Use: Examining Relationships as Media Ecologies
Unformatted Document Text:  Relationship Equals Sum Media Use 2 Examining Relationships as Media Ecologies October 14, 2002 Abstract The traditional entry points to the study of relationships (individuals, discourse, language, relational characteristics, and systematic combinations thereof) might be usefully supplemented by another: media. This paper describes the potential value of this entry point with an illustration of how different media contribute to a relationship development trajectory. The theoretical essence of the perspective is described, along with its methodological advantages and a set of initial hypotheses. Introduction Relationships and communication are inseparably intertwined (Montgomery, 1992). Most of our communication occurs within the context of our relationships. There would certainly be no relationships without communication. The study of communication is marked by a wide range of disciplinary traditions, including (loosely following the outline of primary theoretical traditions in Littlejohn, 2002) system theories, theories of language, theories of discourse, theories of message production and reception, and theories of social structure and cultural reality. It should not be surprising, then, that the study of relationships within the field of communication reflects this diversity with a similar range of starting points. The individual and their feelings about their relationships provided initial entry point into the study of relationships (Duck, 1986). At some risk of oversimplification, other important traditions that have since entered the mainstream of relationship research include language (Liska, 1998; Ellis, 1999; Sigman, 1998), discourse (Conville, 1998; Rawlins, 1998), and relationship characteristics (Sigman, 1998; Rogers, 1999). When these entry points are considered in combination, the result is sometimes referred to as a systems perspective (McPhee, 1998; Metts, 1998). None of these starting points for examining relationships should be particularly surprising given the inseparability of communication and relationships. Indeed, three of these starting points are suggested by Shannon’s (1948) model of the communication process (Figure 1), which itself is generally regarded as a systems theory (Littlejohn, 2002, chapter 3). Individuals are represented in this model as information sources and destinations,discourse as messages, and language as signals. All operate together as a system. Only relationship characteristics have no obvious place in Shannon’s model.

Authors: Foulger, Davis.
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Relationship Equals Sum Media Use
2
Examining Relationships as Media Ecologies
October 14, 2002
Abstract
The traditional entry points to the study of relationships (individuals, discourse, language,
relational characteristics, and systematic combinations thereof) might be usefully
supplemented by another: media. This paper describes the potential value of this entry
point with an illustration of how different media contribute to a relationship development
trajectory. The theoretical essence of the perspective is described, along with its
methodological advantages and a set of initial hypotheses.
Introduction
Relationships and communication are inseparably intertwined (Montgomery, 1992). Most
of our communication occurs within the context of our relationships. There would
certainly be no relationships without communication. The study of communication is
marked by a wide range of disciplinary traditions, including (loosely following the
outline of primary theoretical traditions in Littlejohn, 2002) system theories, theories of
language, theories of discourse, theories of message production and reception, and
theories of social structure and cultural reality. It should not be surprising, then, that the
study of relationships within the field of communication reflects this diversity with a
similar range of starting points. The individual and their feelings about their relationships
provided initial entry point into the study of relationships (Duck, 1986). At some risk of
oversimplification, other important traditions that have since entered the mainstream of
relationship research include language (Liska, 1998; Ellis, 1999; Sigman, 1998),
discourse (Conville, 1998; Rawlins, 1998), and relationship characteristics (Sigman,
1998; Rogers, 1999). When these entry points are considered in combination, the result is
sometimes referred to as a systems perspective (McPhee, 1998; Metts, 1998). None of
these starting points for examining relationships should be particularly surprising given
the inseparability of communication and relationships. Indeed, three of these starting
points are suggested by Shannon’s (1948) model of the communication process (Figure
1), which itself is generally regarded as a systems theory (Littlejohn, 2002, chapter 3).
Individuals are represented in this model as information sources and destinations,
discourse as messages, and language as signals. All operate together as a system. Only
relationship characteristics have no obvious place in Shannon’s model.


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