Jay Baldwin, Ph.D.
English and Communication
Assistant Professor of Communication
Earn your bachelor’s degree in Rural Studies: Writing and Communication.
Ph.D., Comparative Literature & Cultural Studies, University of Arkansas, 2015.
On Human Communication…
Models of human communication abound. The phenomenon has variously been described in terms of transmission, transaction, and the transcendental. Many definitions focus on the notion of sharing information, often for the purpose of modifying another’s attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors.
Alternatively, James Carey argued that “Communication is a symbolic process whereby reality is produced, maintained, repaired, and transformed.”* In this view, communication is more than the efficient transmission of information; it is the process by which social life is made possible. To borrow from Matt Ridley, communication is how ideas have sex.
In my view, traditional communication studies would benefit from acknowledging the role of evolution by natural selection in social and cultural life (i.e., the role played by our biocultural human nature in our representations and interpretations of material and socially constructed realities). Given such a perspective, communication is conceived as a driving force of both our biological and cultural evolution, reciprocally.**
Students interested in careers in law, public policy, business, government, media, and/or education, or those planning to attend graduate school should consider the Bachelor’s of Rural Studies: Writing and Communication or Ag Communication track as foundational to their professional development.
*Carey, James (1975) A Cultural Approach to Communication.
The late Neil Postman once observed that the most important job of any teacher is to develop in students a finely-tuned “crap-detector.” He said that in 1969 while speaking at a national conference of English teachers. It’s as true today as it was then. We live in a media-saturated environment (the ‘mediasphere’). Consequently, we are routinely bombarded by “information,” persuasive messages and unsupported “facts,” often designed to serve the speaker’s agenda or to satisfy biases. Cutting through all the clutter (what Postman called “bullshit”) is among the more important skills any student should learn. It is both necessary self-defense against damaging ignorance and critical to making the world a better place. Communication students at ABAC learn not only how to craft ethical and effective messages, but learn to become competent consumers of media. As a teacher, I am less concerned (although not unconcerned) with transmitting knowledge, and more concerned with developing the thinking skills of evaluation, interpretation, synthesis, and rational argument.
Ten books every undergraduate student should read while in school, regardless of major: