Loading...

Communication and «The Good Life»

by Hua Wang (Volume editor)
Textbook XII, 271 Pages

Summary

What is a «good life» and how can it be achieved? In this volume, communication scholars and media experts explore these fundamental questions about human existence and aspiration in terms of what a «good life» might look like in a contemporary, mediatized society. While in many ways a mediatized society brings us closer to some version of the «good life», it also leads us away from it. The affordances of new technologies seem to have shifted, for many, from an opportunity to an obligation. Rather than choosing when and where to be connected to these larger networks of information and acquaintances, we feel we must be permanently available, thus losing the luxury of controlling our time and attention.
This volume illuminates the complexity of our modern era, exploring how society can leverage exciting new opportunities whilst recognizing the complex challenges we face in a time of constant change. It helps us understand how we have come to this point and where we may be going so that we may study the opportunities and the dangers, the chances and the risks, that digital media pose in our quest for some version of «the good life».

Table Of Content

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the editor
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Acknowledgements
  • Foreword
  • Introduction
  • Part I: Meaning, Happiness, and Flourishing
  • Chapter One: In Search of the Good Life
  • Chapter Two: The Good Life: Selfhood and Virtue Ethics in the Digital Age
  • Chapter Three: Eudaimonia: Mobile Communication and Social Flourishing
  • Chapter Four: Meaningfulness and Entertainment:Fiction and Reality in the Land of Evolving Technologies
  • Chapter Five: Media Policy for Happiness: A Case Study of Bhutan
  • Part II: Perceptions, Connections, and Protection
  • Chapter Six: Communication and Perceptions of the Quality of Life
  • Chapter Seven: Tuning in versus Zoning out: The Role of Ego Depletion in Selective Exposure to Challenging Media
  • Chapter Eight: The Secret to Happiness: Social Capital, Trait Self-Esteem, and Subjective Well-Being
  • Chapter Nine: Modeling Communication in a Research Network: Implications for the Good Networked Life
  • Chapter Ten: Communicating Online Safety: Protecting Our Good Life on the Net
  • Part III: Challenges, Opportunities, and Transformation
  • Chapter Eleven: Communicative Figurations of the Good Life: Ambivalences of the Mediatization of Homelessness and Transnational Migrant Families
  • Chapter Twelve: Reimagining the Good Life with Disability: Communication, New Technology, and Humane Connections
  • Chapter Thirteen: The 20th Anniversary of the Digital Divide: Challenges and Opportunities for Communication and the Good Life
  • Chapter Fourteen: Liberating Structures: Engaging Everyone to Build a Good Life Together
  • Contributors
  • Author Index
  • Subject Index
  • Series index

 

← viii | ix → Acknowledgments

I am deeply honored to serve as the 2014 ICA Conference Theme Chair and the editor of this theme book. These were no small tasks, as I discovered in the last 24 months. From the conference planning that began even before London to organizing the theme sessions in Seattle, from manuscript reviews to the editorial process, every step of the way presented unique challenges and pushed me to new limits. The learning was tremendous because the people I worked with were inspiring. I would like to thank the ICA President Peter Vorderer for his vision and trust in me with these important tasks. I am also grateful to the ICA Executive Director Michael L. Haley, the 2012 ICA Conference Theme Chair Patricia Moy, and the 2013 ICA Conference Theme Chair Leah A. Lievrouw for sharing their wisdom with me along this journey. In addition, I thank Stacey Spiegel and Daniela Franz for designing the beautiful book cover with the generous support of Sam Luna. Mary Savigar, our dedicated commissioning editor at Peter Lang, has been enthusiastic, understanding, and patient. This book would not have been possible without Mary’s expert advice and the professional service by her colleagues Phyllis Korper, Sophie Appel, Catherine Tung, and Suzie Tibor. I also appreciate the encouragement and support from family, friends, as well as colleagues in my home department at the University at Buffalo, especially my Department Chair Tom Feeley. I also want to thank Amanda Hamilton for facilitating the contributor agreements and Vivian ← ix | x → Wu for helping with indexing. Last but not least, I am thankful to all of the contributors in this volume, who are well represented in terms of gender, international background, academic seniority, and scholarly tradition, for the diversity and insight they brought to this volume about communication and “the good life.”

 

← x | xi → Foreword

PETER VORDERER
UNIVERSITY OF MANNHEIM, GERMANY

INTERNATIONAL COMMUNICATION ASSOCIATION
PRESIDENT (2014-2015)

The title of this book—Communication and “The Good Life”—was the theme for the International Communication Association’s 64th annual conference, which took place in May of 2014 in Seattle, Washington. According to its website, “ICA is an academic association for scholars interested in the study, teaching and application of all aspects of human and mediated communication.” But what does this have to do with “the good life”?

The notion of “the good life” has been a topic of inquiry, particularly in philosophy, for a very long time—basically, since the very beginnings of the scholarly tradition. What is a good life, how can it be achieved, and what keeps humans (presumably the only species capable of thinking about such a question) from achieving it? These have been some of the most pressing and enduring questions throughout history.

In contrast, communication is a very young discipline, and it has particularly flourished over the past few decades as our ways of communicating and interacting with one another—with or without electronic media—have changed dramatically within a rather short period of time. Many of the technological advancements that we have witnessed in the past 20 years or so were introduced and offered to us with a promise: The promise was simply that these new developments would make our lives better. Of course, it is certainly not novel to correlate happiness with consumerism; the insinuation that things would generally be better if we owned and used some specific item has long been a core tactic of advertising. Television, for ← xi | xii → example, was championed as a way to make our lives more interesting by giving us access to the worlds outside our immediate reach. Nonetheless, the magnitude of the more recent incarnation of the promise—which specifically relates to digital and social media—is, in my view, substantively different: It taps into at least two different human aspirations that have always been considered decidedly utopian. First, it offers us access to whatever kinds of information we might desire, anywhere and anytime. Who would not want this sort of omniscience? Second, it assures us that we never have to be alone anymore, no matter where we are. Both pledges speak to fundamental human needs, promising to satiate our most essential desires in ways that have never before been possible. I believe that the unprecedented success of social media has to do primarily with the fact that these promises have been made, they have been largely believed, and (at least to some extent) they have also been kept.

At the same time, other needs, wishes, hopes, dreams, aspirations, and even simple preferences have been compromised or neglected as we have pursued this promised omniscience and ever-present companionship. The mediated world we live in today is indeed Janiform: It in many ways brings us closer to some version of “the good life” while, at the same time, leading us away from it. Although we no longer have to be alone, we also forget how to enjoy solitude. Similarly, we can know and learn almost anything instantaneously, yet as a result we may no longer remember how enjoyable it is to understand something slowly, through consistent contemplation over time.

Moreover, the affordances of these new technologies seem to have shifted, for many, from an opportunity to an obligation: We may now feel that, rather than choosing when and where to be connected to these larger networks of information and acquaintances, we must be permanently available, thus losing the luxury of controlling our time and attention.

In my view, this situation calls for communication scholars to study more thoroughly the opportunities and the dangers, the chances and the risks, that digital media pose in our quest for some version of the good life. This book illuminates the complexity of our modern era; my hope is that it will help us understand how we have come to this point but also inform us as we attempt to predict—and decide—where we will be going next.

 

← xii | 1 → Introduction

HUA WANG
UNIVERSITY AT BUFFALO, THE STATE UNIVERSITY
OF NEW YORK, USA

INTERNATIONAL COMMUNICATION ASSOCIATION
CONFERENCE THEME CHAIR (2014)

The ways in which we communicate have been evolving significantly in recent years, in part due to the rapid advancement of technologies. These developments present us new opportunities as well as challenges. As we embrace and celebrate the changes in our environment and our own practice, we also need to reflect on how such changes serve our individual well-being as well as the communities, organizations, and societies we belong to.

The 2014 ICA conference theme—Communication and “The Good Life”—was provocative, as the president had envisioned. In the call for papers, we asked: What might a “good life” look like in a contemporary, digital, network society? How might we strike the balance and accomplish that? We received an enthusiastic response from the ICA community with a phenomenal number of submissions and organized theme sessions. Scholars from both social scientific and humanistic traditions participated in stimulating discussions, shared diverse perspectives, and wove together different threads of communication scholarship in our field to better understand this critical moment in human history.

The conference took place in Seattle, a location that fits the theme perfectly. Sitting on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, Seattle has been known for its force of energy through technological and social innovations literally exploding in the city. From coffee shops, edgy restaurants, to sustainable fisheries, urban greening initiatives, and the public art movement, the impact of all these developments have given Seattle the reputation of being in search of “the good life.”

← 1 | 2 → In order to symbolically represent such a force of energy and change required to achieve “the good life,” we used the artwork of one of this book’s contributors as the book cover. The original image, before digitization, was created by lowering a large piece of heavy etching paper just enough to touch the surface of a tank of heated water containing different viscosities of ink mixed together. Therefore, the image itself is a unique and organic print of hydrodynamic energy forces of the water in motion at that particular moment in time. At the micro level, we see the actual force of the water and dynamic expression by the ink. Metaphorically, one might think about inspiration at an epiphany moment feeling a force passing through. At the macro level, we see the tension between various sources of energy and force represented by different shapes and shades, generating an overall impression of explosion. Metaphorically, one might think about the power of change emerged from intense human and mediated communication in the everyday realities of contemporary societies and reflected in this volume.

This book is structured in three parts. The first part focuses on Meaning, Happiness, and Flourishing. Chapter 1, “In Search of the Good Life,” uses the framework of exploration to describe and analyze the design of advanced media experiences, connecting the physical world with the virtual world and pointing out the potential of sophisticated technological tools for deeper learning, self-reflection, and personal growth. Chapter 2, “The Good Life: Selfhood and Virtue Ethics in the Digital Age,” brings us to the fundamental and philosophical question of what a human being ought to do, or what virtues are required, in order to achieve a life fulfilled with meaning and contentment; it offers us insights into the normative approach in communication research on relational selfhood and digital virtue ethnics by connecting Information and Computing Ethnics and Media and Communication Studies. Chapter 3, “Eudaimonia: Mobile Communication and Social Flourishing,” provides a global perspective on the social impact of mobile communication in different countries and population groups and through these examples demonstrates the complex constraints and empowering potential these devices bring to the pursuit of human flourishing. Chapter 4, “Meaningfulness and Entertainment: Fiction and Reality in the Land of Evolving Technologies,” broadens our understanding of entertainment media and experiences by identifying their eudaimonic functions as an important area of research, particularly related to interactivity, elevation, and morality. Chapter 5, “Media Policy for Happiness: A Case Study of Bhutan,” showcases the efforts put forward by the Bhutanese government in developing and evaluating the National Happiness Index and how media policy can be oriented toward achieving happiness and well-being as a nation-state.

The second part of this book focuses on Perceptions, Connections, and Protection. Chapter 6, “Communication and Perceptions of the Quality of Life,” presents 30 years of survey studies on the quality of life perceptions, including ← 2 | 3 → the influence of media use on such perceptions and their samples ranging from the American national population to regional metro areas and suburbs as well as college students. Chapter 7, “Tuning in versus Zoning out: The Role of Ego Depletion in Selective Exposure to Challenging Media,” reports two experiments on how ego-depletion may affect media users’ choice in terms of their preference for cognitively and affectively challenging content. Chapter 8, “The Secret of Happiness: Social Capital, Trait Self-Esteem, and Subjective Well-Being,” shows the different relationships that bonding and bridging social capital have with subjective well-being and the role that trait self-esteem plays in these relationships. Chapter 9, “Modeling Communication in a Research Network: Implications for the Good Networked Life,” exemplifies the dynamic models of a Canadian multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional network of scholars through their changing connections of knowing, friending, advising, and working together over time. Chapter 10, “Communicating Online Safety: Protecting Our Good Life on the Net,” advocates a reintegration of online safety research with the protection motivation theoretical paradigm and offers empirical evidence along with reflections on practical implications.

The third part of this book focuses on Challenges, Opportunities, and Transformation. Chapter 11, “Communicative Figurations of the Good Life: Ambivalences of the Mediatization of Homelessness and Transnational Migrant Families,” proposes a framework of communicative figurations in adopting process sociology to explore the lived experiences of homeless people and transnational migrant families in a mediatized world. Chapter 12, “Reimagining the Good Life with Disability: Communication, New Technology, and Humane Connections,” challenges the conventional definition of “the good life” and urges us to expand our perspectives with the more enabling and humane features that new technologies afford for people with disability. Chapter 13, “The 20th Anniversary of the Digital Divide: Challenges and Opportunities for Communication and the Good Life,” reflects on the development of two decades of research on the digital divide and demonstrates how qualitative methods can offer richer explanations to complement statistics and inform public policies. Chapter 14, “Liberating Structures: Engaging Everyone to Build a Good Life Together,” explicates a set of simple yet powerful methods called Liberating Structures and provides concrete examples to illustrate how exactly, without necessarily employing any technologies, one can facilitate group communication by effectively engaging everyone in the process to arrive at surprisingly liberating experiences and outcomes.

Throughout the book, we see that, being immersed in a media saturated environment, we have high expectations of new and emergent technologies. We dream about revolutionary changes that these technologies bring to our lives and how they will instantly produce a better reality for us. But we know there is never a one-sided story. These technologies provide a platform for communication. The ← 3 | 4 → use of a particular technology is one of many ways we can spend time with ourselves or with others. An important question here though is whether the choices are made and the actions are taken with one’s consciousness that connects back to life’s purpose.

Details

Pages
XII, 271
ISBN (PDF)
9781453915394
ISBN (ePUB)
9781454192718
ISBN (MOBI)
9781454192701
ISBN (Hardcover)
9781433128561
ISBN (Softcover)
9781433128554
Language
English
Publication date
2014 (October)
Published
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2015. XII, 271 pp.

Biographical notes

Hua Wang (Volume editor)

Hua Wang (PhD, University of Southern California) is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication and Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Community Health and Health Behavior at the University at Buffalo, The State University of New York.

Previous

Title: Communication and «The Good Life»