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A Survey of Scientific Communication Theory

Charles Pavitt

This detailed survey of present-day scientific communication theory rejects the outmoded «levels» organizational scheme in favor of a system based on the underlying model and fundamental explanatory principle each theory presupposes. In doing so it shows the fundamental similarities among all communication-relevant contexts. Most theories included in the book are causal in nature, derived from one of three underlying models: message production, message reception, or interactive. A few theories take on a functional form, sometimes in dialectic or systemic versions. An introductory chapter describes what is meant by scientific explanation, how that concept is instantiated in scientific communication theory, and delineates the three causal models prevalent in these theories. A useful resource for scholars, this book is suitable for graduate and advanced undergraduate courses in communication theory.
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This detailed survey of present-day scientific communication theory rejects the outmoded “levels” organizational scheme in favor of a system based on the underlying model and fundamental explanatory principle each theory presupposes. In doing so it shows the fundamental similarities among all communication-relevant contexts. Most theories included in the book are causal in nature, derived from one of three underlying models: message production, message reception, or interactive. A few theories take on a functional form, sometimes in dialectic or systemic versions. An introductory chapter describes what is meant by scientific explanation, how that concept is instantiated in scientific communication theory, and delineates the three causal models prevalent in these theories. A useful resource for scholars, this book is suitable for graduate and advanced undergraduate courses in communication theory. “This volume employs a highly unique approach for classifying, comparing, and contrasting communication theories. Charles Pavitt does a masterful job of showing how theories developed in seemingly diverse communication contexts share common assumptions and properties. A must-read for those with interests in communication theory.”

—Charles Berger, Professor Emeritus, University of California at Davis

“Charles Pavitt has made a major contribution to our understanding of communication theory. Rather than creating a laundry list of ‘pretenders’ to the term theory, he identifies characteristics that define a theory and organizes theories into communication processes occurring with different contexts. Very well done.”

—Michael Elwood Roloff, Professor, Northwestern University

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