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Communication Theory and Millennial Popular Culture

Essays and Applications

Kathleen Glenister Roberts

Theories help to troubleshoot gaps in our understanding, and to make sense of a world that is constantly changing. What this book tries to do, in part, is blur the lines between the differences between today’s college students – the millennial generation – and their professors, many of whom hail from the Boom Generation and Generation X.
In the following chapters, contributors build upon what both parties already know. Writing in a highly accessible yet compelling style, contributors explain communication theories by applying them to «artifacts» of popular culture. These «artifacts» include Lady Gaga, Pixar films, The Hunger Games, hip hop, Breaking Bad, and zombies, among others. Using this book, students will become familiar with key theories in communication while developing creative and critical thinking. By experiencing familiar popular culture artifacts through the lens of critical and interpretive theories, a new generation of communication professionals and scholars will hone their skills of observation and interpretation – pointing not just toward better communication production, but better social understanding.
Professors will especially enjoy the opportunities for discussion this book provides, both through the essays and the «dialogue boxes» where college students provide responses to authors’ ideas.


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Part IV: Interpersonal Communication


Part IV Interpersonal Communication CHAPTER 17 “Don’t Open, Dead Inside”—External and Internal Noise in The Walking Dead Andrew Cole & Bob DuBois Shortly after Sheriff’s Deputy Rick Grimes wakes from a coma, he comes across a bold message spray painted on the hospital cafeteria doors. It reads: “DONT OPEN, DEAD INSIDE.” Until he encounters this blunt message, Rick staggers through the abandoned hospital and discovers that it is dark, soiled with blood, and littered with bullet holes. There is other evidence of chaos and disarray too, including a rotting corpse on a hallway floor. Even- tually, as Rick contemplates the stark message on the boarded-up, padlocked cafeteria doors, pale fingers creep out between the doors. Rick panics, then turns, runs, and finds a fire exit, from where he ventures out into the world. The message “don’t open, dead inside” could have a variety of meanings in different contexts. But once out in the world, Rick quickly learns the full and gloomy meaning of the message: the dead have risen, and now walk again, attacking the living. Basic models of the communication process typically include noise as a core component. Noise is a concept that is more complex than it sounds. In particular, recognizing and differentiating the two major forms of noise, ex- ternal and internal, can be tricky. When talking about noise in the context of communication studies, we do not mean simply environmental factors that disrupt sound. Instead, noise represents anything that complicates the com- position, delivery, and understanding...

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