ERIC Number: ED375448
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1994-Feb
An Argument for the Use of Chaos Theory To Map the Complexity of Human Communication.
Keaten, James A.; And Others
Noting that the chance to utilize a new paradigm is an opportunity that rarely presents itself, this paper suggests that chaos theory and communication can be combined to help understand human communication. The paper begins by examining the complexity of human communication--that is, the internal and external factors that affect the complexity of communication processes. The paper then assesses the reductive nature of both quantitative and qualitative research paradigms, suggesting that both paradigms inadequately address complex systems. The paper next discusses the properties of chaos theory, noting that it is part of a scientific movement to understand complexity and move away from reductionism. The paper summarizes the concepts of seemingly random behavior, sensitivity to initial conditions (referred to as the "butterfly effect"), mixing in finite time, and underlying order known as a "strange attractor." The paper next suggests that chaotic dynamics, and attributes of such, can be identified in research generated to support social penetration theory. The paper also describes a set of experiments conducted by Marshall Scott Poole that demonstrated the complex and perhaps chaotic nature of communication phenomena. The paper concludes that while there are potential imitations and difficulties in merging chaos and communication, there is also ample opportunity to hypothesize and test exactly where and how chaos can be combined with communication. Contains 58 references, a figure illustrating four types of attractors, and two figures of data. (RS)
Publication Type: Speeches/Meeting Papers; Information Analyses; Opinion Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Western States Communication Association (San Jose, CA, February 23-27, 1994).