Tag Archives: communication

The Law of the Jungle, and what we can learn from it…

“NOW this is the law of the jungle, as old and as true as the sky,
And the wolf that shall keep it may prosper, but the wolf that shall break it must die.

As the creeper that girdles the tree trunk, the law runneth forward and back;
For the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.

Wash daily from nose tip to tail tip; drink deeply, but never too deep; And remember the night is for hunting and forget not the day is for sleep.

The jackal may follow the tiger, but, cub, when thy whiskers are grown,
Remember the wolf is a hunter—go forth and get food of thy own.

Keep peace with the lords of the jungle, the tiger, the panther, the bear;
And trouble not Hath I the Silent, and mock not the boar in his lair.

When pack meets with pack in the jungle, and neither will go from the trail,
Lie down till the leaders have spoken; it may be fair words shall prevail.

When ye fight with a wolf of the pack ye must fight him alone and afar,
Lest others take part in the quarrel and the pack is diminished by war.

—Rudyard Kipling (1865–1936)

Admittedly this was a favorite bedtime story of mine growing up, but as an adult I loo on it differently. It is a narrative for interaction with others, for what is any group organization or business but a pack of wolves. The difference in the packs is in their ethics and respect for other packs.
When we examine this through the R3 lens, this pretty clearly falls into the domain of the second R, respect. The way that this is laid out is in non-negotiable language. For example “the wolf that shall keep it may prosper, but the wolf that shall break it must die”. This speaks to the “rules of the game”, or the manner of doing business with others.
In today’s world, many forget or outright where never taught these rules, Take for example a business such as Wal Mart, who topically does great things and is a philanthropic giant. But if you look beyond it, this business does what Kipling would term as “drinking too deep”. Because it enjoys the profits of the local economy too deeply, in almost every occasion the local businesses are washed away.
However when we look at a different context, we see examples from the passage, which states, “go forth and get food of thy own”. This speaks to the inevitable journey that all humans undergo where they stop being dependent of their parents for support (which is accomplished with varying success sometimes!) and begin to support themselves.
This missive also speaks to things such as respect for all, as in the passage of the boar in its lair, as well as allowing negotiation to prevail in disputes as well as making sure that if you must have a confrontation with someone, it is wise to do so “alone and afar”, which is a wonderful comment on handling ones differences quietly and privately, lest ego become a factor and either party become intractable.
In closing, while Rudyard Kipling wrote a great many passages that we can all learn from, it is my belief that from an R3 perspective, there is none greater than the law of the jungle. The passage that I have included above is only an excerpt from the greater whole (as so many thins are), and I invite you to seek the full passages, which are located in Kipling’s second Jungle Book available at your local book store or online.

Honor among meme’s…

media monopoly

This simple photo recently crossed my Facebook feed. At first blush it wasn’t hard to believe, and it instantly created a visceral disgust for media companies. I assume this was its intended purpose. But then, in the spirit of respecting not only the message, but my own independence of thought, I decided to do some research on this and get “the straight facts” as best I could.

The first thing I did was an internet search for anything I could find on this meme (see my earlier post on mimetics) and found an article by Ashley Lutz here on BusinessInsider.com which states that meme’s like this are “missing some key transactions. GE does not own NBC (or Comcast or any media) anymore. So that 6th company is now Comcast. And Time Warner doesn’t own AOL, so Huffington Post isn’t affiliated with them.”

Far from going any deeper on this meme, or its corresponding article, I wanted to discuss the inaccuracy in a lot of social media that we often take for granted as soon as we see it. I assume (dangerous I know) that most people saw the initial meme and grunted an expletive about “big brother” and moved on, the impression of it stuck in a small corner of their heads.

Im no apologist for corporate media, and personally choose to get most of my information from multiple independent sources, but this is troubling. Much like much of the mainstream news these days, it seems that its become simply slamming ones opponent and promoting ones own ideas, rather than sitting down and finding middle ground on anything.

This meme was at best factually incorrect, and at worst an exaggerated lie seeking to validate someones point. My argument is that perhaps its time to spend less time yelling at our neighbors to think the way we do, and more time listening to other points of view, lest we learn something new.

Who are the journalists now?

After delving into an article by Jay Rosen entitled The Journalists Formerly Known as the Media: My Advice to the Next Generation, I found myself straining not to go down the rabbit hole of who is media. but after some deep thought on the subject, it occurred to me that the title itself isn’t the argument.

The concept of “I’m there, your not, let me tell you about it.” is a very prescient tool. This tells me that we are all journalists. Ever since one cave man poked another and pointed at the previously unseen mastodon herd, there have been “on the scene reporters” and this being said, the town crier of medieval Europe was a journalist.

when boiled down and concentrated, the phrase “we are legion”, is perfectly valid. There was a time when we looked to “professional journalists” and were content to let them bring us the news. But today most of us are unshackled from desks, and desktop computers. our phones carry more processing power than the entire apollo program and are no longer rotary and attached to the wall. I would argue that the term journalist, no longer implies a specific and rarified skill, but rather it is simply a descriptor for a degree title, because you have to call it something. The true sharing of information and reporting on current events is done by “we the people”.

Uncertainty Reduction as a Communication Theory…

For this post, I have chosen to explore the concept commonly referred to as the “Uncertainty Reduction Theory”. While there are a great many aspects and permutations of this theory, I believe that it can be effectively boiled down to the words of the text in saying “…when strangers meet, their primary concern is one of uncertainty reduction or increasing predictability about the behavior of both themselves and other in the interaction”.
This suggests that during an initial meeting the psyche of one or both individuals is primarily concerned with reducing the feeling of uncertainty and reaching a stage of predictability that will wrest control of the interaction as close to certainty as possible.
While this theory begs many interesting questions about the psychology of the human condition, it also seems to suggest several declarative factors inherent in all of us. One of these is that for a majority of humans, uncertainty is still a hard-wired problem for us, one that we instinctively seek to reduce whenever or wherever possible.
While I have no empirical evidence for this, other than my own opinion, it could be argued that the human aversion to uncertainty is an evolutionary holdover from our halcyon days as, if not a prey species, at the very least not the top of the local food chain. With natural predators and environmental factors, it can be argued that this led to almost an ingrained risk aversion unless absolutely necessary.
While this theory in its current incarnation is only thirty-eight years old, and however this theory may have begun, it can no longer be denied that it is an active fact and component of the vast majority of interpersonal communications.
Over the course of the nearly forty years since this theory was developed, its applications have multiplied into the realms of relationships as well as that of social media interaction. Its inception was originally an outgrowth of the “post-positivist” tradition, which espoused the belief that when there is a researcher and subject dynamic, one cannot help but influence the other.
Charles Berger and Richard Calabrese originally developed the uncertainty reduction theory, in 1975. It was originally developed as a means of explaining the frequent anxiety experienced by people during an initial encounter or meeting. During the development of this theory, it was divided into two sub sections, which are prediction and explanation.
Prediction describes the ability to forecast or assume the other parties behavioral and communicative choices and act accordingly prior to that choice being made. Explanation involves the ability to understand the message being shared and the motivations behind sharing it in an immediate manner.
Additionally our drive to use this theory, as it is stated, is created by one of three factors. First, anticipation of future interaction, which means that we know we will encounter the person again, therefore we deem it best to become familiar in order to avoid the discomfort of the initial meeting. Additionally, there is incentive value, no small thing among humans, which means that the other party has something that we want and therefore creating familiarity by reducing uncertainty will further that goal. Finally, there is the problem of deviance. This occurs when the subject acts in an off putting or different way than we have come to expect, either in dictation, or in overall message being delivered.
Berger also proposed a series of “axioms” tying uncertainty to the concept of relationship development. Primary among these is verbal communication. This is a fairly straightforward concept. Basically this states that during an initial interaction, the more you communicate with the other party verbally the more information is shared and therefore the amount of uncertainty goes down. Due to this as the uncertainty decreases the level of verbal communication will continue to increase.
Next comes the concept of nonverbal warmth. This is perhaps one of the most effective means of reducing uncertainty. Utilizing this “affiliate expressiveness,” allows one to convey a sense of comfort as well as sympathy which should in turn inspire a reciprocal action the other person involved, even extending to the idea of a group presentation.
Next comes the concept of information seeking. This is due in large part to the feeling of uncertainty stemming from the lack of actionable information. This leads to an increase in information seeking. When we begin to feel comfortable, we reach a stage where the search begins to decrease until it reaches a sustainable level for the relationship.
In addition to this is the concept of self-disclosure. This originates from the concept that high uncertainty makes people hesitant to disclose personal facts about themselves. But ones this disclosure has been made the uncertainty level drops significantly. Often times in situations where we are meeting someone new, we feel compelled to share facts about ourselves.
Another axiom is reciprocity. This more so than most is an integral part of uncertainty reduction. During initial encounters we often measure our self-disclosure, nonverbal warmth, and verbal communication in order to balance it to the amount being shared by the other party, hence a reciprocal cycle is created. We are often careful not to “over share” or “under share” with another person so that we can feel as if we have a balanced relationship.
In addition to reciprocity, the concept of similarity is also a key driving force in communications and the reduction of uncertainty. We instinctively seek out those who exhibit similar traits to us. We may frame this by many factors not limited to gender, race, economic status, or athletic allegiance. This is done to ensure that there is a base starting point for the interaction therefore facilitating its speedy development.
In direct opposition to the old adage “familiarity breeds contempt”, the axiom of liking is another in this string that reduces the uncertainty of interactions. This concept is fairly straight forwards in the sense that you will be less uncertain and enjoy more a conversation or communication with someone that you like.
Finally, the concept of shared networks closely mirrors and evinces the concept of similarity. This once again shows that when the two parties have common ground the uncertainty is therefore reduced
During the study of human communication, one cannot help but apply this principal in many ways. Whether it stems from the philosophical bend of postempiricism which gave rise to it, or the application of its effects upon social media based communication, one doesn’t need to look to hard to see uncertainty reduction in action.
From an academic perspective, this is usually alleviated through the use of “ice-breaking” exercises, which shatters the uncertainty through forced acclimation. This is also seen in other realms as well. During military training, total strangers are often observed to building bonds and eliminate uncertainty in as little as an hour through forced verbal communication, shared networks, as well as the reciprocity built into training.
In another example of how this theory is applied, however intentionally or unintentionally, during a study it was shown that a marked percentage of arrested persons waived their Miranda rights, specifically the right to remain silent, in order to appear innocent and “make the officer like them”.
This is a startling application of this theory in action. The study goes on to show that in addition to waiving rights, there are also marked percentage increases of false confessions made by detained individuals when this theory is applied through the Reid interrogation method. This method seeks to exploit the feeling of uncertainty to influence the individual to seek comfort by appeasing the law enforcement officer by confessing.
Another example is the work done by Marjolin Antheunis on the application of uncertainty in a social media environment where nonverbal cues are absent.
During this study, subjects were evaluated while using computer mediated communication methods. In various stages, they used text only, visual communication though a web cam, and face-to-face communication to evaluate the differences.
This study indicated that the act of using axioms common to the uncertainty reduction principal, specifically question asking and self disclosure, were more frequently used during digital communication than they were during face to face encounters.
It is my belief that the usefulness of this theory is incontrovertible. Not simply from a communications viewpoint, but an evolutionary one. This speaks to how we as a species face the new and the uncertain. Additionally form a philosophical lens it at least beings to address why we would want to in the first place.
In order to proliferate our species we are required to reproduce. Statistically speaking the vast majority of that is going to occur with persons outside of our social group at one point or another. This demands that we equip ourselves with the skills to address this interaction. It is a biological imperative that we branch out, and grow beyond our current situation. And those among us who best evince this characteristic will in short order propel themselves to success over those who do not.
While holding no empirical evidence of this, I submit that what separated the early Neanderthal from Homo erectus may well have been the ability to socially interact for the betterment of the species. Fit is my belief that any species that cannot overcome the simple yet sometimes overwhelming hurdle of social interaction required for the building of pair bonds and eventually offspring, is not long for the world we find ourselves in.