The Department of Communication Studies faculty and curriculum is primarily organized into the three areas of Interpersonal, Organizational, and Rhetoric and Language. Across those areas and in connection with other departments and programs in the University, we research, teach, and collaborate on a wide range of research interests. Our most prominent are:
The Action Research and Community Engagement group focuses on the conscious effort to marry university intellect with community problems and opportunities. Whether operating in interpersonal, corporate, government, social, non profit or educational venues, those interested in Action Research and Community Engagement believe that, since its inception, the discipline of communication has been concerned with generating action, thus requiring scholars and practitioners to integrate theory, practice and production.
Agency concerns basic capacities to bring about outcomes in the world. Agency signals the presence, autonomy, and impacts of persons but can apply as well to other creatures and forces. The autonomy of individual persons and other entities is also invoked when we speak of “identity.” A major organizing concept of the modern world, identity is at once inescapable and elusive. As interrelated yet distinct concepts, agency and identity apply to every level of analysis in communication and the structure of society.
Individuals’ thoughts and feelings are tied inherently to their communication. The cognitions people have and the emotions they feel both affect, and are affected by, social interaction. Our research examines cognition and emotion from a variety of theoretical perspectives. We use qualitative and quantitative methods to study cognitive structures and processes, lay theories of cognition and emotion, different types of emotions, and the thoughts that people have about their own and others’ affective experiences. Our recent work looks at the associations between communication and both cognition and emotion in a variety of contexts ranging from the family to the workplace and examines cognition and emotion as conveyed via face-to-face and virtual interactions.
Faculty and students in the Communication Technology Cluster study: organizational meetings, virtual teams, newcomer communication, diffusion of new technology, combinations of ICTs, high tech organizations, uses and effects of recreational media, knowledge workers, online health information, crisis communication, romantic relationships, social networking, e-science and cyberinfrastructure, mobile communication, telework, and time-space compression. More specific examples of the technologies we study are: Smartphones (BlackBerries, iPhones), Blogs, Video Games, Email, Facebook, Instant Messaging, Intranets, Microsoft PowerPoint, Second Life, To-Do Lists, Twitter, Webconferencing, Websites, and the ever important Face-to-Face Communication!
This interest area focuses on how people engage in conflict and cooperation communication as social movements, organizing structures and personal interactions. We have close ties to the Graduate Portfolio Program in Dispute Resolution, which includes faculty and students from most of the colleges and schools at the University http://www.utexas.edu/law/academics/centers/cppdr/portfolio/.
Other activities and the services of the Conflict Resolution Center are described here: http://www.utpcr.org.
The symbolic processes of communication relate to how people experience health and wellness, physical and mental illnesses, and the human body. Communication among family members, friends, co-workers, physicians, nurses, and others influences well-being at individual and group levels; in turn, health conditions have implications for communicative practices.
Research questions regarding health communication include how and why people talk about health and illness, how organizations structure and deliver care, how health information is conveyed via new technologies, and how societies construct policies and discourses about illness, health, and healing.
One of the strengths of the Department of Communication Studies and The University of Texas is a productive cluster of faculty members and graduate students who study human language in contexts of social interaction and cognition. Faculty in the Department are particularly interested in the roots of conceptual systems and grammar in embodied action and experience, in the ways in which language shapes cognitive processes, how it impacts political life and voting decisions, and how it combines with gesture and other communication modalities in everyday interaction. We use a variety of methods to study language, including corpus analysis, discourse analysis, ﬁlming social interaction, laboratory experiments, and ﬁeld research in the local community and around the world. If you have an interest in language research, let's talk about it!
Some faculty members in the Department are engaged in research and teach courses on the uses and relationships of different communication modalities, including speech, gesture, gaze, and facial displays (nonverbal communication). They have studied communication among the deaf as well as interaction among blind children. And they conduct research on ways in which artifacts (graphic signs, technologies, and other material objects) are used in face-to-face communication and how people in interaction make use of the situated ecology of the environment (e.g. the shop-ﬂoor, the classroom, the ofﬁce).
This interest group focuses on how narratives serve as a type of communication that provides context, meaning, and interest to listeners and speakers. Narrative and narratology (the science and theory of narrative) have currency because they account for multiple speakers and listeners, surprising sequences and voices, and the opportunity to edit when a narrative begins and ends.
Our thoughts and actions are influenced by other people, whether we are passively observing their behavior or actively complying with their requests. Persuasion is a form of social influence in which an audience is intentionally encouraged to adopt an idea, attitude, or course of action by symbolic means. We investigate communication’s critical role in persuasion and social influence processes, from the way influential messages are composed to the technologies that disseminate them and the effects they have on various audiences. Recent research in this area has examined personal branding, deceptive appeals in advertising and argumentation, linguistic persuasion devices, media selective exposure, priming in virtual environments, and the effectiveness of advertising placed in video games.
In political communication, we are broadly interested in the relationship between politics and citizens and the communication modes that connect these groups to each other. We examine how these forces interact with each other and affect one another. Scholars in this area use many different methods, from quantitative to rhetorical approaches.
Relational communication encompasses communication processes in personal relationships such as romantic relationships, family relationships, and friendships. Using both quantitative and qualitative methods as well as variety of theoretical perspectives, our research broadly examines the expression and interpretation of messages in personal relationships surrounding everyday interactions as well as significant relational events. We assess the role of communication in developing, maintaining, and dissolving relationships, how communication impacts partners and their relationships, and how to improve relational quality or individual well-being through communication. Recent topics examined include conflict mediation, relational standards, relational uncertainty in dating relationships, and communication environments in families.
In rhetorical, critical, and cultural studies we are interested in the management of power and influence in broad social structures. We rely on theories and methods that critique existing cultural formations, explain how such formations are contested, and imagine new ones. We attend to popular culture and political discourse, through multiple forms of critique.
Those who study the rhetorical tradition explore the inherent connection between rhetoric and the human tradition. The rhetorical tradition is concerned with how people throughout history conceive the nature, scope and function of rhetoric: how the theory, practice, and critique of rhetoric has been intertwined with, constrained by and impacts people’s views about government, citizenship, good and evil, and the life worth living. Related topics: the relationship of rhetoric to other disciplines, including—but not restricted to—science, philosophy, ethics, literature, history, aesthetics, religion, politics, etc. Scholar-teachers of the rhetorical tradition study a diversity of views within the continuity of the human condition.
The areas of study known as rhetoric and philosophy have a contentious history stretching back thousands of years. Yet, many of the issues they engage are either complementary or identical. Those studying rhetoric and philosophy engage in a synthetic study of human knowledge, value, and action in a way different from those scholars working in the fields of rhetoric or philosophy proper. Methods, scholarly sources, and issues often reflect the hybrid and synthetic nature of those working in the nexus between philosophy and rhetoric.