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Speaking Into The Air: Dialogue And Dissemination

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The concept of communication “took its current shape” (37) back in the nineteenth century. When discussing and reading Plato’s “Phaedrus” two different interpretations of communication, dialogue, and dissemination are very thoroughly discussed. Both of which have persisted and are common in today’s society. Dialogue can be viewed as being a direct and conventional form of communication while dissemination involves the transmission of information and is characterized by showing, telling, and even directing. Dissemination also occurs in group situations and is relatively one-sided. (33). Socrates never wrote anything down; he is known to have been philosophically opposed to writing. He believed it is a dangerous media and that dialogue is personal, cognitive and uses full body gestures to express how we feel. Plato’s “Socrates” sketched an ideal of communication that retains force to this day: “souls intertwined in reciprocity” (43).

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The intertwining can be defined as more than just the melding of minds but also bodily beauty. “Socrates” gives the example of two beings who are not only attracted towards each other because of their minds but also their physical beauty was pulling them closer together. Being able to communicate on an equivalent intellectual level is crucial, but communication can reach its full potential between two people when they feel relaxed and comfortable with the other (44). ‘To write is to broadcast; to teach via dialectic is to implant in a more durable medium,’ i. e. , the soul (48). “Socrates” discusses his concerns surrounding the evolution in communication, he believes writing disembodies thought and allows the many to read what was intended for the few (37). In the past, people said that cinema, radio, and photography would be what put an end to dialogue. Similarly, people complain about the same concept to this day; saying that technologies such as computers and cell phones have significantly reduced our desire to engage in face-to-face communication. While communication can be looked at as being face-to-face and in person, the Gospels display dissemination as a form of broadcasting communication. The first parable in which Jesus is represented, a sower throws seeds everywhere so that they land on all kinds of ground. Some seeds sprout quickly while others are scorched by the sun or eaten by birds. Jesus concludes by saying Those who have ears to hear, let them hear! Leaving audiences with different interpretations and therefore introducing dissemination (51).

Dissemination or one-way communication can be thought of, in today’s world, as mass media and mass culture. A television or radio are examples of dissemination as you are unable to communicate back, you are just listening and being told. With dialogue, you’re given the opportunity to ask questions and have a discussion. Jesus, on the other hand, is indifferent to who gets the message; he didn’t take questions, he shared the word of god and gave the people to chance to reflect on or refute the statement. This concept being the polar opposite of Socrates who is elitist and more concerned with a single individual receiving the message and ensuring that that individual understands it completely. ‘The motto of communication theory ought to be: Dialogue with the self, dissemination with the other- that is, treat yourself like an other and the other like a self’ (57).

The goal is to find common ground between dialogue and dissemination, an analogy that can be used here is the case of gift giving. A gift is always hovering between unprovoked generosity (one-way) and the call for a later return gift (reciprocal) (58). You do not give a gift in the hopes of getting one back because that would more commonly be seen as selling something. In sum, although reciprocity is ideal, its insufficient (61) and there is no indignity paradox in one-way communication (62). Mass communication is not a bad thing, but there does need to be a balance of one-on-one discussion that goes along with it. Nonetheless, for Socrates, dialogue (fertile coupling) is the norm and dissemination (spilled seed) is the deviation (49).

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