Transmission and dialogue in the problematic of communication
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The term dialogue is a tantalising synonym for “communication”, and is often considered more “communicative” than transmission. In fact, we have come to refer to transmission and dialogue paradigms at a time when the current popularity of the latter lies partly in its ability to represent all human contact. The theory of dialogue draws extensively on Buber and Bakhtin, from which it is identified with positive terms such as engagement and interaction. Transmission is not only positioned in opposition to dialogue, but in being imagined as “vertical” it is made to represent power, domination and monologue. Hence it is generally treated negatively in communication scholarship. This article reconsiders dialogue and transmission in terms of communication problematics, arguing that each term draws its sense less from essentialist meanings than from the two epistemological fields – rationalism and expressivism – that constitute modernity, and which periodically hold influence over the kinds of questions that may be asked in the discipline. The formation of cultural studies serves to illustrate how communication can be historicised in a manner that rehabilitates transmission by drawing attention to the term as partly constitutive of the field.