Study of Communication

The Communication discipline is both one of the oldest and one of the newest academic disciplines. Its roots go back to ancient Greece, when rhetoric--the study of discovering and using "the available means of persuasion"--was an important part of the citizenry's education. The study of rhetoric led to the development of the five canons of rhetoric, or the five minor arts that made the major art: invention, disposition, style, memory, and delivery. Classical rhetoric emphasized the need for a student of the art to become familiar with logic, human psychology, principles of language, literature, and performance. The study of rhetoric continued into the Roman era and beyond, when it was one of the original seven liberal arts considered necessary for a good education. Interest in the study of rhetoric--including public address, argumentation, and persuasion--was renewed early in the 20th century and has continued to this day.

In the 20th century the discipline expanded its focus to include oral interpretation, interpersonal communication, small group communication, and mass communication. Scholars noted that, as important as public speaking is, there are other forms of human communication that are also important and deserving of study. Now the discipline also encompasses intercultural communication, gender and communication, organizational communication, performance studies, educational communication, family communication, health communication, political communication, and the study of communication in other specific contexts.

People who are not completely familiar with the Communication discipline often think it is only concerned with public speaking -- that all we do is teach students to speak in front of an audience. That impression may come from the tradition created by over 2500 years of the study of rhetoric, or from a common exposure to the discipline in a basic public speaking class. While public speaking is a traditional and important starting point for understanding the discipline, both nationally and at Humboldt there is much more to the study of Communication. Often named Speech Communication or Communication Studies, departments in our discipline across the country are concerned both with improving students' abilities to communicate in a variety of ways as well as with expanding knowledge of how people communicate and understanding the role communication plays in shaping lives.

Some Departments of Communication study Mass Communication, Radio and Television Broadcasting, Journalism, Public Relations, and Advertising. At Humboldt the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication studies those topics.