102 Communication Disciplinary Roots of Communication Research The importance of communication inhuman affairs was recognized at the dawn of scholarly inquiry, when Plato, Aristotle, and Isocrates undertook major treatises on its role in politics, the courts, and epistemology. Its importance is no less evident today in the renewed attention to communication processes recently undertaken by many social sciences, as they attempt to understand the impact of communication technologies on their own practices, as well as the effects on other individuals, their relationships, institutions, and society. Communication today is abroad discipline, including scholars from academic departments of Communication, Speech Communication, and Mass Communication, as well as groups in Information Systems, Library Science, Management, and Family Studies. Communication research employs a wide range of methodologies, including all types of quantitative and qualitative social scientific research methods, mathematical modeling, simulation, and rhetorical and discourse analysis. The field has also developed methods uniquely suited to its subject matter, such as content analysis, semantic network analysis, nonverbal communication analyses, and phase mapping for the study of communication processes overtime. Communication inquiries range from the development of general and abstract theories on how communication figures in social change, to middle-range research on topics such as the impact of the Internet on interpersonal relationships, to applied research on questions such as how communication promotes learning in both physical and virtual classrooms. Significant areas of communication research include interpersonal communication nonverbal communication persuasion and social influence group communication organizational communication communication networks mediated communication communication technology and media studies health communication family communication instructional communication legal communication communication and public policy The field of communication has important interdisciplinary connections as well. Communication scholars from discipline-based departments have con-
103 ducted major research projects with colleagues from the fields of psychology, sociology, information systems, journalism, medicine, political science, and linguistics. Some of these projects have brought multiple perspectives to bear on communication phenomena such as the impact of media on adolescent health. Communication scholars have contributed their unique view of social processes to phenomena centered in another field, for example, the analysis of the role of communication in urban decision-making. As the common currency of human life, communication is often an integrating factor in interdisciplinary inquiries. What distinguishes communication research from other, similar approaches to social behavior Often there is considerable overlap, and there is a healthy exchange between communication research scholarship and that of other disciplines. Yet, while communication outcomes are influenced by a host of psychological and sociological factors that set the stage for interaction (e.g., personality, goals, social skills, contextual and relational norms, the influences of these factors frequently pale in comparison to actual communication dynamics, once people commence interaction. For example, cognitive factors are likely to exert their strongest influence early in conversations and to diminish in importance as the interaction proceeds, as communicators adjust to ongoing conversational behavior. Thus, a focus on messages and patterns of messages is essential to understanding the consequences of human interaction and the relationship between what precedes and follows from it. Unlike most other social sciences, the field of communication has industries closely associated with it. The media and telecommunications industries — two of the most important and fastest growing sectors of the economy in the late 20th and early st centuries — have radically reshaped traditional patterns of social interaction, work, politics, and economic activity. They have contributed greatly to the increased pace of change and to the globalization that promise to be dominant themes of the st century. The interactions between industry and communication researchers suggest significant research questions and provide grounding for many subjects of inquiry. The discipline of communication — grounded in a rich and ever-expanding intellectual tradition, generating a wide range of disciplinary and interdisciplinary research, and engaged with major industries — is dedicated to addressing critical social needs and improving lives through basic and applied research.