Communication Studies focuses on how people use the communicative process to generate meaning. From the face-to-face context of interpersonal communication to the rhetorical context of public communication to the mediated context of mass communication, Communication Studies examines how both oral and written messages, using verbal and nonverbal symbols, can unite and divide individuals and societies.
Communication Studies has ancient roots in the liberal arts: Aristotle’s definition of rhetoric as “the faculty of observing the available means of persuasion” and the classical rhetorical canons have provided means of thinking critically about communication for centuries. Rhetoric, grammar, and logic constituted the trivium, which together with the quadrivium formed the seven liberal arts during the Middle Ages. Building on these classical traditions are explorations of how people create meaning symbolically in a range of contexts, from how communication creates stages in the development of relationships to how humans construct understandings through the creation of narratives to how the historical development of new media has shaped ways of understanding the world.
The central concern of Communication Studies, then, is how the communicative process generates meaning, both intentionally and unintentionally. As such scholars as S.I. Hayakawa and Benjamin Whorf contend, communication creates culture and culture creates communication, in a mutually productive process. For Communication Studies, because the very act of communication is generative, not incidental, it is a fundamental way of thinking and an essential way of knowing and encountering the world, not something that is simply added on afterwards. Communication Studies examines the process by which people create meanings through messages. It is through communication that we establish, change, and maintain societies, as well as our own roles within them.