“I’m majoring in Communication.”
“I’m studying Communication.”
“I’m in my third year as a Communication student.”
The number of times that I’ve been asked what I study is too many to count, and the number of times I’ve responded with one of the lines above is also too many to count. But, can anyone tell me what it means to study ‘Communication’?
What do most people think ‘Communication’ is?
When people hear that I study Communication, they think that means I know how humans talk to each other, I learn how to communicate better, and all things alike. Those are all fair guesses because when I imagine myself in their shoes, I think the same things.
In all honesty, it is not a bad question to ask. I ask the exact same thing to any student I meet because it’s a decent conversation starter. My issue, however, is that I cannot confidently or concisely explain to you what ‘Communication’ is. Believe me, I’ve tried understanding it myself, and it didn’t go well. Sounds just like all my course readings.
What SFU’s School of Communication really is
According to SFU’s School of Communication, students studying Communication will engage in “critical thinking, reading, analysis, and production” as a part of the program. Beyond that, students get to examine the different aspects of media and communication, from culture and ideology to history and technology, and their implications on real-world issues of economy, politics, and more.
While this sounds like a lovely and life-changing learning experience, what does that actually mean?
“Communication” vs. “Communications”
Before I jump into what I think it means to study Communication, I just want to note that there is a difference between “Communication” and “Communications” aside from one having an “s” on the end (and yes, a singular “s” changes everything).
My CMNS 201W instructor, Chris Jeschelnik, clarified the difference between the two in a very deep group office hours discussion. Communication, on one hand, focuses on how a message is communicated and interpreted and the meaning behind them. On the other hand, Communications with an s looks at the means through which that message is communicated. So, it is crucial to not mistake the two for each other.
This article by Master’s in Communcation summarizes Chris’ point well if you’re interested in a more elaborate explanation of this nuance.
But anyway, shoutout to Chris for that fun fact.
So, what do I think ‘Communication’ is?
After taking my handful of required Communication courses over the past two or so years, I think it is somewhat safe for me to say that ‘Communication’ is the study of how messages are created and understood by humans in different contexts.
I’m still not sure if that answers, or clarifies the answer to, my question of ‘Can anyone tell me what it means to study ‘Communication’?’ but I am definitely a few steps closer to having a full understanding of the topic.
If you had a particular definition or idea in mind, leave a comment and let me know. I’m interested to see different interpretations of Communication Studies.