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Ethnography of Communication

Donal Carbaugh


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What are the means of communication used by people when they conduct their everyday lives; and what meanings does this communication have for them? These are central questions guiding the ethnography of communication. The ethnography of communication is an approach, a perspective, and a method to and in the study of culturally distinctive means and meanings of communication. The approach has been used to produce hundreds of research reports about locally patterned practices of communication, and has focused attention primarily on the situated uses of language. It has also been productively applied to various other means and media of communication including oral and printed literature, broadcast media, writing systems, various gestural dynamics, silence, visual signs, the Internet, and so on. The approach is concerned with (1) the linguistic resources people use in context, not just grammar in the traditional sense, but the socially situated uses and meanings of words, their relations, and sequential forms of expression; (2) the various media used when communicating, and their comparative analysis, such as online “messaging” and how it compares to face-to-face messaging; (3) the way verbal and nonverbal signs create and reveal social codes of identity, relationships, emotions, place, and communication itself. Reports about these and other dynamics focus on particular ways a medium ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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