Sunday, February 16, 2014

Inconsistent Nurturing

***please note some viewers may find the video contained within this blog offensive.

Several questions arise when considering any new theory, even if that theory is just new to you, and not new in the sense that it is freshly created.

Today's theory is INT (Inconsistent Nurturing) as it applies to eating disorders, anorexia and bulimia.  For those unfamiliar with the theory, it basically says that the relationship within the mother daughter dyad as it involves communication is complex and "inconsistent" - that is, the mother, as nurturer and punisher, doesn't stick to one role, rather alternately reinforces the behavior and punishes the behavior.


INT theory uses family systems theory as a foundation.  This is where the first concern comes in.  The text this blog draws from continually uses the term "Normal Family". What exactly is a normal family and what systems in the family make it normal?  Is my family normal?  How about yours?  For "normal" families, which systems operate within these families, and why? 
INT uses research from 1978 to describe a normal family and the systems that make it normal.  These systems include a spousal relationship, a parent relationship, and a sibling relationship. 
Let's examine that:

26% of children under 21 in the U.S. today are in families headed by single parent households.
There were an estimated 399,546 children in foster care.
More families in the US have fewer children than before, and now 1/4 or more have only one child! 

No spousal relationships, parent relationships, or sibling relationships exist in these cases, and yet not all of these people develop disorders nor are they abnormal.  "Normal" families are changing.  That word, Normal...  it is inappropriate semantically. Norms changes over time. This US Census graph shows how family structures are changing over time...  so what is a normal family?  Is it acceptable to make claims based on a changeable foundation?

 Percentage of children ages 0–17 by presence of parents in household, 1980–2012

Eating Disorders:

INT focuses on the eating disorders of anorexia and bulimia, but is that the most relevant food problem/disorder facing the US today?  I am making the case here that INT is a critical theory because we want to solve the problem within the relationship to heal the illness of the afflicted person, and as such shouldn't this theory then be applied instead to the bigger problem of obesity as an eating disorder instead of anorexia and/or bulimia?  There are 313.9 million people in the US.  Up to 30 million people suffer anorexia and/or bulimia at some point during their lives (this doesn't mean there are that many all the time or even at one time or that it lasts forever etc).  That is less than ten percent of the population, even if all at once!  Obesity, on the other hand effects 36% of adults and nearly 20% of adolescents in the US, right this moment.
Although it isn't an accepted eating disorder, many cases of obesity could/should be considered eating disorders.  This theory, while confined to the two stated illnesses, could extend to obesity issues and awareness as well.  The inconsistent nurturing of a parent of an obese child shows up in their food choices.  The inconsistent nurturing of society towards obesity (i know it's a stretch, stay with me) are graphically noted in the following clip:

Ricky Gervais, who can be offensive points out that weight loss is applauded, but it seems to be a taboo to nurture fatness away.  Also, society doesn't know how to appropriately deal with this issue, so parents, who often take their cues from social norms are left adrift on how to socially acceptably handle the obesity of their offspring, and even themselves.

Surprises in this theory, for me personally, include the total discount of the social influences, the biological influences, the psychological influences etc that impact an illness such as an eating disorder.  Mentioned briefly is the impact of the media (which Ricky Gervais also mentions it in the above video) and how girls are inundated with Barbie and models and etc...  we now have a movement to make FAT BARBIE.  This is not okay, this is media, and while I understand that communication theorists can only study within their narrow field, I also believe that discounting outside factors is a mistake.

This is a problem people...  this is THE eating disorder critical theorists should be dealing with because obesity kills more people than all other eating disorders combined. 

Therefore, I maintain that the definition of eating disorder needs updating to include obesity.

Other Applications:

INT is used in a very specific manner, but could it be used elsewhere?  Are there complex communication patterns that occur and or inconsistent nurturing patterns that exist in family systems in other situations?  My answer is an emphatic yes.   Families in domestic violence situations, or who face the deaths of children, or traumas where the family is in dysfunction.  All of these situations could find INT applied in an effective manner,  The study itself (found here) often refers to the crossover between eating disorders and substance use, proving that it is applies elsewhere.

What's the Point:  Thus, the two weaknesses, or areas of concern for me are definitional and bring into question the validity of the theory itself.  Updated models and definitions could bring more veracity to the results found by researchers using INT.  Wider familial applications could and should be tested in order to more effectively help families in crisis.

Images this week were legally obtained within the copyright clause of fair use for educational properties.  Nah, just kidding, i clicked and copied them from:

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Is there such as thing as a "muted group" online?

There were muted groups in Germany in 1945.  

There were muted groups in the United States in 1959

There were muted groups in Rwanda in 1994


There is no doubt that muted groups have existed.  There are (always) some groups in a society that have more power than other groups.  Some voices are not heard, or historically have not been heard.

However, it is my belief that online 

(amongst users in the United States)  

there are no muted groups.

Let us start from the beginning, the videos above eloquently and emotionally give clues to what a muted group is, but for clarification a muted group is any collection of persons who are outside the dominant culture for one or a multitude of reasons.  In plain English, in the US, this means that if you are not a young (ish) Caucasian male of middle income who professes Christianity (dominant group) you are probably, in one way or another, what theorists would consider to be a member of a muted group.

Are you oppressed?  Poor?  Do you feel like you aren't heard?  Are you being put on a train car for your religion, or attacked with dogs because of your skin color?

Times have changed, but many argue oppression exists still....  I maintain that if oppression still exists in the US especially online (today) it is a matter of degree.

          *caveat: this article is about muted groups online, I am aware that some groups feel that they are currently oppressed or targeted by the government for the color of their skin or the partner in their bedroom.  This "real life" is not confronted here, only the online aspect of that speech, which i maintain is freely allowed online.

The Internet Revolution:

Do you have access to the internet at home?  What about on your mobile phone?  How about at the public library?  Do you have a Kindle, a tablet, a laptop, or a PC within sight of you right this moment?  Odds are, you probably do -since you are reading this online!

 That looks like this:        Non users have their reasons:            And age groups:

Considering the presented graphics (created with "magic" or rather Excel, using numbers provided by Joanna Stern on 26 SEP 2013 via Good Morning America  -  feel free to click the link to the article above) It is fair to say that a large portion of Americans have the ability to have a voice in the online world.  Of those few who said it was too costly, free internet is available to them in local libraries.  For those who said it was geographically unavailable, it was admitted that this is either temporary or reparable (by choice).  A final admission, 44% of respondents who said they didn't have internet said they had had friends or family look up information for them.

So far the facts of internet usage point toward most Americans (who so desire) have some form of access to the internet, even if only indirectly.  Nearly all have the ability to have their voice heard online, or at least to send their messages out into cyberspace.



The United States government recently attempted to mute the voices on the internet.  The response was immediate and loud.  From SOPA January 18th, 2012 was the largest online protest in history to stop the internet censorship bills, SOPA & PIPA. On January 20th, Congress shelved the bills indefinitely. If they return, we must be ready.  We, the denizens of the internet, wont be muted.

The Story of Aaron Swartz:


  Aaron Swartz, co-founder of the "front page of the internet" hanged himself in January of 2013.  An advocate of online privacy, he encouraged the free flow of knowledge and ideas online.  His desire to continue a free and open internet where there were no muted groups took unconventional turns.  To further clarify this statement, because it is so important:  Swartz committed suicide on January 11, after facing criminal charges for hacking millions of academic papers from JSTOR. Swartz was a staunch believer of internet freedom and access to information.  Anonymous is continuing its spate of revenge attacks to pay tribute.

If there are indeed muted groups online, there are voices - legions of them- fighting for free access, free voices, for no more muted groups online.  Aaron's suicide rocked the online community but also did something his imprisionment could never have accomplished.  He gave his life so that all voices could be heard. He martyred himself for the movement.


Aaron Swartz gave his life so that people like me ---> a working poor, middle aged woman, atheist, mother, non degree holding, former foster child, PERSON could use my voice any way I like online.  His sacrifice for this cause will not be forgotten nor will it be in vain.

This organization (anonymous) exists to keep YOUR voice on the internet.  The internet doesn't know your race (unless you tell it).  The internet doesn't know your gender (unless you post on /r/gonewild).  The internet doesn't know anything about you until you tell it who and what you are.  You have the ability to manage your privacy level on the internet, the only thing muting your voice is your own inaction.   There is no dominant culture on the internet because people have been vigilant about keeping it a free and open society.

All you need to do is GOOGLE.
           All you need to do is participate.
                            All you need to do is share your voice.
                       All you need to do is stand up...  
the internet belongs to us all.  People have paid the ultimate price to bring attention to the openness of this platform.  The only muted group on the internet is the group you aren't interested in visiting.  And in that case we are all muted because not everyone online talks to us, but we are also all dominant because there is somewhere online for everyone.

Conclusions: Muted group theory is appropriate in real world situations when/if a less powerful group is being oppressed by the more dominant group.  Online, due to the openness of it, but also due to the anonymity of the platform the only reason a voice is muted is if it isnt spoken to begin with.  People of all stripes find one another online: quilters, gamers, women, anime fans, pedophiles, suicide bombers, yops, ford lovers, WWII veterans, geologists, punks, cat lovers, everyone.

The internet is open 24/7 and it is waiting for you.

On second thought, let's not post an opinion to Reddit  'tis a silly place

As per is my wont, images found in this post (if not otherwise stated) were ruthlessly pirated on the high seas, okay they were clicked and copied from the information superhighway: 

NSA disclaimer:  This is a course exercise, please don't put me on a no fly lists!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Social Media - Be Who You Want To Be - or, using communication privacy management in an online enviornment

profile pic vs tagged pic

Who would you like to be today?

Today's social media gives people the ability to present whatever image they would like.  To be academic about it, we can call that self presentation of identity.  Our identity is that image we have of ourselves that we project to others as well as how they actually perceive us.  We project this image through the process of self presentation, (or so say scholars Wood and Smith).  It is my contention that people use privacy management techniques to present that identity.

In sharing information online we chose what pieces of information to make public and which to keep private.  This control of private information is the backbone of privacy management.  Who you are in the real world and who you are online don't need to be the same. Is your weight problematic for you?  Online you can keep that information from others by not sharing it, and not sharing photographs that show your weight.  How about a disability?  No mention of your wheelchair on your Facebook page.  How about the security code for your debit card or the results for your last HIV test?  You can choose to tell information that even your doctor can not.  This is because some things are private information and you get to chose what you share and what you don't (we can call this private boundaries).  In an online environment it is even more apparent because you don't even have to tell the truth about your physical appearance!

It is important to note that we want and expected our privacy to be respected.   There is a privacy rule and when that rule is violated  people generally experience boundary turbulence. places we perceive as private, where our privacy is nearly assured, such as Reddit, we can unload our reality (and those pieces of private information we need to speak of that may be taboo in the real world) in a stranger on the train type of way.  Reddit allows the user(s) to create accounts and post online in forums with other users.  The accounts need not be traceable back to a person.  Thus private information can be shared without fear of social reprisals.  However, what happens when you get outed?  Boundary turbulence can make a person sweat, as notorious internet troll Violentacrez can attest to.  The man behind the user name (pronounced Violent Acres) posted some of the most offensive content on the "front page of the internet" and when his privacy expectation was violated and his reddit activities spilled over into his real life he had to make adjustments to his public and private image/identity to manage the privacy violations.

The Wrap Up:

What is private information to you?  It isn't necessarily the same as private information for me however odds are we both manage our private information both in our real lives and our cyber lives.  If our privacy expectations  are violated we feel uncomfortable until we find a way to resolve it.  Online we can be as private or as open as we like...  we can be 6'3" tall or we can provide our banking information to a Nigerian prince, whatever we decide to do, it is all a part of communication privacy management and our self presentation of our identity.  

Just remember, what we share online stays online. 

Images copied without remorse from locations around the internet that include:

Friday, January 17, 2014

Scooby Doo meets Dr. Who! -or- Post Positivism and Interpretive frameworks of communication theory:

Multiple frameworks exist in communication theory, including post positivism and interpretive philosophies.  Today's blog post will relate modern (ish) television programs to these frameworks in an attempt to better understand the meaning and application of these philosophies. 


It occurs to me that before I dive into explaining why a character on a television program behaves in one manner or another, or rather why I think their behavior is an example of one framework or another it seems to me that I should explain what those frameworks are!
Post-positivism takes the position that we can learn about reality and gain knowledge by objectively studying it, applying the scientific method, using theory and hypothesis and altering our theories as they are proven/dis-proven.  We can search for and discover reality and knowledge.  It exists.  For my purposes, think of post-positivist philosophy as structural, with one thing leading to the next in a cause and effect manner. This is contrasted by interpretative theory, which uses less of the scientific method and more observation.  Instead of a testable hypothesis and surveys and math type data, the data is instead observed behavior such as one might see in an ethnographic study. Meaning is created by participants. April Vannini said interpretative theory is "concerned with understanding how individuals and groups create meaning in their everyday practices, communication, and lived experiences."


I am approaching the examples of these two philosophies in modern entertainment having already elsewhere established that Sherlock is a clear and obvious example of post positivism.  In Sherlock, knowledge exists and Sherlock finds it, deducing it from clues, some more subtle than most people would even notice.  Steven Moffat is the show runner for both Sherlock and Dr. Who. These are distinct programs with unique characters (see his discussion about the shows HERE) and while Sherlock is a post positivist program, Dr Who is set (instead) on an interpretive framework.

Dr Who is "timey-wimey" - things change, effect comes before cause, and it all revolves around the personalities of the characters.  The show's "feel" changes from regeneration to regeneration.  In modern Who, Christopher Eccelsten is a very different Doctor than either David Tennant or Matt Smith, although each was the Doctor.  The show fits the interpretative framework both with the meaning of onscreen content (it can change, time can be rewritten) and the meaning attached to the program; also these aren't always the meanings intended by Moffat. The fan base, so called "Whovians", create meaning amongst themselves.  Meaning is teased out in forums and chat rooms and over pints in pubs all around the world.  Whovians are participants in the story, and although they can't change what is seen on the screen, they can and do create their own meaning.  If nothing else, Dr Who is blatantly not post positivist because "Times change and so must I..."  literally.  Post positivism(s) step by step one thing leads to another doesn't always happen with Dr Who.  Steven Moffat tried to tie up all the loose ends in the final episode of Matt Smith's incarnation of the doctor shown Christmas 2013, but even with that, questions remain and meaning is flexible. 

As a fun/silly example of post positivism one must look no further than Saturday morning cartoons.  Scooby Doo and the gang rode around in the Mystery Machine solving mysteries by gathering clues.  There was the occasional "red herring" (which became an actual person in an incarnation of the show known as A Pup Named Scooby Doo) but generally there were a line of clues, where one thing led to another which led to another which led to the unmasking of the villain or the solving of the crime etc.  Therefore one could expect a certain structure to the show, there was no "wibbley wobbley timey wimey" nonsense, but instead a structured framework of clues that led to knowledge.  Post positivist gold!


Multiple frameworks exist for communication theory and modern entertainment can provide examples of each.  It is my feeling that Dr. Who is an example of a program that runs on an interpretive philosophy.  Meaning changes, the Doctor changes, time itself changes.  Scooby on the other hand is structured in such a way that at the end of the episode the gang will have three (usually) clues that solve the crime.  There is a definite post positivist step by step, link by link, clue by clue, path to knowledge that plays out in each episode.  Both the post positivist framework and the interpretative framework are valuable and legitimate philosophies of communication.  There exists within some aspects of humanity a non linear behavior that doesn't fit the step by step mold.  Meaning is created AND knowledge exists.

Images (in order of usage) stolen with complete disregard to copyright from:

Thursday, January 9, 2014

What it means to be a communication major, geo-comm:

What is Communication?

The simplest definition of communication is: the process of sending and receiving messages.  Usually this is between two people, but this definition can be expanded to be a single person (intra-personal communication) or even to non-human senders.  An example of the non human sender is a barking dog, "asking to be let out" or even, i would argue, the semantics of the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.  Geologist will ask, "what does the heightened levels of CO2 communicate to us about the state of our atmosphere?"  In these cases it can be seen that communication can occur with non human senders.  The earth itself can speak to us, our pets can communicate messages to us, we can talk within ourselves, we can receive messages from any number of sources.  

Advertisers send out messages exhorting us to buy buy buy.  Our significant others and our friends send out messages to us as well, "Come to the tavern!" they say; or "Hey honey, do you know where my favorite shirt is?"  All of this is communication.  Sometimes communication is unintentional, and in those cases I would argue it is still communication.  As an example, a person who has a handicap doesn't mean to communicate their physical differentness, but it is still communicated to me.  A more personal example:  I notice the slight limp of my spouse at the end of a long day as it gets more pronounced.  He doesn't want anyone to notice that he isn't completely well, but i see it and it tells me that he has overdone it, even when his words say, "I'm fine!"

Thus, communication exists all around us, in human and non human forms, on purpose and otherwise.  All of those messages make a lot of noise.  Being a proficient communicator enables a person to make their message heard in all of that noise as well as hear and interpret the messages that are coming at them.  An important part of receiving messages is being able to tell which messages are important and which are not.  Being a skilled communicator really helps a person safely disregard certain messages while attending to the important ones.  

What is geo-communication?

Geo-communication is a particular branch of geology that involves outreach, free choice learning, education, policy, and etc.  Geo-communication is the process of sending and receiving messages about the earth. This emerging field involves, well...  talking about rocks.  Geo-communication studies how we as scientists communicate the story of our earth to the general public.  The main goal of this study is to improve the way this communication occurs.  This then is not a discipline where study occurs just for the sake of study but has practical application.  How do we best communication to students how earth systems work?  How do we best communicate to children what a rock type is and what it means?  How do we reach politicians who hold the purse strings for tsunami research and evacuation?  How do geologists communicate to engineers the need for retrofitting buildings, or even the loads those buildings will have to tolerate in case of earthquake?  Studying how this communication is currently happening, applying theory to it, examining the effectiveness of it, and creating new ways for this communication to occur, as well as studying that new communication in an attempt to make the importance of the earths story more readily understood and the importance of the field of geology more accessible is the ultimate goal of this practical branch of communication and geology,

 Why do i study communication generally and geo-communication specifically?

When I was a little girl, my family lived in Washington state.  One morning, waiting for the church bus to arrive to take my sister and I to church, the sky to the east of us darkened dramatically, a plume of ash rich cloud arose and the loudest sound I had ever heard echoed across our small town of Kelso.  The mountain ripped apart and changed my life forever.  Years pass.  As an adult, life happened and I didn't continue past the completion of a high school education until i was 35 years old.  When my oldest son was finishing high school and my youngest was starting elementary I decided it was time to return to school; it was my turn.  I had a "fan girl" crush on the communication teacher and the next thing i knew i had taken all of his classes and earned an "Associates of Science: Communication" from Linn Benton Community College.  Transferring in to Oregon State University with a two year degree in communication, it seemed logical to continue in that field, but I really wanted a personal educational experience and I still loved my mountain.  Thus, geo-communication was right for me.  unfortunately geo-communication is an emerging discipline that OSU isn't truly keen on.  One earth science faculty member explained to me that OSU wasn't the right school for me because this isn't "what they do".  One liberal arts counselor explained to me that i couldn't be helped with my graduation information because they didn't know the science "stuff" and i should "go talk to those people."  I am nothing if not tenacious; when I find my niche.  I struggled and fought through; at the end of this term (winter 2014) I will have a Bachelor of Science with a transcript notation as a research/arts fellow.  I study communication in general because the process fascinates me, and geo-communication specifically because I want to do something meaningful with my education. 

My words can change my community and save lives.

The images/videos above were shamelessly looted from random internet locations including: