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Communication studies or communication sciences is an academic discipline that deals with processes of human communication and behavior. There are three types of communication: verbal, involving listening to a person to understand the meaning of a message; written, in which a message is read; and nonverbal communication involving observing a person and inferring meaning. The discipline encompasses a range of topics, from face-to-face conversation to mass media outlets, such as television broadcasting.
Communication studies shares with cultural studies an interest in how messages are interpreted through the political, cultural, economic, semiotic, hermeneutic, and social dimensions of their contexts. In political economics, communication studies examines how the politics of ownership affects content. Quantitative communication studies examines statistics in order to help substantiate claims.
Communication science began in earnest when students of Wilbur Schramm—the founder of the Institute for Communications Research at the University of Illinois—namely David Berlo, came to Michigan State University and founded the first General Communication Arts department in the early 1950s. Though there are other communication sciences departments elsewhere, Michigan State was the first department in the US that was dedicated solely to the study of communication sciences using a quantitative approach.
Communication studies integrates aspects of both social sciences and the humanities. As a social science, the discipline overlaps with sociology, psychology, anthropology, biology, political science, economics, and public policy. From a humanities perspective, communication is concerned with rhetoric and persuasion (traditional graduate programs in communication studies trace their history to the rhetoricians of Ancient Greece). Humanities approaches to communication often overlap with history, philosophy, English, and cultural studies.
Undergraduate curricula aim to prepare students to interrogate the nature of communication in society, and the development of communication as a specific field.
The National Communication Association (NCA) recognizes nine distinct but often overlapping sub-disciplines within the broader communication discipline: technology, critical-cultural, health, intercultural, interpersonal-small group, mass communication, organizational, political, rhetorical, and environmental communication. Students take courses in these subject areas. Other programs and courses often integrated in communication programs include journalism, film criticism, theatre, public relations, political science (e.g., political campaign strategies, public speaking, effects of media on elections), as well as radio, television, computer-mediated communication, film production, and new media.
With the early influence of federal institutional inquiries, notably the 1951 Massey Commission, which "investigated the overall state of culture in Canada," the study of communication in Canada has frequently focused on the development of a cohesive national culture, and on infrastructural empires of social and material circulation. Although influenced by the American Communication tradition and British Cultural Studies, Communication studies in Canada has been more directly oriented toward the state and the policy apparatus, for example the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission. Influential thinkers from the Canadian communication tradition include Harold Innis, Marshall McLuhan, Florian Sauvageau, Gertrude Robinson, Marc Raboy, Dallas Smythe, James R. Taylor, François Cooren, Gail Guthrie Valaskakis and George Grant.