Elections and Money

One thing is clear from the case of billionaire Michael Bloomberg who won the election for mayor of New York City after spending over $102 million ($175 per vote), outspending his opponent, City Comptroller William Thompson, Jr., 10 to 1—elections can be and are often bought. The media see to that. A candidate gets media time and media attention by buying the time, by spending more than anyone else. And that’s what wins the election; it’s as simple as that. And it’s scary and it’s frightening to think that our political leaders—who make decisions that affect our everyday lives--are not necessarily the best qualified, the most intelligent, the most credible, the most noble; they’re simply the richest.

So what do we tell our students about the relative importance of knowledge versus money? Clearly, if you want to be a politician in the United States money is the more important—at least that’s what got lots of others elected. But here’s the really frightening thing: we put these people in office. We did and do what the media tell us to do.

Yes, to paraphrase Pogo who said it a long time ago, we have met the enemy and it is us.


Eye Contact

While at a restaurant trying to signal the server that I would like the check, I noticed what I guess was always the case, that some servers walk through the restaurant looking at the floor while others (and I'm happy to say, the majority) scan their tables for signs that, perhaps, someone might want more water or bread or that the diners are ready to order or that someone might simply want to ask a question. Don’t we teach this in nonverbal communication? Don’t we teach this at culinary schools? Perhaps some enterprising graduate student will study eye gaze of servers in a restaurant and the relationship it bears to tips. Then, when it’s clear that eye contact is positively related to the size of the tip, servers will look at their diners, at least occasionally.


Nonverbal Communication: Scent

Here's a brief article on a soon-to-be-published article on scent and memory. In this study students examined scented and unscented pencils and a ten-point list of the pencil's attributes (i.e., its selling points). The study found that students better remembered (after 2 weeks) more of the attributes of the pencil when it was scented (3.27 out of the 10) than when it was unscented (.87 out of 10). The researcher, Aradhna Krishna of the University of Michigan, concludes: "What we're saying is, it's not just the smell that people remember. It's other things associated with the smell: the brand name, or the shape of the product's box."


The New Celebrity

Thumbing through the latest issue of TV Guide I see celebrity chef Giada DeLaurentiis and am reminded of the great popularity of cooking shows and the emergence of the chef as the new celebrity. It may not be time to dismiss Britney Spears and George Clooney but they sure have to make room for Bobby Flay, Rachel Ray, Paula Dean, Guy Fieri, Sandra Lee, Alton Brown, Ina Garten, Emeril Lagasse, and a host of others. What’s so surprising about this is that the chef has achieved celebrity status in a society that doesn’t cook! It reminds me of what Lazarsfeld and Merton (writing in 1948) called the narcotizing function of the mass media: “The individual reads accounts of issues and problems [or watches television cooking shows] and may even discuss alternative lines of action. But this rather intellectualized, rather remote connection with organized social action is not activity. The interested and informed citizen can congratulate himself on his lofty state of interest and information [for example, knowing the difference between a shiitake and chanterelle or bordelaise from Bolognese] and neglect to see that he has abstained from decision and action [say, buying uncooked food and actually cooking it].”
In short, it seems that watching television cooking shows (or subscribing to Everyday with Rachel Ray or buying a cookbook) and knowing the celebrity chefs (parasocially, of course) is an adequate substitute for cooking.



Here is a wonderful history of the use of the term communicology. I had titled the first 2 editions of Human Communication, Communicology but the term was not well understood at the time and the editor's decision to change the title prevailed. Perhaps it's time for another textbook to be titled Communicology--the study of human communication.

Leadership Styles

Here is an interesting discussion of leadership--perhaps a view that business students in communication courses will relate to more than the traditional systems we use in small group courses.