Volume 5, Issue 3 - June 2010Print | Email

Stand by Me: Helping Bullied Victims

photo-bullyBullying is a serious social problem in many countries. According to the Indicators of School Crime and Safety 2009 Report, 25 to 30% of students aged 12 to 18 in the U.S. have been bullied—physically, verbally, or relationally—at school. Similarly, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of Japanreported that more than 20,000 cases of bullying were reported in 2007. Bullying is also reported in one out of every four companies in the U.S. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, not only employees but customers and supervisors can be targets of bullying at the workplace as well. Victims abound, and they need help.
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Cross Current

Examining Communication

Our communication practices are among the most human of all human behavior. We use words to create messages, and we create meanings from those messages. Humans are social creatures, making the need to communicate essential to our survival, development, and happiness. Too often, communication is thought of as just something we do. However, to fully appreciate communication, let's examine it more closely.
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Putting on an Identity

Photo - African-American Male Showing Off ClothesTake a look at what you are wearing right now. Go ahead—I'll wait. Now ask yourself what you are trying to communicate with this ensemble. Although we dress ourselves every day, we often do not stop to think about the communicative aspects of clothing. Through our clothing choices we often communicate subtle (and not so subtle) cues of race, class, and gender. All of these can be viewed under the umbrella idea of culture.

It is useful to think of human interaction from a dramatistic perspective and consider how people continually perform roles. As with any drama, costumes are an integral part of the performance. This is often apparent when someone goes against commonly held views of how one should present him or herself. For example, my students are often surprised by how I dress because I do not look like a stereotypical professor. When I teach I wear a button down shirt and shorts. I do this for two reasons. The first reason is for comfort. The second reason is to decrease the psychological distance between me and my students. I teach courses that grapple with material that is often difficult for students to understand. By dressing in a way that is more relaxed, I attempt to foster an environment in which experimentation and mistakes are tolerated. I also recognize that there is a difference of power between me and my students that I wish to diminish.  

There are other ways that people dress strategically. For example, when applying for my position, I wore a suit and tie because I had to look the part of a job applicant. When my students go out on Friday night, they are dressed to look as attractive as possible, accentuating certain desirable features while downplaying others. Yet in all of these situations, there are unspoken constraints of what is acceptable to wear in each situation. Examining these assumptions can illuminate deeply-held, often invisible cultural norms.


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Communicators Speak

Listen to how these communication scholars apply their research to various societal issues.
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Cheerleading and the Meaning of Spirit

Photo - Male and Female Cheerleaders"Ready. Okay.” Anyone familiar with American cheerleading is likely familiar with the idea of spirit. Because the cheerleader is a longstanding icon of American femininity, spirit communicates ideas about how young women should behave and express emotion in public life. However, cheerleading has changed, growing more athletic and competitive over time (consider the film Bring It On). As a result, more boys and young men are getting involved. What, then, is the meaning of spirit in this new context?
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Sophisticated Subversion in Hate Group Websites

Photo - Keyboard with Red Enter Button Labeled DestroyExtremist. Terrorist. Hate. In the years following 9/11, we've become increasingly attuned to the messages and actions of groups who bear these labels. However, the attention toward domestic extremist groups has been less prominent--that is, until recently. Last year, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported that the number of hate groups operating in the United States has increased by 54% since 2000 and continues to rise. This begs the question: How are these groups recruiting members?
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Professional Communicators Face Unique Challenges

As graduates search for jobs in communication and public relations, many are likely applying for jobs in both government and for-profit organizations. Most are probably not considering how different the professional communicator's role would be in one sector as compared to the other. However, a recent survey has found that communicators who work in government experience different obstacles and opportunities in their day-to-day work than their counterparts working for private corporations.
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Doing Good by Communicating Well

Partnerships between corporate and nonprofit entities are producing powerhouse messages that simultaneously reach into consumers' hearts and wallets. Product packaging and corporate messages, dressed up in the promise of a better tomorrow, are on display almost everywhere Americans shop, play, and work. For example, consumers can drink from a Diet Coke can that features the American Heart Association's little red dress. Movie theater cashiers can accept contributions to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital as they ply moviegoers with popcorn, candy, and soda. Even grocery aisles sing of a friendlier world with Starbucks' and Green Mountain Coffee's fair-trade certification.
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