Theories of Communication MCM 511
THEORY, PARADIGM AND MODEL (I)
In general, paradigm is a whole system of thinking. Paradigm is a set of propositions that explain how
the world is perceived it contains a world view a way of breaking down the complexity of the real
Paradigms are broad theoretical formulations. They set forth sets of postulates-assumptions that one can
choose to regard as descriptions of reality for the purpose of obtaining derived hypothesis. Such
hypotheses can then guide research on specific process and effects.
"A paradigm is a set of beliefs, values techniques which are shared by members of a scientific
community, and which acts as a guide or map dictating the kinds of problems scientist should address
and the types of explanation that are acceptable". (Kuhn, 1970)
So paradigms includes basic assumptions, the important questions to be answered or puzzles to be
solved , the research techniques to be used and examples of what good scientific research looks like. In
other words we can say paradigms are different ways of looking at world- the way ways to observe
measure and understand social reality.
There are three major paradigms
It is the oldest paradigm. Linked with the work of A.Comte and E.Durkeim
It defines reality as everything that can be perceived through the senses; other sources of knowledge are
unreliable. Reality is out there, independent of human consciousness. Reality is objective, rests on order
and is governed by strict, natural and unchangeable laws. It can be realized through experience. ll
members of society define reality in the same way, because they all share the same meanings.
Science is based on strict rules and procedures. Science is deductive, proceeding from general /abstract
to specific/ concrete. Science is based on universal causal laws which are used to explain concrete social
events and relationships.
Interpretative social science relates to the works of Vico, Dilthey, and Weber.
Interpretive theorists believe that reality is not `out there' but in the minds of the people. Reality is
internally experienced is socially constructed through interaction and interpreted through the actors and
is based on the definition people attach to it. Reality is not objective but subjective. The approach
employed is inductive-proceeding from the specific to the general and from the concrete to the abstract.
It is ideographic- it presents reality symbolically in a descriptive form
This was developed out of the work of Karl Marx and the critical, theorists and feminists. Critical
theorists see reality in a different manner. Reality is created not by nature but by the powerful people
who manipulate condition and brainwash others to perceive things the way they want them to, to serve
the needs of the powerful. They claim that reality is not what it appears to be, for it often does not
reflect the conflicts, tensions and contradictions that are eminent in society. The interest of the critical
theorists is to uncover these myths and illusion, to expose real structures and present reality as it is.
They propose that human beings have a great potential for creativity and adjustments. They are however
restricted and oppressed by social factors and conditions and exploited by their fellow men, who
convince them that their fate is correct and acceptable. Belief in such illusions creates a false
Theories of Communication MCM 511
consciousness and prevents people from fully realizing their potential. Critical theorists fight illusions
and the structures. It is not value-free.
What is a theory?
Sir Karl Popper, a philosopher instrumental in shaping 20th century views of knowledge, says :
"Theories are nets cast to catch what we call the world."
Popper was primarily interested in investigating the way in which we come to understand the natural
and physical world, but his view are also highly appropriate in a consideration of how we come to know
about the human and social world in which we live.
Nature of theory
Understanding the nature of theory in the scholarly world involves a consideration of two issues:
1. To develop a shared understanding of what a theory is. Although there is no one definition of theory,
but we will consider issues regarding the conceptualization of theory.
2. How theory functions as a vehicle toward enhancing our understanding of the social world.
As discussed earlier theories help us understand or explain phenomena we observe in the social world.
Theory is necessarily an abstraction of the social world. Theory is not the communicative behavior itself
but an abstract (a general idea not based on any particular real physical reality) set of ideas that help us
make sense of behavior. Everyone tries to make sense of their lives by developing and testing these
common sense theories. However people who make sense of communication as part of an academic
career are communication researchers and theorists.
We will explore the nature of theory looking at what we mean by theory in the scholarly world and by
looking at the foundation we bring to the development and use of theory. Theory must go beyond or
`look behind' phenomena in the social world.
There are two approaches to theory building:
From the general to particular; the process by which theory is tested
Deductive approach to theory building tends to give primacy to theory'. That is, abstract theories are
developed early after initial sensitizing observation, and then empirical observations are used to test
those theories. The researcher begins with a general idea or theory and asks a specific statement or
hypothesis, then tests the hypothesis with the collection of data. The movement is from the general
proposition to the specific instances seen in the research.
Inductive approach to theory building gives primacy to observation. FROM THE PARTICULAR TO
THE GENERAL; THE PROCESS BY WHICH THEORY IS GENERATED. In this approach,
theoretical abstractions are based on- or grounded in empirical observation. The scholars immerse
themselves in the situations and then come up to any conclusions. The researcher begins with a simple
research question and collects data that describe a particular case, and then develops a theory based
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