Mary on Social Interaction

From Ken Hacker [930415]

Mary, you are right that we agree upon the importance of social interaction
to hum existence and adaptation. You are also correct about communication
scientists looking for generalizations about communication behaviors. Our
approach is inductive and there are now about three formal communication
theories: Action Assembly Theory (Greene), Coordinated Management of
Meaning (Pearce and Cronen), and Uncertain Reduction Theory (Berger and
Calabrese). I think that almost all of us who study human communication
agree that individual control is essential to human behavior. Where we
diverge is on how important control is to explaining the set of human
behaviors we call communication. This set of behaviors included perception
and control but also co-active behaviors such as negotiated frames of
reference, transacted rules for interaction, and guidlines for reaching
conclusions and taking certain actions we call plans.

In other words, social interaction involves a minimum of 2 control systems
which do not simply talk at each other or work independent of each other.
As two people work with each other in what we call communication, they
form a relationship. This relationship is nonsummative, a fundamental
property of any system and human relationships are a type of system. The
goals of a dyadic system are negotiated by the two communicators. We have
found quite successfully in our discipline that a major reason why
marriages do not work is that power is not negotiated and that when it is,
issues dominance and submission become less important. In other words,
social interaction, by definition, involves involves a working out of
control similarities and differences, but also the creation of co-dependent
or co-operating set of references that may or may not be those held by
either of the individuals.

You say that the model of control for individuals can apply from the simplest
to the most complex system. This makes sense intuitively, but how can
principles of control systems which fit one person be applied to groups,
organizations or societies. I remember Bill saying months ago, that PCT
cannot fit an organization in toto. Yes, it can explain individuals within
the organization, but again, the organization as a whole has its own dynamics.
We cannot, for example, explaint the reliance on downsizing by modern
corporations, by simply explaining the behaviors of CEOs or employees.
Corporate decisions invovle many levels of system adaptation and disturbances
come from other large systems like competitors, market forces, etc.

You ask a great questions about whether the study of social interaction, i.e.
human communication, is about what is going on in between people. The
answer is NO, it is not the in-between spaces. It is the co-operation
of the communicators AND the control systems of each communicator. The model
of how individuals are organized DOES apply, but it is half of the picture --
the other half is how the individual systems and the way they are organized
use each other in a Wiener sense. Individuals may not share "feeback" as
I guess I originally sounded like I was saying, but it is known that individual
s generate more output to gain more input which in turn become more feedback
in the control systems sense.

I see dyadic interaction as related to control in the following manner:


          input | e fb ^ output
                V e |
          control system 1 < ---> control system 2
                > e fb ^-4
                V e | input
                output -------e-------->------

fb = feeback (output from control system back to itself as it send output
     to other system.

In this view, social interaction is used to generate more feedback, which I
acknowledge in internally produced. Thus, individual thinking and comparing
of perceptual signals to reference signals is changed as there are more
perceptual signals and the communicators play with the kinds of quantities
of perceptual signals there are. This is why we tell children to pick
good friends instead of bad ones, why employees want information about
their job performance, why those of us on this net find all of this so much
fun. We never just think and then communicate as some way of sending
out thoughts. Instead we think, send, receive, interact, and think some
more. What makes social interaction qualitiatively different then, is that
people co-control as they control. KEN