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Communication Theories to Practice - Through a Skydiving Lense

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Submitted By danuki
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In order to fully comprehend the importance of communication on a day-to-day basis, it is important to apply theory to practice. In this instance, communication theories will be analyzed through an Extreme Sports-lens. When executing a perilous task, communication is at its uttermost importance and the way we communicate can convey a vast array of connotations, which could be the difference between life and death. A good example of such a task is skydiving and therefore, this will be the lens to aid in this essay. The overall process of skydiving is long and drawn out with multiple stages of communication practices, ranging from the time of booking to landing on the right spot. Thus, this essay will break down each stage (booking, transportation, payment, transit to airport, equipment, taking off, jumping, landing) and also the different communication stages (group, individual, indirect, advertising, denotative, non-verbal communication). In extension, this analysis will aid in one’s understanding of communication on a regular basis, based on theories from a multitude of authors from different times and places.

The process involved in making the booking for such an activity is where two people must collaborate to achieve an equal outcome. In simple terms, employees and the organization they work for want to sell their product, and the consumer want to buy it. In order to successfully obtain this goal there are multiple factors; including advertising, making your product available and confirming the purchase.
In modern day society advertisements are often over-looked, explained by Berger as ‘seeing comes before words’ (1972 pp 7), which in this case relates to society being exposed to these advertisements. Individuals already recognize when there is something they would be interested in and when there is not, hence over-looking a vast majority of advertisements today. With this observation in mind, organizations with a specific product (such as a Skydiving company) will have to try multiple tactics before succeeding, since citizens who are not interested in extreme sports would not actively look for information about it. Communication, according to Castells, is defined by the sharing of connotations through mutual substitution of information (2009 pp 54), and since this exchange is being overlooked in the public sphere, this term may have to be redefined.
As stated multiple times before, advertising is a difficult stage of communication for organizations, but when it comes to purchasing products the most challenging area is making your product readily available. Like with most events you have to book in advance, there is an immense quantity of factors the bookie have to consider before the order is allowed to go through. Communication on this level is accredited as a primary method of explanation (Deetz in Craig, 1994 pp 126), defining this communicative incident potentially limited as this questions whether or not technology should be considered a reliable communicative medium. The factors being, for example, weather conditions which are measured with the aid of technology.

Since extreme sports are called extreme for a reason, there is often quite the distance to travel to execute them and thus will the customer be forced to either use public transport or drive to the location himself. This causes further communication exercise with the use of road signs, maps of train and bus routes etc.
Arriving at the location of the activity, the organization will strategically have placed advertisements about additional packages, such as “Photo & DVD” around the front doors and around the common building. By doing this, the organization disagrees with Mothersbaugh, Huhmann and Franke who believe that the advertised message should not be stated outright, but instead only be implied (cited in McQuarrie & Phillips 2005 pp 8; 2002), which is an original idea seeing as advertising today is mostly about which company and brand can produce the most controversial advertisements. It is well recognized that graphic elements in advertisements, such as color and design, can influence a variety of advertising outcomes (cited in McQuarrie & Phillips 2005; Finn (1988); Rossiter & Percy, 1983 pp 8). Supporting this argument, McQuarrie and Phillips state that the universal demands suggest that demonstrated indirect demands may benefit from a noticeable advantage issued on an alteration in how the potential customers perceive them (2005 pp 8). The posters and general advertisements all show individuals who are smiling whilst jumping out of an airplane, with catch phrases lining the edges, which will prompt feelings inaugurating a fortunate confidential moment, conveying messages of enjoyment to; triggering an adrenaline rush, breaking down the act of indirect demands, thus associating with Jakobson’s model (Lacey 1998 pp 6). This strategy of advertising can be misleading, where some people find enjoyment in this sort of activity, others may not. This way, communication combines semiotics and culture to create a part of an organized regulation. Eco agrees with this and claims that if a piece cannot be used to tell a lie, it cannot be used to tell the truth, further stating that semiotics and culture are both responsible for the implication of answering for our opinions (1976 pp 7).

There is usually a long waiting time between filling in the paperwork and doing the jump. This serves two purposes; safety and suspense. As stated before, there are multiple factors involved, including weather conditions that can change at any minute. Leaving people to their own before they are about to throw themselves out of an airplane is also a good safety line, seeing as some people would actually change their mind once they are up in the air.
The equipment never goes on before transit, seeing as this would make people even more uncomfortable than they already are. There are more signs on the back of the equipment stating how dangerous it would be to touch and pull when you are not instructed to, these signs have been put there for a reason (Lacey, 1998 pp 20) and redundant information in situations like this only serve one purpose, safety.
Transit in itself to the airport usually takes a while, which also gives the jumpers some time to get to know the other people doing the jump with them. Interacting like this is a process of inter-stimulation and response, where one participant can serve as an incitement to another member, encouraging a response and therefore a progression in the group’s relationship (Blumer 2004 pp 18). Interacting in a group beforehand is also proven to help calm the nerves and by doing this, the jumpers will also feel a sort of belonging with their peers, which Thibaut and Kelley claim to be the strongest inherited influence for the human psyche (1959 pp 10).

The absolute quickest part of this extreme sport is the take off, both physically and mentally. By this stage the nerves have usually gotten the best of the jumper and he or she will do whatever the instructor tells them to. The volume inside the airplane is very high so the last instructions will be shown individually by sign language. Non-verbal communication is crucial in this instance, and it may be deliberated as connotative of truth or dishonesty in a proclamation with the knowledge that non-verbal communication produces elaborated meanings (Cohen 2009), extending the understanding of sign language as an authorized use of limited means.

What people perceive to be skydiving is the jump in itself, though if they would read this essay they would be proven wrong. Whatever one does believe, this stage is still the one that people look forward to the most and it is also the most hazardous one. Once you are out of the airplane there is no chance of more verbal communication, which means you will have to remember the sign language they taught you previously on the ground. Sign language in this instance is therefore used for a multitude of reasons (Danesi, 2002 pp 174), for example, the simple sign like a “thumb’s up” will prove to be sufficient enough on not only the emotional stage, but also the physical one. Signs used in this situations are as stated; thumbs up (question: are you alright?), hands indicating to the right and left (stating: moving to the right or left, in skydiving terms; spinning), hands indicating forwards and backwards (stating: moving backwards or forwards, alternatively backflip or front flip), and index fingers pointing upwards (warning: parachute will be launched).
Sign language is the link between the different stages of skydiving, and it continues to make an appearance in the landing sequence as well. Using a flag, one person wearing a reflex-vest is standing at the drop zone, helping the parachuters to aim and land correctly. The waving flag has a lot of different connotations, in this instance positive and in other worldviews it is denotative due to demonstrating nationality (Lacey, 1998 pp 8). As stated multiple times before this essay was written, memories of these events will eventually falter, and as an organization wanting you to come back on numerous occasions, there are several different ‘photo-packages’ to remember this day. The organization is therefore using Cohen et. Al.’s theory that the image can come to replace the actual experience (2009 pp 7), which is a sincere way of providing the customer with a long lasting memory, but on the other hand it is also quite insufficient, as some customers may settle for this choice and never return to said organization.

Skydiving as a communication practice utilizes communication theories, as does every other sport. Though all sports do not utilize the same sign language, these theories are relevant to a collective practical public sphere in which communication is already an established term (Craig, 1999 pp 120). By looking at skydiving from a communicational angle rather than only for entertainment purposes, one would come to understand that it is an authentic communication practice, which does not only assist one’s understanding of the theories in depth, but also expands one’s worldview in a multitude of ways – ultimately aiding one in social competence (Tomasello, 2008 pp 325). This is supported by van Leeuwen stating that discourses are socially constructed (2005 pp 94), hence influenced by culture and in extension, humanity. This, in turn, identifies communication as a constitutive process, which defines and constructs our public sphere (Baxter 2004 pp 3) and in addition, our personal connections. An arrangement of fundamentals are relied on for communicating successfully, as the theories behind the issue answer as to why we react and how we understand the messages we gather. Exploring images, signs and relationships to question the purpose and recognizing the context, is crucial to one’s comprehension of the subject. By doing this, one would realize that all kinds communication are fashioned and interrelated from every word, image and sound, relating to how we think and our use of rationality to our principles and to how we share specific practices – whether it be as a group or individually. This essay establishes the extensiveness and characteristics of communication within the public sphere, proving it to be an established influence that shapes our cultural principles, our individuality, and our relationships. With this in mind, communication practices and theories are the keys to one’s evolution regarding everyday life.

References
Baxter, L.A. 2004, 'Relationships as Dialogues.’ Personal Relationships 11, pp 1-22.
Berger, J. et.al. 1972, 'Ways of Seeing', Penguin Books, pp. 7-33.
Blumer, H. 2004, 'The Self', in Morrione T.J. George Herbet Mead and Human Conduct, Altamira Press, New York and Toronto, pp. 17-38
Castells, M. 2009, ’Communication in the Digital Age.' In Communication Power, Oxford University Press, Oxford and New York, pp 54-71.
Cohen, H. et al, 2009, Photograph and Image In Screen Media Arts, Oxford Uni Press, Melbourne. pp 3- 22
Craig, R. T. 1999, ‘Communication Theory as a Field.' Communication Theory 9:2, pp 119-61. 2.
Danesi, M. 2002, An Outline of Semiotic Theory In Understanding Media Semoitics, Arnold Publishing, London, pp 28-53.
Eco, U. 1976, ‘A Theory of Semiotics’, Bloomington; London, pp 3-347
Finn, A. 1988, ‘Print Ad Recognition Readership Scores: An Information Processing Perspective’, Journal of Marketing Research, pp. 168-17
Lacey, N. 1998, ‘Introduction to Image Analysis’, Image and Representation, Palgrave, New York, pp 5- 55.
McQuarrie, E.B., Phillips 2005, 'Indirect persuasion in advertising: How Consumers Process Metaphors Presented in Pictures and Words', Journal of Advertising, vol. 34, no. 2, pp. 7-20.
Mothersbaugh, D., Huhmann, B., Franke, G. 2002, ‘Combinatory and Separative Effects of Rhetorical Figures on Consumers’ Efforts and Focus in Ad Processing’, vol. 28, pp, 589-602
Thibaut, J. W. & Kelley, H. H. 1959, The Social Psychology of Groups, Transaction Publishing, New Jersey.
Tomasello, M. 2008, ‘From Ape Gestures to Human Language.' In Origins of Human Communication, The MIT Press, Cambridge MA and London, pp 319-45. van Leeuwen, T. 2005, ‘Discourse,’ Introducing Social Semiotics, pp. 94-104…...

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