Posts tagged ‘Communication Skills’

March 29, 2012

Citizen Journalism and the Age of Misinformation

Citizen journalism has blossomed in an age of internet resources. Twitter, Facebook and news sites such as Now Public  enable anyone with a computer to become a journalist in its most basic terms. They report on events if they’ve witnessed them and they can upload photos of what they’ve seen and all this information is distributed around the public domain. However, I should make it clear that citizen journalism is not limited to the internet. In print publications, they rely on photographs and images, many of which are provided by citizen journalists.

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February 6, 2012

The art of the interview

As my first proper exercise out in the journalism field, my partner and I went out to interview students and staff around the University on Friday. Relating to the recent cold snap that has been embracing Britain, we were assigned to interview as many people as we could to find out how they were coping with the weather. Whilst going out in the sub-zero temperatures was not a pleasant experience, I found the actual assignment to be quite enjoyable!

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December 15, 2010

Is virtual reality just fun or dangerous?

Anybody else born in the 1990s will remember the Sims computer game which created a virtual family which you could control. A popular 3D website is ‘Second Life‘ which was first launched in 2003. Last month, up to 21.3 million were registered with ‘Second Life’ and one can wonder, is virtual reality safe or dangerous?

Some individuals have a problem distinguishing fantasy from reality as has been seen by many crimes, especially concerning children, where the media influences have been a problem. Most in the UK will remember the case of Jamie Bulger in 1993 where the young two-year old was taken from a shopping centre and subject to torture and was finally murdered by two other children, Robert Thompson aged 10 and John Venables also aged 10. It was suggested after the murder, in court, that the two children enjoyed watching ‘Child’s Play‘ which was a disturbing film and that’s when the question was asked, can media influence actions?

In 2007, the popular television series CSI: New York, made an episode entitled ‘Down the Rabbit Hole‘ where a trained assassin was using ‘Second Life’ to track down victims by gaining their trust through the game and meet with them. In reality, several claims have been made against ‘Second Life’ regarding their privacy settings and their avatars. Some have argued that ‘Second Life’ can’t force people to log out of their Avatars so they have no control over how much time some people are staying at the site. This could have bad consequences for the fantasy vs. reality debate but also imply serious health risks. In 2007, Islamic militants were suspected of using ‘Second Life’ to hunt down new recruits and to practice real-life terrorism in the virtual reality world. This in not uncommon with the increase of technology and the availability of social websites where people are free to roam and talk. It’s unclear how many Islamic militants were hired from the avatar website but it’s clear that it did work.

There are even more examples of individual behaviour which can effect others. In Cornwall 2008, a woman was granted a divorce from her husband when she found him conducting several affairs with avatars in ‘Second Life’. It’s hard to believe, but I found several other divorce cases where the spouse was having an affair on ‘Second Life’. It’s unfortunate but that’s what being another character all together can do to some people. They forget they have real-life consequences.

However, some have claimed that virtual reality sites have positive implications for individuals who use it. ‘Second Life’ has been praised by many for building a strong online community. You can help build a community space for yourself and there have been projects for the community such as building a replica of the Eiffel Tower. The site also encourages people to search for their existing friends and then make more friends through them. The virtual reality element helps make the impossible possible. You can travel around by teleporting and even flying to a destination. The community is made real by even having their own currency called ‘Linden Dollars‘. It has been praised by postmodern surrealists who love the ever-changing scenery and the complex characters.

There is the danger from virtual reality websites such as ‘Second Life’ where the online community can become a reality for those who find it hard to distinguish from real life. Even though there have been cases of criminal activity linked back to the users on the site, these are apparently isolated cases. Mostly, people praise the site for it’s escapism and individuals can delve into a world of flying, avatars and projects. It is fair to say that most people need an escape from everyday life such as watching the television, having a stiff drink or participate in a virtual reality world. As long as those who can distinguish between their online life and their real life do not pose a threat, then it can be just seen as harmless fun.

December 14, 2010

Undeck the Halls- Annoying Celebrities

I’ve been a bit too excited with Christmas this week and I think my bank balance is baring the brunt of it but I decided to list the top 10 annoying celebrities that make you want to cancel Christmas all together and ban them from New Years and Easter as well. Obviously people may disagree so just write the celebrities you want and why.



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December 9, 2010

Are children becoming too difficult to control?

Times have changed over the generations. There used to be caning, punishments and detentions whereas now psychologists are stating that unruly child behaviour can be treated with behaviour modification and that it is down to the child’s emotional state which needs to be addressed. Is it true that we are becoming a nanny culture? Do you think that considering the psychoanalysis of children will tame unruly behaviour?

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November 29, 2010

Is the written word disappearing?

Due to the rise of the internet and the increase in television outputs, there are some who have warned us that the written word is disappearing before us in a rush of blogs and internet updates. This could be true as newspaper readership has started declining and many schools have been criticised for their poor levels of reading in students. Could it be true that the written word is becoming obsolete?

According to Clint Reilly, the San Francisco Chronical  has lost $350 million since 2000 and 35% of staff have been laid off. This decline in the press could be because many now go to the internet for their updated news and even journalist have been known to use twitter for leads on news stories. From an outside perspective, it could be true that the written word is in decline. I can’t remember the last time I managed to read a book properly or read a book that wasn’t advertised on the television or had been made into a film already. The written word is powerful. It describes stories and lives in far greater detail and has been the basis for many successful films, such as ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary‘ and ‘Atonement‘.

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November 28, 2010

Communications Skills- Relationship theories and Prosocial Behaviour- May, 2009

Discuss Prosocial Behaviour in the Context of Effective use of Communication Skills and Relevant Relationship Theories

The focus of the prosocial behaviour is aimed at Germaine Greer and the prosocial behaviour of women’s liberation, especially in the 1960s to 1990s feminist movements. Specifically, Germaine Greer’s prosocial behaviour regards the explicit ways in which she challenges a patriarchal society and authority.

In terms of prosocial behaviour, it is described as actions that benefit others or social groups as a whole. In the case of Greer, it can be motivational, intentional or altruistic, described as cost to the helping party. Bierhoff describes prosocial behaviour in the book ‘Introduction to Social Psychology (2001), as a result in one’s behaviour towards others in terms of social psychology. “In general, prosocial behaviour may result either from the ultimate goal to benefit oneself (egoistically motivated behaviour) or from the ultimate goal to benefit another person (altruistically motivated behaviour)”. (Bierhoff: 2001: pg 286) Prosocial behaviour is an aspect of social interaction, supported by Bales in the ‘Interaction Process Analysis’ under the socio-emotional category, whereby this social interaction shows solidarity and support to the group.

An example of this prosocial behaviour demonstrated by Greer is the clip This clip is from a 1992 interview on an Australian talk show. In this example, there is a female interviewer and the demonstrated interview focuses on feminism and a the promotion of Greer’s book. In terms of prosocial behaviour, several examples can be drawn from this interview. Firstly, there is self-concept in terms of interpersonal communication. Supported by ‘The Interpersonal Communication Book’ (Devito:2009:pg 55), the idea of self-concept is that one can view their own strengths and weaknesses. Greer demonstrates her self-concept with the understanding of the images of others towards her and the particular feminist groups in terms of sexual explicitness. This is demonstrated in the example as she states “People think I have no self-consciousness and what has built up over the years in the sense of not measuring up to the stereotype.” (01:04/02:30). Greer has demonstrated that she is aware of the public images and the criticisms that have surrounded her and her liberation movement. This is considered prosocial as we base our self-perception around our self-image, however, other’s images of us can effect us in ourselves. Greer has shown that she is aware of her public image and so can maintain a self-perception.

Other prosocial behaviour examples in terms of the individual’s sense of self are proposed by Steward and Logan (1998) who suggested that there are dimensions of oneself. This is commonly referred to as social exhaling. This is linked to self-disclosure, which is considered prosocial behaviour, especially in an interview. Dindia (2000) describes self-disclosure as “what individuals verbally reveal about themselves” and this is focused on intentional discourse, meaning that the individual is conscious of the social interaction and is focused on it. Self-disclosure is typical of small social situations so is common in interview. This establishes a relationship between the interviewer and the interviewee as the interviewee discloses information about themselves which is considered appropriate in terms of prosocial behaviour. These different dimensions of self include the personal self, social self and cultural self. As this interview was after the feminist era, Greer demonstrates the understanding of her cultural self towards the interviewer as she describes her beliefs in terms of the context of the new stereotypes of women and their self-esteem. She also demonstrates her personal self and social self by revealing her believes in terms of the social groups she wishes to empower. This is prosocial as she is showing her specific beliefs to others in order to benefit those who may be in her target social groups or out of it. It is also considered to be prosocial as part of communication and forming a relationship. In this situation, it would be with the interviewer and audiences, even though they are not present at the time.

However, with self-disclosure comes the responsibility of interpersonal communication. The use of interpersonal communication has been previously studied to prove social influence processes. This then made lead to interpersonal relationships, however a part of interpersonal communication is the use of verbal messages. Being an interview, there will be an effective use of verbal messages in order to maintain a conversation between the interviewer and the interviewee. An aspect of verbal messages is the use of politeness strategies, which is considered prosocial in the context to keep the conversation accommodating for the audiences. Example of the politeness strategies include Greer showing consideration for the interviewer by responding to questions appropriate and Greer also shows consideration for the audiences by using indirect messages. These indirect messages are important in expressing an opinion or desire without offending others. Greer does not directly criticise a certain group of women who she feels are stereotyping their gender. She avoids this by widely demonstrating the different sub-cultures of women. “But some of their lives are taken up with putting on make-up and getting their hair coloured and organised and getting dressed in a way that is acceptable in the work environment and a lot of their anxiety stems on that. They don’t all have jobs and children, some have no jobs and children, some have children and no husband and so on”. (01:22/02:30). This indirect speech is used in order to politely counter against the criticism of a certain group by widening the specification so as not to offend. Holmes (1995) suggested that indirect speech is common in women when used in communication, due to biological differences which included politeness and listening, or due to social behaviours and patterns through cultures, backgrounds and neutering.

Other examples of verbal messages include the use of confirmation messages in the verbal communication. Hill and Watson define confirmation in their book ‘Dictionary of Media and Communication Studies’ (2006), “Confirming responses tend to confirm or validate the view of yourself you have put forward and/or the views you have expressed in conversation”. (Hill, Watson: 2006) This is considered to be prosocial behaviour as Greer is taking the interviewers questions into consideration and is acknowledging her presence and her opinion on the issue of feminism. Both women use the validation of “I think” in their responses to express their opinions and they both take each other in consideration. This communication pattern is positive in conversation as it can also be an indication of the other persons self-definition and their beliefs.

With these uses of verbal messages and interpersonal communication, relationships can be formed and these are important to achieve and maintain a sense of intimacy, be it friends, family or workplace relationships. The interview is an example of a workplace relationships, more specifically a networking relationship. Workplace relationships are the forms of communications that happen within a working environment. The influence of workplace relationships can be cultural, meaning that the cultural differences can determine the different norms and social cues, which can lead to and maintain this relationships. Kanter (1984) has argued that the networking relationships is built on the exchange of information between people and the resources and support given in order to maintain a relationship. This interview can be described as an example of formal networking whereby the objective is to establish connections so that one party, or sometimes both, can benefit from the relationship in terms of career or personal reasons besides emotional. This interview is to help promote Greer’s new book so she is giving examples of the tone of the book in the interview and asking questions in order to help the sales of the book. However, it could be argued that the interviewer is also benefiting from Greer appearance on the show. This is common in networking relationships. Devito (2009) also suggests this by arguing, “In networking it’s often recommended that you try to establish relationships that are mutually beneficial. After all, much as others are useful sources of information for you, you’re likely to be a useful source of information for others. If you can provide others with helpful information, it’s more likely that they will provide helpful information for you. In this way, a mutually satisfying and productive network is established”. In this case, the interviewer needs information from Greer in order to help promote and increase viewing figure for the show. This relationship is mutually beneficial to both parties and so is maintained in order to help each other.

Prosocial behaviour also crosses into non-verbal communication. Examples of non-verbal communication include kinesics (body language), facial expressions and vocalics, or paralinguistics. These are all important in communication as they can convey connotations behind behaviours, be it prosocial or antisocial. In terms of kinesics, Greer’s body language is very encouraging as she is sitting with her foot up on her chair, which gives the impression that the interview is informal and so conveys a sense of relaxation. This could be considered an alter-adaptor form of non-verbal communication as this body movement is in response to a social interaction, in this case Greer’s interaction with the interviewer. Eye communication between the two ladies is also important. This is categorized as occulesis, which explores the communication of messages by the eyes. Several theories have been put forward by such people as Knapp and Hall (2006), Malandro, Barker and Barker (1989) and Richmond, McCroskey and Hickson (2008) to support occulesis and in this situation, eye contact is maintained to regulate the conversation between Greer and the interviewer. Eye contact is used to initiate the communication in terms of when the person should respond and when somebody has the floor to speak. This kind of eye contact is common in interviews and so is used frequently.

All of these examples of prosocial behaviour are appropriate to a formal interview situation, especially since Greer has appeared on the show to promote her new book to audiences, however, there are some situations where prosocial behaviour takes a different approach in order to accommodate audiences in a different context. In the next example, Greer has appeared on a BBC one programme called ‘This is Dom Jolly’, which was broadcast in 2007 ( This show is an entertainment show that interviews others but uses a very different register. Another difference in this clip is that there is a live studio audience who Greer also has to take into consideration.

In terms of prosocial behaviour between the interviewer, Joly, and the interviewee, Greer, there is difference in the verbal communication from the previous example. Verbal messages are still in-placed which is typical of a talk show and these are still examples of self-disclosure. Greer still expresses her opinion of the patriarchal society but Joly is offering examples of her career in order to retain a response by saying, “The usual bimbos they have on that programme, it’s unbelievable I think.” (01:00/02:52). This is an example of ‘The Open Self’ purposed by Johari and referred to as the ‘Johari Window’. The open self refers to the information about oneself that is also known to others. It is well known that Greer is a feminist and so by using colloquial terms, such as “bimbo”, Joly is also showing that he knows her attitudes and beliefs towards the non-feminist culture. Assertiveness is also conveyed through verbal messages and this is apparent in this interview clip. Assertion is how one conveys their beliefs and attitudes about a subject matter and in this interview, both parties convey this. In accordance to Rakos (1997) in the book ‘The Handbook of Communication Skills’, assertion is defined in a number of ways. “Four ‘positive’ response classes include admitting personal-shortcomings (self-disclosure), giving and receiving compliments, initiating and maintaining interactions and expressing positive feelings.” (pg 291). this means that in a social situation, assertion can be used as a form of self-disclosure. However, assertion is not to be confused with aggression which combines submissive behaviour whereas assertion is socially acceptable.

The assertiveness demonstrates can also be linked to the humour and playful behaviours of both Greer and Joly. In a social situation, many can use humour directed to each other, or banter as it is sometimes named, in order to show assertiveness in the communication. In Alberts’ study (1992), elements were purposed in order to successfully achieve assertiveness through humour. This was described in the book, ‘Skilled Interpersonal Communication’ (Hargie and Dickson: 2004). “Alberts points out that decisions about how to react to teasing behaviour are made on the basis of four main elements: the perceived goal of the teaser; background knowledge of and relationship with this person; the context in which the tease is employed; and the paralinguistic tone with which it is delivered.” (pg 323). It this situation, the humour to derived from background knowledge of Greer’s career and her stance on non-feminist groups. It seems like Greer and Joly are friends so the humour is used in the correct situation and so is successful and avoids any kind of offence.

From the interview situation, it seems like this is a networking relationship, much like the previous example. Greer has appeared on the show because it is a celebrity talk show and this could be positive for her career. These shows usually have on guests who are promoting themselves or a product and so Greer could be appearing on the show to help her reputation by appearing in a more informal show. In 2007, ‘This is Dom Joly’ was in its first season on the BBC so Joly needs Greer in order to help ratings of the show, which would be crucial at this stage in production. This is an example of formal networking. However, with the difference in language and communication in this example, the relationship could be viewed as a friendship relationship due to the intimacy in conversation and the playful language. This is supported by Devito (2009), “As you progress from the initial contact stage to intimate friendship, the depth and breadth of communication increase. You talk about issues that are closer and closer to your inner core. Similarly, the number of communication topics increase as your friendship becomes closer”. (pg 249). The communication between Greer and Joly is past a formal stage, thus making it entertaining for the audience. It seems as Greer and Joly have met before and formed a friendship.

There are several changes to non-verbal communication in this example which could be viewed as prosocial or antisocial compared to the first example. Whereas in the first example, Greer was sitting casually, in the interview with Joly, her arms are crossed and her legs are crossed which could indicate an uncomfortable social situation. This is an example of alter-adaptors and this could be due to the less intimate setting. There is a live studio audience and Greer and Joly are sitting further apart than the first interview so this body language could show that Greer is uncomfortable. There is also an example of an object-adaptor when Greer is fiddling with her earring during the interview. This could represent some hostility, which would support the alter-adaptor example. According to Burgoon, Buller and Woodall (1996), this kind of behaviour could also indicate some anxiety or uneasiness. This could be typical in this kind of situation with a live audience present. This is also the use of facial communication to express humour towards the audience. When Joly claims that they both have equal intelligence, Greer looks away with an expression of disgust, which is appreciated by the audience. According to Ekman, Friesen and Ellsworth (1972), these facial movements are in order to sub-consciously show expressions of happiness, sadness, surprise, fear, anger, disgust, contempt and interest. The facial expression of interest is also used in this situation, when the other person is talking, the other listens and show a look of interest (raised eyebrows). This kind of non-verbal communication is commonly used in interviews to indicate a communication pattern in conversation. The use of eye communication, or occulesis, is also demonstrated in order to regulate conversation. As it was explained earlier, these eye gazes can be used in order to monitor feedback between the two parties, to secure the attention of the other person and to regulate the conversation. This is common in interview and secure a type of intimacy with the other person as they are using occulesis as a politeness strategy in order to avoid cutting in on each others speech.

In conclusion, prosocial behaviour can be found in many forms of communication skills and the relevant relationship theories that follow them. My example of Germaine Greer served as an example to those communication skills. In the first interview, there were many politeness strategies in order to secure a successful interview. There were examples of self-concept as Greer expressed many opinions, and importantly, she also discussed the views that others had of her. This helps the levels of self-esteem and also reveals a level of intimacy between Greer and the interviewer. There were also examples of prosocial verbal messages. There is indirect messages in order to avoid confrontation and the chance of offending audience members and there were also confirmation messages to help express Greer’s opinion. This shows that this interview was meant to be prosocial and help others realise her individual opinion of others. In this example the relationship between Greer and the interviewer was considered to be a networking relationship as Greer was interviewed to promote her new book and the show would benefit from having her as a guest as it may help their ratings. This is a mutually beneficial relationship. In the second example, there are still examples of self-concept but there was also the use of assertion. This is considered prosocial as it is simply the use of expressing an opinion and is not considered aggressive. However, in this interview, there was the use of teasing between Joly and Greer and this could be considered prosocial as it is making the interview more personal and informal to make it enjoyable for audiences. Again, the relationship here would be a networking relationship, but there are elements of a friendship relationship due to the teasing and the levels of intimacy. Many of these examples prove that prosocial behaviour can be demonstrated with the effective use of communication skills and in these examples, the communication was appropriate for each situation and thus made it successful, however with the change on context, different prosocial behaviours may not have been considered appropriate for the different situations.

Word Count: 3,091


Devito, J. A, (2009) The Interpersonal Communication Book, United States of America: Pearce Education, Inc.

Hargie, O. and Dickson, D. (2004) Skilled Interpersonal Communication: Research, Theory and Practice, Cornwall, UK: Routledge.

Hewstone, M. and Stroebe, W. (2001) Introduction to Social Psychology,Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishers Ltd.

Watson, J. and Hill, A. (2006) Dictionary of Media and Communication Skills, London, UK: Hodder Education.

Hargie, O. D. W. (1997) The Handbook of Communication Skills, London, UK: Routledge.

Online References

BBC Worldwide (01 August 2007) Germaine Greer interview- This is Dom Joly- BBC Comedy, (Accessed 23rd April, 2010)

Australian Screen (1992) The Book Show- Germaine Greer, (Accessed 21stApril, 2010).