Democratic National Ritual 2004

In his essay, "A Cultural Approach to Communication," Columbia University journalism professor James W. Carey identifies two views of communication -- "transmission" and "ritual." In Carey's words, the "ritual view" is communication "linked to terms such as 'sharing,' 'participation,' 'association,' 'fellowship,' and the 'possession of a common faith.' ... A ritual view of communication is directed not toward the extension of messages in space but toward the maintenance of society in time." Media critic and academic Jay Rosen describes the "transmission view" as "the most common in our culture. Here communication is equated with the delivery of 'messages' across distance." Rosen, who is covering the Democratic Nation Convention on his weblog PressThink, suggests journalists keep Carey's essay in mind while covering the convention. Why? "Because if you try to understand a political ritual with a transmission view in your head, you will miss much of what's going on. And because at the deepest roots of their thinking, journalists see the transmission of new information as real and important, whereas ritual communication is fake, newsless and ultimately unimportant," Rosen writes.