Communication Theory Final Exam

As Dr. Halavais has posted his expectations for our final exam, I will be posting my comm theory class notes here soon. Here is his class-wide email for all to see. I’d like to suggest that we try to post answers to his questions by editing the wiki page entitled TheoryExamQuestions.

As seen in Dr. Alex Halavais’ recent email…

MA Group: Chris, Stephanie, Chheng-Hong, Sarah

PhD Group: Sungjoon, Yon Soo, Kevin, Elizabeth, Alex

Here is one of the sets of questions from last year. Note that since
we’ll have more people in each group, we’ll probably go at least the
full hour, and several more questions. Some of these are relatively
quick and simple answers, for others, clearly, I am expecting you to
be able to give a 3 or 5 minute mini-exposition. Finally, the readings
we discussed last semester are different at many points than those we
have read this semester, so some of these will be non-relevant.

1. What is communication theory?
2. What is meant by the “heuristic function” of a theory?
3. What is falsification?
4. Explain, over the next few minutes, the history of mass
communication theory.
5. What is ELM?
6. At present, there is a problem with the image of the
United States in Iraq and other parts of the Mid-East.
Each of you choose one theory and explain how you
would test or apply that theory to understanding the
attitudes toward the US.
7a. What is cybernetics?
7b. Why is cybernetics flawed, or where is its weak point?
7c. What is autopoeisis?
8a. What is Lasswell’s dictum that describes what the
study of communication is concerned with?
8b. Can you give me an example (either specific or general)
of each of those categories of study?
8c. What is missing from this list?
8d. Would you classify this taxonomy under the general
rubric of transmission model or of ritual model?
9. What effect do you think violent movies have on children?
Give theoretical, testable (or tested) explanations. Take
a few minutes.
10. What general changes in society brought about the
rise of communication theory?
11. Explain what is meant by “structural” and “structural-
functional” social theory. Do you think the structural
approach is a valid one? What are the alternative?
Explain both sides of the issue, then choose and argue
12. Thinking about the concept of “time”–how does this
concept play through the theories we have discussed
this semester.
13. Pick a research question, any research question,
apply one of the theories from the semester, and explain
what the major concepts are, and how you might
operationalize them.
14. Webster discusses several ways of gauging the
information revolution. What are these, what are the
problems with it, and which one is “best”?
15. Which of the theories we have studied this semester
would be particularly apt for studying ICTs, and
16. Explain information theory.
17. How is information theory related to URT?
18. What is a covering law, and what is the alternative to
covering laws?
19. What was the last movie you saw (alt. book)? Describe
it briefly. How would a post-modernist explain the themes
in the book. Name theorists if you can, and explain why.
20. You have just purchased a new laptop computer. You
end up with a Dell (which is recommended by the UB).
After your purchase, one of the first things you do is
look at different ads online for similar computers and
ask your friends what they think. Who has a theory for
this and how does he or she explain it.
21. You are absolutely certain that Schwarzenegger is the
best candidate for president. Assuming that he *is* the
most qualified, why wouldn’t people come out and
support him publicly?

// Alexander Halavais
// Graduate Director of Informatics
// University at Buffalo School of Informatics
// contact info: