Seven Traditions

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When you think about traditions, I am pretty sure you think about holiday traditions. Thanksgiving when your mom is baking the turkey, while your dad is watching football…or Christmas mornings when everyone is opening gifts. But I’m not talking about holiday traditions. I am talking about Communication theorist Robert Craig’s seven traditions.

Craig divides the world of communication theory into seven traditions (Littlejohn & Foss, 2011, p. 44): 1. the semiotic; 2. the phenomenological; 3. the cybernetic; 4. the sociopsychological; 5. the sociocultural; 6. the critical; and 7. the rhetorical.

While I could discuss each and every tradition (it’ll take some time), I’ll stick to discussing the tradition that makes the most sense to me. As well as the tradition that I understand the best.


The cybernetic tradition. Cybernetics is the tradition of complex systems in which interacting elements influence one another (Littlejohn & Foss, 2011, p. 49). When I think about the cybernetic tradition, I think about my parents and grandparents. My father informed me that while he was growing up, my grandmother, his mother did not kiss him or give him hugs after he became a certain age. Therefore, when he became old enough to have his own children, he tended to not show his affection by giving hugs and/or kisses. However, my mother is the complete opposite of my father. Even at twenty-two years old, I am able to walk into a room and plant a big kiss on my mother’s cheek. My mom grew up with affection being shown by kisses and hugs. What I just informed you all of could be the system that forms the core of cybernetic thinking.  The patterns of my grandparents behavior transported to my parents, while my mother’s behavior transported to me.


The phenomenological tradition. Oprah Winfrey’s quote “I was raised to believe that excellence is the best deterrent to racism or sexism. And that’s how I operate my life” is a prime example of what the phenomenological tradition is. Phenomenology is the way in which human beings come to understand the worlds through direct experience (Littlejohn & Foss, 2011, p. 47). Someone may have been raised in a certain manner, but how they were raised does not go into effect until they test their own perception about it. For example, growing up, I was always told that education was important. As a kid, waking up at six am to catch a school bus by seven, education was not too important. Even when I complained about going to school, my mom still continued to informed me on the importance of education. When I became old enough to get a job, I realized just how important education was. Without a certain level of education, I wouldn’t have the job I have now. My mom introduced the idea that education was important and I later had direct experience on understanding that information.


All of Craig’s traditions are beneficial. However, the traditions that make the most sense and I understand the best are the cybernetic and phenomenological tradition.


Littlejohn, S. & Foss, K. (2011). Theories of Human Communication (10th ed.). Long Grove,  IL: Waveland Press. (ISBN-13:978-1577667063).



Author: Dekira Hemingway

Twenty-three | Travel Addict | Queens University of Charlotte graduate student

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