Problematizing a communication breakdown

Communication breakdowns take many different forms. There may have been a promise made and then broken to keep the others informed of developments. Initial attempts to coordinate schedules, efforts or plans failed to realize any follow-thru. A conversation about collaborating to find a mutually beneficial solution never got past the talking stage. Independent initiatives to keep the customer satisfied lacked coordination in order to eliminate contradictory messages. You get the picture.

There are many ways for a disconnect to get problematized (diagnosed, redefined, framed). Actor-network theory has given me several new ways to perceive a communication breakdown:
  1. The breakdown may be "black-boxed" so everyone takes it for granted and never looks into it free of prior concepts, agreements and sedimentation
  2. The process of changing alliances may have to go through someone with no interest in this breakdown but with a consuming interest in being a clearinghouse for changes
  3. The outlooks of the participants in the disconnect are maintaining objectivity which refutes their interrelatedness and the complexity of their shared situation
  4. The current alliances, roles and scenarios in use work around this disconnect rather than remedying the implicated texts by first problematizing them
  5. The participants take an asymmetric view of the breakdown as an inferior concern compared to their superior, non-negotiable interests
  6. The breakdown is misperceived as a persistent object instead of emergent from the symmetric interdependencies among transitory phenomena
  7. The disconnect is an enrollment and mobilization from previous negotiations where they agreed to distance themselves in order to translate their other obligations
  8. The breakdown functions as an intermediary which redefines the participants as powerless to change it which recursively defines the breakdown as inevitably persistent
  9. The challenge of interesting others in better communication provided test of their strengths which in turn exposed their weaknesses
  10. The breakdown has transformed cooperative intentions into politicized rhetoric about their opposing interests, incompatible projects and conflicted alliances
  11. The breakdown has been problematized with a reductionistic model which presumes that communication can be switched on/off without vast repercussions
  12. The opportunity to improve communication has been framed idealistically as neither perfect or perfectible, rather than pragmatically as an assemblage of interests in doing what works
  13. The actors have presumed to possess centralized power over their constituencies instead of parts to play in serving the distributed power of those constituencies
  14. The participants in the breakdown are getting mediated by demanding physical networks which preempts mediation by emergent actants, end users and beneficiaries of better communication
Writing this out has helped my get this bounty of new models to be more deployable in my mind. These problematizations strike me as supportive of much more complexity than my familiar frameworks for diagnosing communication breakdowns. They avoid the usual linear rationalizations which misrepresent both social and wired networks. They challenge me to use fewer concepts and more process diagrams when conveying a communication breakdown to others. In other words, they look effective, useful and valuable to me.

Revisions added 4/24/2010

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