Portfolio: Theoretical Literacy

s defined within the context of this program, theoretical literacy is the ability to apply at least one theory to a real life problem or scenario to gain further understanding. This was perhaps the most extensively developed of my skills as I progressed through coursework, with my best example probably being the use of The theory of Communicative Action (Habermas) to analyze how the How I See It Campaign went wrong. In an online powerpoint presentation, I first looked at the four elements of Habermas theory; intelligibility, truth, truthfulness, and legitimacy; in terms of how the organization Foundation Fighting Blindness had misunderstood basic issues within the community it was supposedly trying to support. I then used these same analytical tenets to suggest better steps that could be taken if they were to implement such a strategy in the future.

While as noted in the intro most of my work involves blindness/disability and nonprofit communication issues, I did delve into other areas in my acquisition and improvement of theoretical literacy as well. A good example of this is a thorough analysis (in podcast form on SoundCloud) of Volkswagen’s many challenges relating to a emissions scandal using Giddens’ Structuration Theory.

What have I learned from exploration of theory? Primarily that communication issues encountered by organizations are usually more complex than news media or other distributors are able to convey. Theory asks that one delve deep into the problem and example it from multiple angles, thereby generating possible solutions rather than simply highlighting areas of difficulty.

Now that I have a tool kit of theories from which to choose in any given situation, if I manage to enter a media organization I will use these tools to provide better, fairer coverage in the stories I write. My main go-to theories, so long as they apply, are impression management (Goffman’s Dramaturgic Metaphor), Habermas as detailed above, and Bordieu and Putnam’s theories of field and capital and social capital respectively. Between these, I am likely to arrive at outcomes that not only help me to understand and give good feedback on communication issues, but also to enhance the reader/listener’s ability to grasp more relevant story content as well.

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