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UW / Communications / COM 201 / What field allows us to use a limited sample to make intelligent and a

What field allows us to use a limited sample to make intelligent and a

What field allows us to use a limited sample to make intelligent and a


Com week 7

What field allows us to use a limited sample to make intelligent and accurate statements about a population?

///// = vocabulary ///// = readings

The ethics of making a case

Numbers / Nonsense

● How is it that communication can impact our world?


● Zachary Karabell, When rhetoric distorts statistics 

○ We tend to think of statistics as relatively neutral, where we go for proofs (but statistics are created by humans)

○ Neutral also means true

○ Empiricists → have a way of thinking about epistemology, that grounds their idea of truth and things that are observable and reportable (often numbers)

What are the four types of descriptive statistics?

○ Statistics (2 branches)

■ Descriptive statistics: describes the data in a way that’s usable (get a notion of what’s going on, but cannot make a lot of claims)

■ Inferential statistics: moving from description to explanation,

making inferences about populations using data we draw from the population, but where the entire population is not sampled

○ Trump called unemployment figures (just numbers) phony numbers → karabell says its problematic, not because it’s untrue, but because the community puts faith in our government in producing facts and figures that reflects reality (some numbers may need further investigation, but generally still represents truth)

How does technology affect unemployment?

■ Ethics is important here / are the numbers being used ethically? ■ How are studies conducted?

○ It’s okay to be super critical consumers of research

○ The study of unemployment has some issues (wasn’t addressed since technology has increased) We also discuss several other topics like What kind of government gives political power to the people?

■ Mostly done using landlines → not the best way to get info

■ Wasn’t clear on what counts as unemployment

○ What is true?

■ The problem with calling statistics phony numbers: challenges what we agree to as facts → we can’t know what’s true even with all the info we have, we just give up If you want to learn more check out What names are used in binomial nomenclature?


● Figuring out whether the statistics of legitimate or not

Com week 7

● Michelle Nijhuis, How to call B.S. on big data: A practical guide ○ Becoming a critical consumer: what questions to be asked to assess yourself whether something is reasonable

○ Not a new set of skills, but a set of skills that demand you to not think statistics are neutral

○ Big data: big set of data over a large portion of the population, ■ How do we generate big data?

■ The more you know about anything, the more reliably you can gain new insights into what’s happening and make better predictions about the future

● The more data points you can compare, more likely to see

different kinds of relationships merge that might not be

evident without a lot of data

■ Used to make models

● Alan Burdick, The A.I. “gaydar” study and the real dangers of big data ○ A computer program could identify individual sexuality than humans could Don't forget about the age old question of What is cell body or soma?

■ Accurately identify 81% males sexuality (gay/straight) If you want to learn more check out What did pangaea split into 200 million years ago?

■ Accurately identify 72% females sexuality (gay/straight)

■ About 20% more than humans

○ Able to access data without permission of the person → no moral valence ○ The data itself isn’t good or bad, but what we use them for

● When thinking about big data:

○ Be aware that there are people who lie/exaggerate → problematic but should be able to differentiate between them

○ What’s the source and their motivation

○ If something is too good to be true, it likely is

○ Guesstimate to see whether something is plausible

○ Watch for unfair comparisons

○ Correlation doesn’t mean causation

○ Be aware of big data hubris → flaw in confidence We also discuss several other topics like What is the simple definition of volume?

○ Whether the numbers are neutral, numbers can be prejudice too ■ We’re behind machines, prejudice can influence what we do behind the machines

○ Bullshit asymmetry principle: The amount of energy need to refute something fictional is exponentially larger than the amount of energy needed to produce it

Com week 7

Keeping people in their place

Message / meta-message


● Ken Auletta, A woman’s place 

○ Talked about sheryl sandberg’s books, lean in

■ Things she does to encourage other women to be successful

■ Major reason for the growth of facebook

■ Women only held 11% of executive positions in silicon valley

● Sexism

● Few women become engineers (less than 20%)

■ How to be successful in a place like silicon valley:

● Women need to sit a the table a work → participating fully

like negotiating salaries, be presence physically and

intellectually at the workplace

● Women need to not leave before they leave → not be

waiting for their next plan but be present at where they are

at the moment Don't forget about the age old question of What is measured by the national activity index?

● Make sure that their partner at home is a real partner

● Alexandra Schwartz, Work it 

○ Talks about the book “labor of love” by moira weigel

■ Throughout history, how people find mates has changed to reflect the economy of the times → women had done a lot of labor in

those moves

■ How dating patterns vary according to the economy

■ In the early 20th century, if a woman goes out to meet man, they are seen as whores


● Maria Konnikova, Why your name matters 

○ Names are one of the first messages we send to each other

● Meta-message: creates a frame around the message

○ everytime we communicate, we send messages to others and how the message should we interpreted (what the message means) → usually not explicit, lies below our consciousness

○ Subset of meta communication: often implicit

● Going back to the book lean in: sandberg was quite harshly criticized → nobody refuted the advice that she provided, but criticized her metamessage

Com week 7

○ By telling women that their largely responsible for not making into the upper echelon in silicon valley, put responsibility of success and failure on only one factor

○ Meta message of her advices: the plane field is even if you just step up and do what you need to do

○ Criticized for: not being able to recognize her own privileged position/structural things that may be placed to prevent women from rising in place)/ the role of sponsorship in her life

○ Doesn’t recognize that there are things that cannot be controlled ● Going back to alexandra schwartz:

○ We turn ourselves into commodities, dating profile descriptions becomes product descriptions

○ Study on pre-iphone beauty filters: girls were treated as objects of desire ■ Young girls would take up to 70 selfies to get the right one, and time the right time to “drop” a selfie for the best feedbacks → only happens in girls, not guys

○ Message: “here’s a picture of me”, meta-message: “in a competition of the online sexual marketplace”

● Going back to konnikova:

○ Our names carry meanings other than telling people who we are ○ 2004 study:

■ Created 5,000 resumes and responses to the job ads in boston ■ Created the names using birth certificate data → created two groups of people, one group with black sounding names and one group with white sounding names → and then two types of

candidates within each groups, high and low qualifications

■ White sounding names got 50% more callbacks then black

sounding names

■ The advantage of having a white sounding name = 8 years of professional experience

○ Name signalling: what names say about ethnicity, religion, social sphere and socioeconomic background

■ Names carry certain meanings in certain contexts

● Meta messages do function in keeping people in social places that they’re expected to occupy

Com week 7

///// = vocabulary ///// = readings

Communication and the politics of leadership

Leadership / Leaders


● Joshua Rothman, Shut up and sit down 

○ 3 points about leadership:

■ Leadership often becomes visible/obvious in times of crisis

■ It happens to such an extent that we have this national narrative about crisis and leadership going hand in hand → leadership is

something that is going to save us from crisis

■ The veneration of leadership leaves us pretty vulnerable to people who are slick speakers (good at such things) who can manipulate

us because we looks at them as someone that could help us

● People who are unethical may step up during crisis

○ With all the complaints we do about our leaders, we love leadership, even if we don’t like the leaders

○ Romance of leadership: people view company more valuable when its success is attributed to good leadership rather than other factors

■ Leaders are called narrative devices, they take the action in the narrative, they help us make sense of the world that we live in

○ Reporters and journalists tend to write more about leaderships → becomes a common theme when writing about a company (they’re the reason for the success and failures of the company)

○ Leadership studies (university of san diego): reviewed all literature on leadership for 100 years → came up with definitions

■ The only thing that the definitions have in common is the idea of leadership as good management, even though they’re not the

same thing

● Leadership means differently to different people

■ Leaders have charisma, ability to work in a bureaucracy

○ 2 modern models of leadership: (in reality they function together) ■ Trait: charisma

● Leadership is something that we possess, possess qualities

thats related to having leadership and then enact those

qualities → courage, decisive, etc

● The people who have these traits are successful leaders, in

spite of the bureaucracy they need to act in

Com week 7

● Advantages: able to find someone with the traits and let

them be the leaders

● Disadvantages: the person you find might underperform

compared to the bar set

■ Process: leadership is something that unfolds and stages, a developmental kind of process

● What happens when we need leadership (when we have

problems) → the group selects someone as a leader, leader

leads them through a series of leadership events, the leader

is a guide that helps go from problem to solution

● People may take turns take up the leadership position

depending on the expertise needed at the moment

● Leadership is something that can be learned, we don’t

necessarily have the traits, but if we observe the process

people bring us through, we can learn how to be leaders

● Assigned leaders vs emergent leaders

● Not who you are but what you do

● Disadvantage: hard to tell in advance what someone will do

as a leader

○ How do we choose leaders?

■ Leader filtration theory 

● Assigned 40 american presidents filtration scores → based

on whether they have the experience relevant to the

presidency before becoming presidents

● Their filtration scores were compared to widely accepted

rankings of presidential performance

● Heavily filtered presidents (had lots of experience) → around middle ranking

● Unfiltered presidents (had less experience) → on either ends of the spectrum

● When we select unfiltered leaders, we’re taking a big risk,

and the risks are worth it (reason why they cluster on each


○ Risky → they’re either successful or hugely not

● Theory: when things are going bad, an unfiltered leader

might be worth a gamble (don’t have as much to lose), but if

things are going well, better to select someone who would

do an average job based on previous experiences

● Book - Leadership BS by Jeffrey Pfeffer

Com week 7

○ We do have some virtue that we associate with leadership → but most real world leaders don’t have those traits, instead the corporations are selfishly run by the people in charge

○ Rothman’s point about leadership romance: To some extent, leaders are storytellers, they are characters in stories, they play leading roles in dramas they cannot predict. Leaders make the world more sensible but not sensible enough


● Ezra Klein, The unpersuaded: who listens to a president? 

○ Writes about the book “on deaf ears - the limits of the bully pulpit” by george edwards

○ What can leaders actually accomplish?

○ George edwards was really interested in Ronald reagan, who was regarded as one of the presidency’s great communicators

■ Reagan’s achievements → able to be the beneficiary during the situation, not necessarily the catalyst

○ **Study by the gallup organization: big data

■ Approval points before and after the speech

■ Obama’s approval rating: dropped by 1

■ reagan ‘s rating is slightly below average

■ A state of union address rarely affects a president's public

standing in any meaningful way

● Book - beyond ideology by frances lee

○ What actually happens when the president as a leader communicates with other people

○ Studied 8,600 senate votes between 1981 and 2004, the president’s power of persuasion were strong but only within his own party

■ Nearly 4,000 of the votes were issues that should have found some support

■ All things were in favor of everyone, when the president was not involved, the issues fell along party lines ⅓ of the time, but when

the president was involved (when he’s concerned about the vote), the issues fell along party line ½ of the time

● Weird when the issues are important to everyone

● More communication actually causes more division

● When a president speaks out, makes situation seem more

like win/lose, than when the president doesn’t → can affects

the perception of the success/failure of the president

Com week 7

○ The more high profile the communication effort, the less likely it is to succeed

○ In edwards work: Presidential persuasion isn’t really effective with the public, hence they get lower ratings even when they’re speaking out ○ In Lee’s work: presidential persuasion could have opposite effects ○ When thinking about the division between parties, that’s what makes the president as a party leader much more divisive figure as it leads into the idea that he speaks out and people get further apart

● The approval ratings that gallup shows → are based on our perceptions

● Perception is an active process, something that we are engaged in ○ organizing, interpreting the stimulus around us and how we perceive people is highly consequential → how reflectively we engage in the perception process is important

● John Cassidy, Mr.Cool: Obama and the hipness factor 

○ Compares Obama’s way of speaking with other presidential candidates’ way of speaking

■ Way of speaking: means of speech and the meaning to those who use them (specific to the study of culture and communication)

○ Obama had a particular way of speaking that has particular meaning to those who heard him → not just surface things, has deeper implications ○ In 2012, someone think that president obama needs to sure up his standing among young voters → talk in a way that’s meaningful to the people that you’re trying to interact with

■ He started invoking ways of speaking to connect to specific groups of audiences

○ Ways of speaking → ways to activate connection with other people ■ Meta-message!

■ Has meaning to both the speaker and the listeners

○ By speaking like this, Obama runs a risk of drawing more of a wedge between him and the people who dislike him

○ Presidents have to be careful about how they are perceived by both the supporters and haters

● George Packer, President Obama’s memorable parting words ○ Being a citizen is the most important office in a democracy

■ Refers back to cultural codes of communication (terms and


■ The term citizen here is defined explicitly

Com week 7

○ Notes that Obama’s overwriting message is that American democracy is threatened by economic inequality, racial division and erosion of democratic habits and institutions

○ 1st quote by Obama “If you’re tired of arguing with strangers on the internet, try talking to one of them in real life.” → emploring us to communicate in a particular way

■ Points to different kinds of communication → arguing in a way of speaking

■ Engaging unproductively online vs actually talking to people in real life

● Idea of face to face vs online interactions

○ 2nd quote by obama “if every economic issue is framed as a struggle between a hardworking white middle class and an undeserving minority, then workers of all shades are going to be left fighting for scraps while the wealthy withdraw further into their private enclaves”

■ Specifically talks about how we talk to each other as americans ■ “Framing” → frame a problem to be the focus of groups,

particularly points to the media as doing this framing

● The media focuses on certain events, casts them in certain

ways and influenced how we see the world is put together

● How something is presented influences the choices that

people make about how to process that information

● It’s on the citizens to see if that framing is legitimate

○ “We sit back and blame the leaders that we elect without examining our own roles in electing them.”

■ “Blaming” is a communication act, through our speech we assign blame to others

● Speech act theory: the idea that our words do things, not

just words but actions, can actually accomplish tasks

■ Our verbal and nonverbal actions are being called out by putting the blame somewhere else

■ What is the role we play communicatively in getting people elected ■ We have choices to reinforce and resist the world that we live in

● Leadership vs leaders: leadership is an idea and leaders are the people playing the role in that idea

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