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Communication tradition

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Communication tradition

This paper explores and identifies the differences, as well as the causes behind the differences between administrative communication tradition and critical communication tradition.

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Critical Communication Tradition

The critical tradition of communication is “a more personal interpretation of the meaning, where the reader must draw on other texts and their own personal experiences” (Totale, n.d). This theory of communication draws from the “semiotic model of communication, where the meaning is interpreted by the reader rather than being inherent in the text” (Totale, n.

d). Also, this form of communication is based on the theories of critical social scientists such as Karl Marx, and studies the actions and symbols of society to analyze the oppression of certain social classes. It therefore uses the actions of members of society to interpret and examine the interaction between social classes. In other words, this theory believes that there is a strong relationship between communication style, and the cultural context within which the communication is taking place.

(Seiler, n.d)

Administrative Communication Tradition

The administrative communication tradition within a business organization is based on hierarchical structure of the organization, and is one in which the meaning in contained within the content of the message. There is little room for personal interpretation, since the meaning is specific and direct.

Reasons for the Differences

The difference between the two traditions is clear. The critical approach relies on the personal interpretation of the receiver of the message, whereas the administrative approach relies on a direct, specific message to transfer the meaning from one person to another (Maguire, 2006). The critical tradition uses a more humanistic approach, while the administrative tradition uses a more scientific approach to communication.

The main reason behind the difference is the cultural context within which the message is being transferred. There are certain organizational cultures in which the meaning of the message need not be in specific terms. The meaning will be interpreted according to past experience, relationship which exists between the sender and receiver, and the context within which the message is being sent. There is room for two way communication in this type of culture for further clarification of the message, if need be. The concept of high-context and low-context cultures can be applied here. For example a country like USA has a very low-context culture, meaning they follow a critical communication tradition while a country like India is high-context where an administrative communication tradition is followed.

On the other hand, there are certain organizational cultures which prefer their messages to be more direct and clear in their meaning, so as to leave no room for personal inferences. In this culture there is no need for two way communication, since the meaning is inherently clear, and requires no further clarification. For example, advertisements, when communicating to their audiences would require a communication style more tilted towards the critical approach. The message would contain facts, but would leave room for the receiver to interpret it according to his opinions and pre-conceived beliefs. Advertising companies usually have an organizational culture which advocates such flexibility.

On the other hand, newspapers and research articles need to adopt a communication style tilted towards the administrative approach. Their findings should be directly informing their audience, not leaving much room to draw upon past experiences for interpretation. Another possible reason behind the differences between the two traditions is the nature of the message itself. Some messages are considered more critical than others. They require, for example, specific orders to be followed; otherwise the consequences for the organization could be grave. Such messages would rely on the administrative tradition because it cannot risk the receiver from interpreting it any other way than what was intended by the sender. When messages are not so critical, and are sent casually between two members of the organization, they can rely on the critical tradition.


The main difference between the two tradition was identified as follows: the critical tradition draws upon the entire societal and cultural context within which the message is being sent, and the interpretation of meaning depends of the receiver, who will draw upon his past beliefs and experiences to interpret the message. The administrative tradition however relies on a straightforward message, in which the meaning is contained within the text or content of the message itself. And these differences occur because of the differences in high and low context cultures and the importance of intended message.


Maguire, K. C. (2006). Making Sense of the Seven Communication Traditions. Communication Teacher, Volume 20, Number 4, October 2006, pp. 89-92(4)

Seiler, RM. Human Communication in the Critical Theory Tradition. [Internet] Available from : <http://www.ucalgary.ca/~rseiler/critical.htm> [Accessed 27 October 2008])

Totale, JT. Critical and pragmatic approaches to Media Studies in Australia. [Internet]. Available from: http://www.everything2.com/e2node/Critical%2520and%2520pragmatic%2520approaches%2520to%2520Media%2520Studies%2520in%2520Australia [Accessed 27 October 2008]


Cite this Communication tradition

Communication tradition. (2016, Sep 12). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/communication-tradition/

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