3/28: Cybernetics

Please post a question as a comment.




  1. Bavelas’ book about analyzing human communications claims that problems in communication causes problems in life, rather than from possible psychological disorders and repressive thoughts. The author uses “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” as an example to support these claims, however, in this play, George and Martha seem to have a lack of understanding between boundaries between the personal and public life. Could the lack of boundaries be the cause of George and Martha’s degrading marriage, or has what Bavelas say about lack of communication caused their relationship to fail?

  2. what does it mean that ” the past is not availableexcept as reported in the present and therefore is not pure content but has a relationship aspect as well.”

  3. I was very confused by this quote explaining relationship patterns, it said “…relationship patterns exist independently from content although, of course, in actual life they are always manifested by and through content” (153). The second half of the quote seems to contradict the first half which claims that relationship patterns can exist “independently from the content.” This makes sense when looking at the example of Martha and George and their deteriorating marriage, which does not heavily depend on the content of their dialogue, but the behaviors they display toward one another. My question then is if people agree with this idea that relationship patterns have little to do with the content and more to do with the set patterns we create in our various relationships?

  4. If someone is in the woods, and no one is around to hear or witness what they are doing, are they still communicating?

    Is the imaginary child a transitional phenomena?

    According to the author, George and Martha’s quarrels are a “competitive game” that is also collaborative (Bavelas 168). What sort of insights can we draw from our past readings/topics as to why they share this unconscious desire/drive to feud?

  5. Throughout this reading we we a communication issue between the two main characters, George and Martha. Bavelas writes, “Their game can be described as symmetrical escalation (5. 8Jh) with each keeping up with the other or trying to outdo the other, depending on whose punctuation one accepts. This struggle is established at the very beginning when George and Martha run through several quick symmetrical escalations, almost as if practicing, “merely … exercising,” as George claims [pg. 83]. The content is entirely different in each case, but their structure is virtually identical and momentary stability is reached by joint laughter.” (pg. 39) Do you think the escalation of this system they have built up will end up destroying their son? If so, in what way?

  6. How can we relate the facade that George and Martha put on when others are around to the way that people communicate themselves through social media in today’s age? What is this significance of phony communication, if problems in communications cause problems in life?

  7. Janet Bavelas in “Communication Approach to Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” analyzes the characters throughout the story. She comments how journalistic reviewers favor the character of George who is married to Martha. George and Martha were in a loving relationship which transcended into into a relationship full of bitterness due to Martha’s attempt to have an affair. Bavelas states: “Martha and George both make her contribution obvious: it is, in fact, their shared punctuation that she is the active and he the passive one…but this is a tactic of their game; what should be seen is that they are playing the game together” (157). Through this evaluation of the two characters, what can we say about their communication towards each other? Because of George’s passiveness towards Martha, how can we explain his behavior and how it effected their bitter relationship? In addition, how can we explain Martha’s communication towards George due to her active behavior?

  8. George and Martha have back and fourth arguments that either lead to laughter or frustration and this is all a part of their “game.” The reading says, “their game can be described as symmetrical escalation with each keeping up with the other or trying to outdo the other, depending on whose punctuation one accepts” (160). In some instances, this game gets out of hand. They also go on to have a “son-game,” which is an imaginary son. Why do they make up all of these “games?” What is the function of them?

  9. An underlying idea, according to the Bavelas et, al. piece, is the critical role of nonverbal communication. I am curious as to how Bavelas et, al. would analyze the messages being sent constantly through social media. Namely, the posting of profile photos with no captions, descriptions, etc.? Would this be considered an active of passive form of communication?

  10. With this concept of George and Martha’s verbal games as well as roles that people in general play as exercises, is there some ancient precedent, some primordial instinct behind this? Are putting on facades a recent development or something which even pre-human ancestors engaged in?

  11. Looking at the facade that George and Martha hold over themselves in respect to their “child”, it is easy to look at the situation as abnormal and unsettling, however, how can we parallel their situation to everyday, human nature?

    Hiding behind a false reality to preserve happiness of the self is seemingly normal in popular culture. How long can someone masquerade their reality before it becomes self-destructive? I think about the concept of preserved hope, and although it may never be fulfilled, it is all that inspires some people to keep moving on with what they are doing. How long can this be maintained before it becomes ultimately destructive?

  12. In reading “Pragmatics of Human Communication, Chapter 2”, the idea of axioms and states, “metacommunicational axiom of the pragmatics of communication can be postulated: one cannot not communicate” (2.24). My question is, we create meaning and put meaning to the symbols and actions, so are we the reason we can’t not communicate? We give meaning to someone who is not communicating then? When we see someone look out the window while we talk, we think they are un interested, but what if something just caught their eye for a moment? We put meaning to the communication of not communicating.

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