Keynote Address: Finding the Sweet Spot in Human Communication




Salem, Philip J.

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The dynamic tension in all living systems is between similarity and difference. There are many sets of polarized terms representing this tension, but chaos and complexity scholars recognized this tension as amounts of information. Information represents the amount of relative variety – a mix of similarity and difference, and when the amounts were high, but not too high, the system moved to transformation – to the edge of chaos, to the complexity regime, to strange attractors, or to chaos, depending on the model. The sweet spot is that range of relative variety, just the proper mix of similarity and difference, leading to transformation. Human communication is an emergent social process. It occurs when individuals in a social relationship create messages cueing each other as part of an ongoing episode. Human communication is an effort to make sense of an episode created by the process itself. The process constitutes our social and psychological life together. This paper explores the dynamic tension in communication constituting three phenomena: (a) self, (b) trust in immediate and extended relationships such as social networks, and (c) organizations. In each case I will describe current literature highlighting tensions between similarity and difference, and I will explore the potential to move from one basin of attraction to another. The primary constraints on modeling communication transformations are discovering the appropriate parameters and bracketing sequences to define initial conditions, constraints common to modeling all nonlinear processes.



chaos theory, complexity theory, communication theory


Salem, P. J. (2010). Keynote address: Finding the sweet spot in human communication. Presented at the Society for Chaos Theory in Psychology and Life Sciences Annual Conference, San Marcos, Texas.


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