Handbook of Health Communication

By Teresa L. Thompson; Alicia M. Dorsey et al. | Go to book overview

3
Theorizing About Health
Communication
Austin S. Babrow and Marifran Mattson
Purdue University

PRELIMINARY CONSIDERATIONS

This chapter, like communication on any topic, necessarily reflects a universe of assumptions that must remain, like the physical universe, largely unexplored. Still, it will be useful to examine our main assumptions before pushing too far with our examination of the topic. If nothing else, looking at these will provide a useful general reminder of the limits of any one essay. It will also protect against overly ambitious aspirations or claims and foster subsequent alternative investigations. For these reasons, we will begin with the general considerations that have guided our more specific thinking on theory and theorizing in health communication scholarship.

Health communication studies frequently draw on and seek to inform communication scholarship in general. Hence, these studies necessarily reflect currents within the broader field. In the encompassing field, there are reasoned and often passionate calls for both greater unification and greater diversification (e.g., Dervin, Grossberg, O'Keefe, & Wartella, 1989a, 1989b; Levy & Gurevitch, 1993a, 1993b). We believe that the calls for greater unity and diversity represent a basic dialectical tension (Babrow, 1993; Craig, 1999). There are other such tensions in this debate. Hence, we will adopt a dialectical stance at many points in this chapter.

In short, we believe there is meaning and value in both the unification and the diversification of communication scholarship. Moreover, we believe that creative efforts to engage with these seemingly antithetical (cl)aims can add significantly to communication research in general and health communication scholarship in particular. Hence, we will try to represent the impulse toward unifying perspectives and also the argument for differentiation and diversification.

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