Dialogic vs Discursive


Díaz Nafría, José María  jnafria@uax.es
 Incorporated contributions
Díaz (20/07/09, trans. 20/02/10)
 Usage domain
transdisciplinary, communication and media theory, information society
concept, problem
dialogique vs discursive
 German Dialogik vs. diskursive

Flusser, in his theory of communication, “Kommunikologie” (1996), warns of the danger that chiefly discursive media, in which communication is disseminated or distributed (as television, radio, etc.), could end up smothering the dialogical media. While, in the latter, information is created (e.g. in scientific discussions, interviews, meetings, etc.) the former only disseminates it. Thus, Flusser’s warning concerns creativity. This assessment is double faced: on the one hand, it is epistemological in the line started by Socrates, opposing a dogmatic and limited thinking to a dialectical and open one; on the other hand, it is socio-technological, according to which, particularly Internet might not be the genuine democratic communication, as it pretends to be; on the contrary, its democratic character might be dominated by hierarchical structures conditioning that information is to be chiefly broadcasted –sometimes in a subtle manner- from centres of information and power domination (→Critical Theory of Information).

A theory of information based on a communication model as the one used in the Mathematical Theory of Communication (MTC) –rooted in semiotic theories of significant influence in the history of ideas, such as Locke´s theory– might better account for discursive communication than dialogical one (Díaz & Al Hadithi 2009, →communication). Regarding to this –so to speak- “simple model”, information might be considered as transported properly codified and next received by means of a pertinent decoding operation (→code): according to Locke, “the idea they make it a sign of is precisely the same” [for both the emitter and de receiver] (Locke 2004, III-ii-4); in the MTC, the receiver “performs the inverse operation of that done by the transmitter”, and such invertivility presupposes an isomorphic relation between the emitter and the receptor symbolic domains (Shannon 1948: 380). However, the idea that this “simple model” may be the case of discursive communications is just an ingenious point of view, in the sense that an automatic tuning between the emitter coding and receiver decoding is presupposed, which is all the more difficult to admit, if the heteronomy between emitter and receiver is higher. In short, even though the relative autonomy of both coding and decoding operations in discursive communications seems to approach the simple model, the heteronomy of these operations –at the same time conditioned by the domination structures, referred by Flusser- leads to a practical significant distance between them (→message).

Concerning dialogical communications, a model able to reflect this type better has to emphasize the procedural and cooperative character of information as well as the pragmatic situation where it takes place and in which the sense of the utterances is articulated. Whereas in discursive communication the →context (in broad sense) plays a secondary role and it is often ignored, in the case of dialogical communication the context plays a crucial role. On the other hand, the referred heteronomy or emitter/receiver asymmetry of discursive communications, where the role of the receiver is minimised or reduced to a passive subject, becomes a balance between partakers in the dialogical ones. Here, the reception process is enhanced and the homonymy plays a transcendental role. Finally, while discursive communications can be related to a vertical structure (from a privileged position to a subordinated one), a more horizontal structure corresponds to dialogical communications (→message).


  • DÍAZ NAFRÍA, J.M. & AL HADITHI, B. (2009). Are “the semantic aspects” actually “irrelevant to the engineering problem”?. In special issue, Díaz & Salto (eds.) "What is really information? An interdisciplinary approach". TripleC, 7(2), 300-308. [online, accessed 20/02/2010].
  • FLUSSER, V. (1996). Kommunikologie. Mannheim, Germany: Bollmann.
  • LOCK, J. (2004). An Essay Concerning Humane Understanding. [Online] Galaxia Gutemberg http://www.gutenberg.net/1/0/6/1/10615/ [accessed: 20/02/2010]
  • SHANNON, C.E. (1948). "A Mathematical theory of communication". The Bell System Technical Journal27, pp. 379–423, 623–656.
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José María Díaz Nafría (20/07/09)
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