Carey, J.W. (2009). A Cultural Approach to Communication. Communication as Culture: Essays on Media and Society, (New York: Routledge), 11-29.

“Two alternative conceptions of communication have been alive in American culture since this term entered common discourse in the nineteenth century.” 

Transmission view of communication/Ritual view of communication

In the transmission view, “communication is a process whereby messages are transmitted and distributed in space for the control of distance and people.”

This includes the moving of information across space, transmitting ideas, sending data, etc. 

In the ritual view, communication is the creation of community or the, “is linked to terms such as ‘sharing,’ ‘participation,’ ‘association,’ ‘fellowship,’ and ‘the possession of a common faith.’

Carey uses the Christian mass to contrast transmission (the sermon, the admonition, the church bulletin) to ritual (chanting, singing, the ceremony).
Ritual “sees the original or highest manifestation of communication not in the transmission of intelligent information but in the construction and maintenance of an ordered, meaningful cultural world that can serve as a control and container for human action.” -> See Anderson Imagined Communities – nationalism as the bonds between strangers who see the image of each other in communion.

We have a difficulty seeing this level of communication because of the extreme focus on individual thought in western society.

Carey uses newspapers to contrast transmission (reporting and reading information, advertisements, opinion) to ritual (our place in dramatic action).

Part two is concerned with how “communication is a symbolic process whereby reality is produced, maintained, repaired, and transformed.”

Rather than communication being a reflection of reality, communication creates reality through symbolic ordering. “In the beginning there was only the word”

Carey uses maps to demonstrate the abstract ordering of the reality through symbols, directions, and geographic features into a communicative artifact. Different maps create different possible realities

Thought is not an individual project but rather an individual accessing public thought through symbols (Language, numbers, mathematical functions, theory, etc.)

Communication study is often about communication. And the models we create to understand communication become social institution themselves (the academic paper, the conference, the seminar, etc.)

From "The West Wing" Season 2 Episode 16