Communication channels in the 1980s: A paratheory

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By the 1980s, the standard sender-receiver communication model (borrowed from Shannon and Weaver) had largely fallen out of favor in disciplinary circles. Yet, at the same time that communication and rhetoric scholars were taking aim at sender-receiver models, a different conversation about communication was circulating in public spaces. Throughout the 1980s, the rise of both New Age channeling and Pentecostal practices of speaking in tongues was, in their own ways, also re-imagining the concept of communication and the traditional categories of senders, receivers, information, and messages. In this essay, I argue that channeling as a public phenomenon in the 1980s contributed to a lay theory—or paratheory—of communication that simultaneously worked against, alongside, and outside traditional communication models. Further, this para-normal paratheory continues to resonate in some of our most troubling contemporary public rhetoric.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)317-338
Number of pages22
JournalQuarterly Journal of Speech
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 National Communication Association.


  • channeling
  • communication models
  • lay theories
  • New Age
  • Sender-receiver

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Education


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