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The Messages We Send: Social Signals and Storytelling

The Messages We Send: Social Signals and Storytelling (Hardback)

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Synopsis

G. R. F. Ferrari offers a new framework for understanding different ways in which we communicate with each other. He explores the idea of "intimations": social interactions that approach outright communication but do not quite reach it. The metaphor from which he starts is that of a communicative scale or switch, which goes from "off" (no communication intended) to fully "on" (outright communication). Intimations lie in between. Three intermediate positions are identified: quarter-on, half-on, and three-quarters-on. Progression along the communicative scale is determined by the extent to which what comes across in the transmission is required to come across by recognition of the intention of the transmitting party. At a quarter-on, it is required not to; at half-on, it is neither required to nor required not to; at three-quarters-on, it is required to, but only partially; at full-on, it is required to, and the recognition is complete. The half-on intimation is primarily used for impression-management in social life. To illustrate it, the book concentrates on fashion and the "messages" we send with our clothes.

With the quarter-on and three-quarters-on intimation, the focus of argument is on the fact that transmissions at the same position of the communicative scale have the same underlying structure, whether they are made in the formal arts or in daily life outside the arts. For the quarter-on intimation, the formal art is lyric poetry; for the three-quarters-on intimation, it is storytelling. The book discusses storytelling at length, and at the end investigates its connection to situational irony.

G.R.F. ("John") Ferrari hs been a professor at the Department of Classics at the University of California, Berkeley, for over twenty-five years. His principal interests are in philosophical aesthetics and in ancient Greek philosophy, especially Plato.

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