The level of subject matter knowledge and argumentative ability an individual involved in an argument possesses determine rationality. Finally, the rational world paradigm presupposes that the world is composed of logical puzzles that human beings solve through rational analysis. As can be seen both paradigms offer highly differing presuppositions over what constitutes human beings and how they communicate among one another.
Although Fisher has not explicitly mentioned it, the conduit metaphor can be said to share certain similarities with the rational world paradigm. The conduit metaphor stresses that thoughts and feelings are transferred via language between individuals. This entails that senders of information put their thoughts and feelings into words, which have to then be extracted out by receivers using objective interpretation (Reddy, 1979).
The metaphor's assumption that receivers will be objective while interpreting the message is similar to the rational world paradigm's assumption that individuals will objectively examine how well an argument was presented in terms of knowledge and ability before coming to understand its rationality. The metaphor makes it conditional for senders of information to make sure their messages contain the intentional meaning behind them; any unintentional meanings are considered to be exceptions that occurred through the fault of the sender (Axley, 1984).
Likewise the rational world paradigm makes it conditional upon communicators to make sure their argument is clear by conducting it according to the speaking situation one is involved in. Due to similarities such as these, it can be understood that both presuppose that humans are essentially rational beings who communicate clearly and effectively with each other due to their objective nature.
Fisher compares and contrasts the narrative paradigm with the rational world paradigm (which by extension can be applied to the conduit metaphor) in the following way. He notes that the rational world paradigm assumes that humans have to be educated into understanding any form of communication from a rational perspective. This means that they have to be taught not only about the subject matters their arguments are based upon but also about the ways one can make proper arguments. According to Fisher this means that the rational world paradigm requires that only well-educated and qualified individuals of society be involved in this endeavor.
The audience, which means here the rest of society, has to be educated and qualified enough to understand what the experts have to say about certain matters. Thus the rational world paradigm calls for certain members of society to become experts in the various fields of knowledge available so that only they can act as communicators of information. This assumption can apply to the conduit metaphor, in that the experts can be thought of as the communicators of information and the rest of society is the audience to whom this information is sent towards. Communicators have to use their knowledge and expertise towards finding the right words to put the information in and the audience has to knowledgeable enough to objectively interpret what the information is about.
Fisher contrasts this assumption with the one made by the narrative paradigm, which assumes all humans possess the ability to form stories about their lives, which they would refer to constantly when communicating with others. This means that unlike the rational world perspective, which requires that humans have to learn how to communicate properly, the narrative perspective states that all humans are already born with the ability to communicate. Thus, the narrative perspective does not require that only experts can act as communicators of information. The audience, according to the narrative perspective, can be any member of society who has the ability to understand the information according to the logic of good reasons. Using this logic means that based upon reasons, which are determined by the history, biography, culture, and character of the audience, receivers of information can interpret the information according to what they believe it is.
This is unlike the way the rational world perspective requires that the audience has to understand the information based only on rationality, which is determined by the level of knowledge that they possess, and that they have to interpret the information only one way, which is the way intended by communicators. According to this then, the narrative paradigm can be deemed as being the more human approach towards communication, because it entails that all humans are capable of communicating despite the level of knowledge they possess. The rational world paradigm, or by extension the conduit metaphor, is more of a mechanistic approach that is best suited for communications occurring within specialized areas of knowledge of which expert opinion is required.
The case involving Rupert Murdoch's attempt to break into the Chinese media market can serve as a good demonstration of how narrative paradigm works in the real world (McGregor, Oct. 17, 2005). Initially Murdoch was unable to be allowed access into China's media market because of a speech he made in London four years earlier, in which he claimed that advances in communications technology would be threatening for authoritarian regimes everywhere. Even though he was referring to the government of Russia in his speech, the Chinese believed that the speech also applied to them. Thus, they retaliated by banning consumers from privately owning satellite dishes because Murdoch had acquired control of Hong Kong's Star TV satellite network. This action undertaken by the Chinese indicates that they took their perceived understanding of what Murdoch's speech was about into greater consideration than the speech's actual understanding, which was later shown to have been about Russia instead of China. The narrative perspective would show that the Chinese understood the speech based on the logic of their own good reasons. The speech in this case was Murdoch's initial narrative directed toward the Chinese, which resulted in a misunderstanding between them based upon different interpretations of what it was about.
Murdoch's attempts after the speech debacle to urge the Chinese government to reconsider their position towards him was at first unsuccessful due to the fact that he did not go about urging them using narratives. He tried to use non-verbal communication to placate them, in forms ranging from making donations to a Chinese foundation to removing international news broadcasts from the Star TV network. This proved to be unsuccessful because as the narrative paradigm illustrates, verbal communication is more effective than non-verbal ones in making human interactions more viable.
After four years of trying to make amends, Murdoch finally won favor with the Chinese after he was allowed to form another narrative for them, this time at a meeting with top Chinese political and business leaders. The Chinese initially gave a cold reception to Murdoch but as the meeting wore on they began warming up to him as this new narrative allowed both sides to interact with each other. This was unlike the speech narrative, which allowed for no interaction between both sides, thus preventing the Chinese from rebutting it. Through their interaction, both Murdoch and the Chinese realized that they shared many things in common; both realized that they used similar management styles for example. Through this and other realizations, the Chinese again used the logic of good reasons to change their perception of Murdoch from being a threatening Western entity to being a business tycoon similar to them in more ways than one.
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