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Penman, Robyn. Reconstructing Communicating: Looking to a Future.

Penman, Robyn. Reconstructing Communicating: Looking to a Future. Mahwah, NJ/London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2000. Pp. vii, 169. ISBN 0-8058-3648-9 (hb.) $39.95 (Special prepaid price upon adoption and to individuals: $19.95.)

In the course of her experience as a foundation director of an independent, nonprofit communication research institute, Penman "found that mainstream communication studies and understandings have had little to offer. I have been confronted with problems and challenges that rarely, if at all, get mentioned in the mainstream journals" (p. 2). She wrote this book to cut to the heart of "the practice of communicating and how we make sense of it," as well as exploring "the quality of our communicating practices and how we make judgments about them--also while communicating" (p. 1). She says that "the central theme throughout this book is concerned with what constitutes good communicating and, concomitantly, good communication research" (p. 8).

In the body of the book, Penman explores understanding context, communicating "in a different game" that involves rejection of Cartesian and Lockean starting points, understanding what we are in communicating, "judging with moral import, in good faith," the possibility of dialogue, research practices and tools, and the importance of practical inquiry in our daily lives.

She closes stressing the need to stop searching "for scientific and technical knowledge to provide solutions to human problems," such as a project commissioned by the United Nations to create "a computer data-base that will record all the world's problems and solutions!" (p. 145) [emphasis hers]. Instead, the author proposes a constructionist approach recognizing "that each so-called problem we are confronted with is unique" (ibid). She advocates the "wicked problem approach" that was "first formulated by Horst Rittel in the 1960s," in which highly ambiguous problems are approached in a nonlinear way, finding out, for example, what an organization does well and building on practical experiences to develop new options (pp. 147-148).

The book's final paragraph emphasizes that "what counts fundamentally in all these explorations is acting in good faith, with both the process and the participants in it," without "all the measurement tools of scientists, or the metaphorical labcoat to hide behind" (p. 149).

A list of references (pp. 151-160), and author and title indexes are appended.
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Publication:Communication Research Trends
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 22, 2000
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