the art of communication; 014

I love the field of communication. Much of my high school career was marked by the discovery of how so many different mediums all functioned to communicate something to an audience. I think that’s one of the more defining moments of being a high schooler — I became more aware of what was being communicated to me in everything from conversations between friends to advertisements. I paid attention to how each different medium had it’s own language. Visual arts like paintings relied on composition to say one thing, while rhetorical choices in writing said another.

When you join a high school debate team, one of the first concepts that your coach will take the time to drill into you is the idea of the claim-warrant-impact structure — the framework for almost all communication.

Your claim is the idea that you want to show your audience is true, or otherwise support it. A statement like “We should burn all books,” could function well as a claim, but without any evidence is effectively useless. For instance, I could provide evidence that says something to the effect of “According to a 2015 study from Harvard University, books result in 200,000 deaths every year since 1700.”

That (blatantly made up) piece of evidence can also not stand on it’s own. You have to provide a warrant — why does this evidence matter? Something like, “We can see that books result in a large loss of life, and have almost since the dawn of bound books.” Finally, you drive the other building blocks together in your impact, that shows how you evidence & warrant result in your claim being true. Like, “Wanting to read books does not outweigh the need to preserve human lives. The destruction of the objects causing this loss in life inherently allows for more people to live, and burning all books will accomplish our goals in preserving human lives.”

Obviously, the idea of burning all books is silly, but this structure is how I have found myself approaching almost all matters. This framework allows me to better pay attention to how I’m conveying sentiments to an audience (be it in a discussion of movies with my roommate, or something written on medium.com), and gauge how well I am communicating what I want to say.

And here’s what I want to say:

Claim: I have not showered in 24 hours and spent all morning reading Harry Potter fanfiction on my phone, and Joyce Carol Oates’ ‘The Accursed’.

Evidence: My matted, greasy hair. My internet history. The jacket-less novel next to my laptop, sitting on top of a notebook full of definitions for obscure words.

Impact: Due to my appearance, and the state of my belongings, it is clear I have not showered, prepared for the weekend, prepared for my classes at all in the past 24 hours.

PS: Just wanted to write something. I’ve been thinking about communication a lot, and careers. This ‘piece’ doesn’t even make sense, so I’m just going to publish it without looking over it.

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