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The Meaning and Mission of Communication Today ——Speech on 2018 Welcome Conference of the School of Communication

The Meaning and Mission of Communication Today ——Speech on 2018 Welcome Conference of the School of Communication

Dear colleagues, students, good morning! This is the second time for me to give a speech on this platform. First of all, please allow me to extend my warmest welcome. Welcome to the School of Communication of East China Normal University! The entrants may hold a question why some schools are called the School of Journalism, some are called the School of Journalism and Communication, but we are the School of Communication. I personally highly agree with the name of the School of Communication. Why? Let me start with a story.

I took the position as the Dean of the School of Communication in February last year while President Qian Xuhong took up his new post at the beginning of this year. Therefore, I had the opportunity to participate the theory-discussing meeting hosted by Mr. Qian in 2018 winter holiday. At this meeting, President Qian introduced the development model for East China Normal University, which is called the “Flower of Happiness”, consisting of five petals, representatively named as education+, ecology+, health+, intelligence+ and internationality+. It also implies the development idea of integrating "innovation, coordination, green, openness, and sharing". As the dean of the School of Communication, my first response is to ask myself: Where is communication? But when I think deeply about the five petals, it can be seen that the communication is, or should be, hidden in the five petals. So at the end of the meeting, I stopped Mr. Qian in front of all colleagues and said: "President Qian, I am the dean of the School of Communication. Sorry to bother but in my consideration, the five petals you mentioned still lack one element. If East China Normal University wants to bloom as a flower of happiness, a disk is needed to integrate the five pedals into one, and that disk is communication.”

In fact, in addition to these “five petals”, communication has penetrated into all aspects of contemporary social life, and communication can be said to intersect with all disciplines. There has always been an anxiety in the field of communication studies: many important authors whose works are widely recognized as classic are not from the field of journalism and communication, but from sociology, philosophy, political science, economics, history, law, etc. As a result, scholars from communication academic community always have an anxiety of not being independent. Is it possible to draw a circle around the communication field, label it, and say: “Communication is ours, anyone else is not allowed to step in”? Well, in my opinion, this problem hasn’t been and won’t be solved on account of the fact that as a manifestation of social existence, communication has formed a close and inseparable bond with all disciplines, from humanities and social sciences to natural sciences. However, this is not to say that communication should not exist as a discipline. From the perspective of subject naming, journalism and communication are linked together as a first-level discipline, which is actually very young. What is journalism? A classic saying is that journalism is the watchman of society, while the country is likened to a ship in the ocean, whose future is unpredictable with changing challenges and risks around, which needs the care and concern of journalists and journalism. Since the 17th century, the Western bourgeois revolutions and the commercialization of the printing industry contributed to the rising of newspaper, which became the most important mass media at that time. After that, as mankind experienced the upheaval and turbulence of the First World War and the Second World War, the idea of care and concern symbolizes the expectations and good wishes for the country, the society and individuals in such a turbulent era full of uncertainty, which, is the meaning of journalism. It was not until the twentieth century that the communication developed as a discipline, which was inseparable from the Second World War and the Cold War. The entry of communication studies into China was the product of reform and opening up after the 1980s. Today in the 21st century, as the globalization process speeding up, the Internet has shed its light on every corner of the world. In the era when another round of "new media" began to shake the world, what is the significance of Journalism and Communication and its existence as a discipline?

In my first speech here last year, I mentioned Mr. Ge Gongzhen and his work The History of China Newspapers. He was also highlighted by Professor Wu Zhiyong in his speech introducing the school history and the famous teachers. In 1925, Mr. Ge Gongzhen taught journalism at The Great China University, which, together with Kwang Hua University, laid the foundation for the education of communication in East China Normal University. Here, I am willing to quote Mr. Ge Gongzhen’s words again:

Newspaper is the media for human to communicate and exchange ideas. Society is like a combination of multiple organisms in which newspapers act as the blood of human beings. Just as the fact that human will die immediately when the blood stops flowing, society won’t exist without communication and the consequent public consensus.

The "newspaper" mentioned here can be replaced by "communication" today. Although the "new media" in the past has been replaced by emerging ones, Mr. Ge's idea of "communication" is still instructive. Today's communication is still the blood flow of society, with main arteries, veins and capillaries communicating with each other and empowering the society. Wherever there is blockage, the entire society will suffer a crisis. In this sense, what is communication? If journalism is the watchman of society, then communication is a social engineer who breaks down those blockages. It can also be compared as a variety of intersections and connections. Among the bustling pedestrians and vehicles, what should be focused on for the teachers and students of the School of Communication? The answer is the expansion and bearing capability of the road, the smoothness and efficiency of the passage, the formulation and observance of the rules, and whether vehicles and pedestrians can keep themselves in line, whether children, the elderly, the blind and the disabled are able to pass safely and find the place they are going, and whether the birds are allowed to fly over or the sheep can walk across.... Therefore, if it is necessary to define a scope for the communication discipline, it should be all humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences when they begin to intervene in social fabric and enter the public sphere as independent disciplines. And that is where we begin in the study of communication.

Communication exists in the areas where humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences have intersections with society, which constitute a social public domain. This explains why there is educational communication, health communication, environmental communication, data dissemination, and international communication in communication field. That is to say, communication has manifested itself in the five petals of Qian’s “Flower of Happiness”, and the combination is becoming even tighter. This is not to say that communication does not have its own subject, but that communication forms the connection of all disciplines from the holistic perspective. It’s like a sunflower. The strength of its disk depends on whether the petals could absorb abundant sunlight and water, and the way it gives back to the society is to bloom and bear fruit, while the disk is the fruit. This is also the uniqueness of the journalism and communication discipline. In this sense, communication is also the intersection of universities and society. This is why I said to the Mr. Qian that communication is actually the disk of the flower of happiness. Tagore said in Stray Birds: "By plucking her petals you do not gather the beauty of the flower." Each individual petal, however beautiful it is, cannot constitute a living organism. Only when they exist as a whole, taking root and blossoming, can they endure and give something back to the land and society.

Indeed, we also have our own “Flower of Happiness”. Communication studies begins with journalism, and the Department of News and Media in our school is an excellent example of our eagerness in learning and richness in practice. Moreover, committing itself to spreading film and television art and having made brilliant achievements, the Department of Broadcasting and Television has played a fundamental role for the institutionalization of the School of Communication. In an age of media convergence, there is no news without visions. In fact, visual communication is creating a new bridge between arts and communications. Only the cultivated man can have a bright future. The Department of Communication in the new media age demonstrates the transformation and development of the publishing industry, which is crucial for the inheritance of national culture. As new media develops, it is not being neglected but increasingly valued. I also hope that students in Editing and Publication major try to acquire the most broadened academic horizons to do their parts for the knowledge community of our college. In the introduction of our school’s history, Professor Wu Zhiyong talked about one of the most beautiful landscapes in the long history of our school, the Advertising major, with the shortest history yet most brilliant achievements. Advertising studies today has been an inseparable part of socialist market economy. The success of advertisements depends on the construction and dissemination of the mainstream social values. Broadcasting and hosting is our best major, which, in my mind, is an art of narrating stories by means of sounds and bodies. All communications begin with stories. In an era of visual communication featured by media convergence, telling stories through bodies may take on a brand new meaning. How to be a good storyteller? How to be a cultivated man? If you want to compose a good poem, the efforts you should make are far beyond the poem itself. It is the secret of the poetry, the secret of being a good host and the secret of journalism and communication.

Actually, the “Flower of Happiness” in our school is characterized by crossing two first-class disciplines: Journalism and Communication as well as Drama, Film and Television, which helps us to get more resources in the integrated development of new media. And we also hope that new students can carry forward Lu Xun’s “bringism”---absorbing the quintessence, creatively taking advantage of it for innovation, just like diligent bees. Undergraduates in the Great China College need to take initiative in taking part in lectures and other academic activities hosted in our school. As one of the best comprehensive universities, ECNU creatively invented the college system, which is a new practice on liberal education, the importance of which lies in its foundational role in the pyramid of growing talents. How solidly the foundation is built directly influences the height it can reach. As a result, it is necessary for students in our school to have good liberal education. As the backbone of the pyramid, liberal courses can better support professional classes. Only when these two parts function well, can we make more major achievements and become an excellent talent. Just as our school motto says: “Global Vision, China’s Voices, Fairness and Justice and Pursuit of Excellence”——which are the qualities a media professional must acquire.

The “Dao” of the great learning involves manifesting virtue, loving the people, and abiding by the highest good. The “Dao” can be taken as “doctrine” and “way”. With regard to communication, it can mean the way of communication and exchange. When the great “Dao” prevails, the world is equally shared by all. The pursuit of fairness, justice and publicity is what the communication contributes to the mankind, the world, the country and society. This is not only the meaning but also the future of communication, and most importantly, the mission of our school.

At last, I want to tell you that there will always be a meeting between teachers and students on the last Friday every month, as an internal communicative channel. Students also can send your suggestions to Dean mailbox.

Thank you! And wish you all succeed in your studies!

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