The year 2014 could be deemed the year of living dangerously. From Hong Kong to Ferguson and Wall Street to Main Street, people are standing up in the face of incredible loss and potential for loss and exploding the concept of convergence wide open. Factions of individuals are using their collective voices to speak truth to power and expose the continued inequality that makes us all feel less human even if we sit far removed from the fray. It is clear to me that this time of crucial intersection is one that feels unsteady, crazy, and dangerous. It, also, feels hopeful. As we converge on the Coeur D’Alene resort for another meeting of the Northwest Communication Association, faculty and students alike will bring amazing papers, panels and workshops that allow us the chance to wrestle with the ideas of convergence (and many other ideas) while, also, giving us a chance to connect with each other in ways big and small to grow our academics, our community, our societies and our world. I look forward to seeing familiar and new faces as we celebrate another successful year in April!
The 2015 NWCA Conference theme is Communication and Convergence. Let me explain: in February of 2015, WSCA will convene in Spokane, WA, just 35 miles west of Coeur d’Alene. Coincidence? Then, at the exact time as NWCA’s April 16-18th conference, the National Conference on Undergraduate Research will convene on EWU’s Cheney campus—for the first time ever.
Clearly, the region is experiencing a convergence in 2015. We are moving toward one another; in form and function, we’re irresistibly drawn to the same landscape—like that compelling scene in Close Encounters when the chosen few converged at once on Devil’s Tower.
Convergence is a process with multi-disciplinary appeal. Economists argue poorer economies will eventually “catch up” to richer economies and achieve income convergence. Sociologists posit that newly industrialized societies will resemble older ones and “converge” toward similar forms of social organization. For IT experts, convergence occurs when functions once understood as distinct become deeply integrated, like when cell phones and handheld computers converged into smart phones. Biologists use Convergent Evolution theories to explain how insects, birds, and bats developed the useful characteristic of flight independently of each other.
Scholars in our discipline have long known that convergence can undermine communication processes, enabling group think or exacerbating conflict. And yet, Harold Giles’ “accommodation theory” explains why we shift our speech patterns to resemble those of the people we’re speaking with. Ernest Bormann’s Symbolic Convergence Theory clarifies group cohesiveness and the effort to make sense out of incomplete narratives. In their 2009 Encyclopedia of Communication Theory, Littlejohn and Foss proclaimed the general principle of convergence as “central” to many communication theories. Together, we examine the merging of industries, concentrations of wealth and power, intertextual influences and the convergence of things and ideas across disciplinary boundaries.
Our keynote speaker for 2015 is Dr. Michael Salvador, Professor and Chair of Communication Studies at California State University, San Bernardino and 2012 Recipient of the National Communication Association’s Christine Oravec Research Award in Environmental Communication. His research explores the intersections of Leadership, Environmental Communication, Rhetoric and Culture. He is also an accomplished teacher and creative thinker with important things to say about the necessity of communication scholarship in a world grappling with 21st century complexities.
While we cannot promise a Third Kind event at NWCA in 2015, you won’t want to miss this particular convergence. Something’s happening here.