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Narrative Paradigm

Explanation of Theory:
The "stories" people tell are evaluated based on if they relate to an "audience's" own personal values.

Theorist: Walter Fisher

Date: 1984

Primary Article:
     Walter R. Fisher, "Narration as Human Communication Paradigm: The Case of Public Moral Argument," Communication Monographs, Vol. 51, 1984, pp. 1-22.

Individual Interpretations: Fisherís Narrative Paradigm simply tells of how all communication forms are narrative, meaning that we communicate in order to tell stories, or give report of an event or events. Those receiving these messages judge the validity of the message by their own belief systems- whether or not it fits within these boundaries or paradigms. 

Metatheoretical Assumptions: Being a Humanistic theory, the following metatheoretical assumptions should be advanced: 

Ontological Assumptions: There are many truths to this theorists claim. Fisher is not predicting how we as humans act, he is explaining how we take complicated information and make stories out of it. 

Epistemological Assumptions: Narrative Paradigm falls in the middle of the Scientific/Humanistic continuum on this aspect of assumption. there is a degree of free will in that we decifer which stories we will make out of the information we collect and the free will the receiver of the message takes when evaluating the message as credible or not. On the other hand, there is also a degree of determinism in this theory because Fisher explains that this is how we are made up as communicating humans.

Axiological Assumptions: This theory is value laden in that the receiver takes into account his or her personal beliefs when evaluating the message as believable or credible. 

Critique:As a rhetorical scholar, Fisher explains how we as humans communicate by taking complicated information and tranforming it into narrative stories. This theory is a very useful theory that explains our true nature in terms of communication, that we are "storytelling animals" that basically send a message to another, and that message is judges viable or  not based on its fidelity. 

Analytic Consistency-  Narrative paradigm is clearly grounded in the sense that it takes into account other studies and expands from them. 

Methodological Rigor- The procedure used by Fisher is that of observation.

Intuitive Credibility- Fisher created a theory that generates questions and hypotheses regarding the human tendency to tell stories. 

Heuristic Value- Narrative Paradigm is a theory that can be used again for other communication purposes.

Ideas and Implications: Fisher's Narrative Paradigm is a very useful theory that explains the true nature of human communication. Fisher tells of how we are basically "storytelling animals" and how the receiver of the message judges the credibility of the message due to its consistency. This theory is an informative theory that can be expunded upon in furher detail by researchers in the future, which is the mark of a great theory. 

Example: Richard is a practicing Mormon. Because of his strong convictions to the Mormon church, he travels from house to his in his hometown telling others about Mormonism. At one residence in particular one afternoon, Richard knocks on a door, and an elderly lady answers. Richard begins to tell her about his beliefs and how she can become a Mormon herself. The woman abruptly says no and shuts the door in Richardís face. 

This hypothetical occurrence took place because Richardís beliefs did not necessarily coincide with the womanís beliefs, therefore causing the communication to falter. This is an example of Fisherís Narrative Paradigm.

Relevant Research:
Buechner, F. (1979). Peculiar Treasures, Harper & Row, New York, 79-90.

Kuhn, T. (1962). The Structure of Scientific Resolutions, University of Chicago, Chicago, 153- 161.

Warnick, B. (1987). "The Narrative Paradigm: Another Story," Quarterly Journal of Speech, 73, 172- 182.

Location in Eight (8) Primary Communication Theory Textbooks:

     Anderson, R., & Ross, V. (1998). Questions of communication: A practical introduction to theory (2nd ed.). New York: St. Martin's Press.  N/A

     Cragan, J. F., & Shields, D.C. (1998). Understanding communication theory: The communicative forces for human action. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon. N/A

     Griffin, E. (2000). A first look at communication theory (4th ed.). Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill. N/A

     Griffin, E. (1997). A first look at communication theory (3rd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill. N/A

      Infante, D. A., Rancer, A. S., & Womack, D. F. (1997). Building communication theory (3rd ed.). Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press. N/A

      Littlejohn, S. W. (1999). Theories of human communication (6th ed). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. N/A

      West, R., & Turner, L. H. (2000). Introducing communication theory: Analysis and application. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield. N/A

       Wood, J. T. (1997). Communication theories in action: An introduction. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth,  46.