Ritual View of Communication

William Shakespeare is an excellent example of ritual view of communication. He dramatized events that took place, using news from that time to portray a different view of the information that brings people together.

Ritual view of communication, while typically thought of as “archaic,” is a way of communicating and analyzing various aspects of communication through a sacred, religious way. It essentially derives from a view of religion that incorporates sermons and highlights the role of prayer in the construction of certain media (Carey, 2009: 15). Ritual views refer to the original forms of communication in a sense that it brought togetherness amongst people. When we imagine the ancient ways of conversing, we imagine our ancestors exchanging news via word of mouth rather than the mass forms of media production prevalent in today’s era. This is the original way of communicating that ritual view is focusing on.

To further this ancient view, Emile Durkheim believes that ritual views trace the heritage of communication. It is said that ritualistic views are a “projection of the ideals created by the community” (Durkheim, 2012: 95), meaning the way we once communicated was via projection of our ideas in a social formation. This can be translated in a tangible sense via symbolism, through dance, plays, architecture – anything that embodies a sense of communication. This type of communicating is not to be mistaken for new information, it is simply confirmation of what the world already knows, and by extension, what the individual is already familiar with. Ritual views are not made to alter someone’s attitudes or their knowledge of the matter, it is just to imply a social order.

April 2
James W. Carey

James W. Carey, an important member of the communications world, was the first to introduce this point of view as an actual theory. He took the ancient terms of communication brought about by our ancestors, as well as by Durkheim, and pieced it into a conceivable idea. His definition, widely used by experts today, defines ritual view of communication as “communication linked to terms such as ‘sharing’, ‘participation’, ’association’, ’fellowship’, and ‘the possession of a common faith’” (Carey, 2009: 15). Carey explains the idea of communication in a ritual sense as a religious, sacred ceremony meant to bring people together rather than an extension of information (Carey, 2009: 15). Media under a ritualistic view will be dramatized; it is more so an experience rather than an exchanging of actual events. It is displayed as a sort of art form and is meant to promote togetherness amongst a community in a dramatic focus of the world.

While ritual view is formed off of ancient basis, it is still comparable to modern forms of communication. As far as social media goes, Twitter is a popular source of information exchange. In a ritualistic sense, Twitter is a dramatized version of the news and the world that we live in. It draws people together with dramatic versions of information, hence, a ritual view of communication (Bishop, 2016). This way of viewing brings the world together through retweets and comments in a virtual sense.

Despite the antiquated nature of the ritual view of communication, it’s still very easy to see the ways in which modern communication can be traced back to this more traditional manner of exchanging information. With social media, entertainment news television, and even classical forms of entertainment, such as stage plays, dramatized versions of communication continue to provide social guidelines, rather than new knowledge, in a sacred manner.


Bishop, A. (2016, September 14). Transmission and Ritual Communication. Retrieved December 01, 2017, from https://blogs.baruch.cuny.edu/digitalcombishop/?p=244

Carey, J. W. (2009). Communication as culture: essays on media and society. Rev. ed.: Routledge (15-16).

Durkheim & Swain, J. W. (2012). The Elementary Forms of Religious Life (95). Mansfield Centre, CT: Martino Publishing

Image Attribution: The images used in this post are in the Public Domain.

Written by April Jones, 2017