A Kinder, Gentler Discipline: Feeling Good About Being Mediocre: Michael Burgoon
L ET me begin by saying that I am not by nature a quiet man. But I too be-lieve in a kinder, gentler world, where one can feel good about beingmediocre. Some believe that if such a philosophy is acceptable for the largest democracy in the world, then perhaps it ought to be good enough for the discipline of communication. I shall argue that our theoretical predilections, ideological predispositions, and most of all our discipline's dominant social scientific research prescriptions form the Holy Trinity that allows us to live in
that kinder, gentler disciplinary world. But I will certainly not embrace that world with any kind of enthusiasm. 1
Those of us who have haunted the corridors and meeting rooms ofconvention hotels and perused our journals for the past quarter century or so know that the questions of "whither" or "whether" communication theory have been asked in some form for a very long time. Thus this essay is only one of many that have attempted to take stock of questions about the state of theoretical development and/or dominant scholarly directions in the discipline. However, I am not going to repeat the shibboleths frequently offered up about the dearth of theories of human communication, even though that is probably what some might expect. In fact, I am going to depart from that particular "party line" for a moment and offer a digression about the question of "whether" theory before mounting my offensive on the "whither" issue.