URC

Artifactual Communication: A Modern Approach to
Understanding Communication through Nonverbal Artifacts

Keven J. Rudrow

Valdosta State University

Keywords: Artifactual Communication, Nonverbal Communication, Color, Adornments, Physical Attractiveness, Materialism

Abstract

The aim of this article is to explore phenomenology as a method in explaining the usage of contemporary artifacts as a byproduct of cultural materialism in a modern approach to artifactual communication. This article seeks to draw correlations between materialism and artifactual communication (i.e., communicating through the use of artifacts), by assessing research on materialism and artifacts (e.g., color, environment, and clothing), and how it plays an intricate role in nonverbal and interpersonal communication as well as physical attractiveness. Rejecting the notion that artifactual communication is enrooted in sexism, racism, or stereotypes, this article seeks to give credence to approximations while rejecting the notion of absolutisms when decoding artifactual messages. Based on this study we can draw a number of conclusions as supported by previous research as well as the qualitative analysis conducted in this research. We conclude that artifactual communication, among other results, would be worthy of further study, particularly on its influence on nonverbal and interpersonal communication.

Introduction         

Not only in western civilization, but globally, largely due to the tentacles of the globalization of capitalism, the material culture is constantly expanding. This paper seeks to explain through qualitative analysis how materialism has given rise to a new medium of communication (artifactual communication), and how artifacts, nonverbally, help to increase interpersonal communication among peer groups. We must ask ourselves how materialism has reinforced artifactual and interpersonal communication realizing that artifactual communication is an important component of nonverbal communication. Understanding communication and how it is being influenced by materialism is paramount as communication is imperative in a twenty-first century approach where we are more connected than we have been to date (Samovar, Porter, McDaniel, & Roy, 2012; Sponcil & Gitimu, 2013).

With more artifacts in the world than ever before, these artifacts can often be interpreted for meaning. The clothes we wear, the colors of those clothes, the color we choose to dye our hair, or the tattoos and piercings that adorn our body all send messages to receivers who intercept messages whether we intend for them to or not (Zelley, 2007). These messages, although we may not be cognizant of them, help others learn more about those that they interact with, and allow for both parties to potentially determine whether or not social penetration or an intimate relationship would be desirable. Even when assessing the onion analogy of Social Penetration Theory, public image lies at the forefront as the outer layer of persons (West & Turner, 2010), characterized by their personal appearance, which to some degree will involve the artifacts and the attributes of the artifacts they choose for adornment. Research suggests that individuals seek artifacts in order to reduce cognitive dissonance among their peer groups as a means to be perceived more favorably; while appearing vain in nature, the concept is innate, and may actually increase effective interpersonal communication. Research has also shown that artifacts have a direct correlation with perception of aesthetics in environments, as well as perceived physical attractiveness of individuals (Patzer, 2013).

Literature Review

Phenomenology as a Method

In this article interpretive phenomenology is used as a methodology to conduct qualitative research. Interpretive phenomenology is a major approach in the realm of qualitative methodologies (Sloan & Bowe, 2014). Additionally phenomenology as a research method includes: (a) interviews, focus groups, ethnographies, etc. and (b) interpretive analysis of results from those methods. Phenomenology can be described as a study that places emphasis on the collection of data and its meaning from the lived experiences of the participant (Cresswell, 2007; Tuohy, Cooney, Dowling, Murphy, & Sixsmith, 2013)

 Phenomenology defined:

. . . it is a theoretical point of view advocating the study of individuals' experiences because human behavior is determined by the phenomena of experience rather than objective, physically described reality that is external to the individual. (Cohen, Mannion, & Morrision, 2007)

Artifactual Communication

In order to acquire a more precise understanding of artifactual communication we must first define it: "Communication is a social process in which individuals employ symbols to establish and interpret meaning in their environment (West & Turner, 2010)." Although an artifact does employ linguistic symbols innate in their social construct, artifacts are more than a linguistic code. They are an aesthetic code (Davis, 1992). Furthermore, symbols are arbitrary labels or representations of a phenomenon, while an artifact is the concrete existence of those phenomena. Artifactual communication, then, is the aesthetic coding and decoding of those phenomena. The coding and decoding is subjectively interpreted with culture in mind in order to establish cautious generalizations (e.g., physically, culturally, socially, etc.) about the individual who adorns themselves with an artifact. Artifacts and the interpretation of their meaning, are approximations, and are never absolute representations. For all intents and purposes, objects, body modifications, colors, and environments make up criteria that may constitute artifacts.

Human beings are able to make general inferences based on the artifacts that humans use to adorn themselves. Artifacts are all components of an environment that can affect a communicative atmosphere. A person's field of experience will shape individuals' knowledge of artifactual communication and how they interpret artifacts. Artifactual communication, like any other form of communication, is transactional and exists between senders and receivers that send certain messages based on stimuli in a communication episode (West & Turner, 2010). Artifactual communication is dynamic and ongoing and can be built upon and expanded with each experience or encounter with an individual.

Research shows that there may be a correlation between how you dress and your identity (Powell & Gilbert, 2009). Teenagers and young adults often are shown to express themselves through the way they choose to dress (Konig, 2008). Not only may artifacts create implications of self but they play an intricate role in environments. Findings from formal research confirm that adding or subtracting artifacts from oneself or in an environment often has a direct effect on the perception of physical attractiveness (Patzer, 2013).

Materialism

With as many mediums for advertising that teenagers and young adults have access, it is not a surprise that consumption has continued to increase. This study sought to explain and put into perspective that as teenagers and young adults continue to consume more products and place emphasis on artifacts, thus becoming a product of their materialism, the ability to be interpreted by means of artifactual communication increases. To place into context, in society today individuals are able to express almost every aspect of themselves through artifacts in ways that have not previously been possible due to lack of consumer choice.

Studies show the colors that teenagers, and other age cohorts, purchase most commonly. Trends show what clothing is most fashionable and what teenagers are doing in order to either be perceived more favorably by their peer groups or to express themselves more freely. Whether it's the color red, black, or green, jean types like boot cut, straight, or super skinny, or whether or not you are "inked" (i.e., tattooed) or not "inked," pierced, or even if you choose to wear other adornments (suspenders, beanies, hoodies, snapbacks, baseball caps, watches, mouth grills, tongue rings, etc.), we are communicating information about ourselves inadvertently to those who are observing. At the same time as we may be making observations about others, observations are being made about us based on the very same adornments of those who might be observing us.

Although the effects of materialism are still being studied, and emphasizing that this paper does not seek to explain many of those effects, it is important to note that there are two main types of materialism that can be observed: instrumental materialism and terminal materialism. Instrumental materialism has been classified as potentially harmless, and is described as the use of objects for the purpose of furthering personal values. Terminal materialism is described as consumption beyond possession, giving way to a plethora of health related mental and social issues (Csikszentmihalyi & Rochberg-Halton, 1981).

According to research, teenagers holistically spend billions of dollars annually on artifacts ranging from jewelry to clothing (Akcay, 2012). Online Internet usage has been shown to be a direct correlate to the increase in materialism among adolescents and teenagers. One study suggested that media influence and social influence complement each as an effective tool in the shaping and development of materialism in adolescents (Chia, 2010). It is imperative that we first understand that material possessions have symbolic meanings, which may reflect concepts such as prestige or sophistication, can be used to cope with feelings of low self-worth and even communicate a more positive self-concept to others (Chaplin & John, 2007). Studies have suggested that youths, very much like adults, make a number of assumptions regarding people and the objects they own (Marvin et al., n.d.). In research by Skafte (1989), it was highlighted that when 11- to 16-year-olds viewed a picture of a young stranger who was depicted as either "wealthy" or "poor, the more affluent stranger was perceived as more favorable (e.g., social ability, friends, and wealth).

Color

Something that must be recognized is the role color plays in artifactual communication. First we must recognize that perception and meaning of color differs by culture (Adams & Osgood, 1973; Jameson, 2005) and that consumer color choice is a learned behavior and changes overtime (Adams & Osgood, 1973). Depending on the color that an individual chooses to adorn one's self, certain psychological assumptions can be made about the mood of that individual, and in return that individual can send messages to receivers that might suggest a certain mood as well. Like any element of communication, the understanding and interpretation of color is though approximations and never absolutes; but nonetheless this does not delegitimize the importance of color in communication.

A study conducted by Roberts, Owen, & Havlicek (2010) on the effects of the perceived physical attractiveness of males and females based on colors indicated that clothing color affects perceived attractiveness of males as well as females and that these color-associated effects are partly dependent on the gender of the perceiver and the wearer. In addition they found significant effects of color on attractiveness ratings. For male raters, clothing color influenced judgments of both same-and opposite-sex targets. For female raters, color only influenced judgments of opposite-sex targets.

In Colors, Created Spirituality and Their Symbolic Connotations (Malandro, Barker, & Baker, 1989) (Table 1), it is emphasized that color can create a condition (e.g., sorrow, stress, joy or pleasure) as well as have symbolic connotations of the sender (e.g., sensitivity, seriousness, masculinity, or compassion). Colors have an important role and are symbolic in communication (Demir, 2011). In artifactual communication colors are expressed through artifacts. As observed in Table 1, the connotation of color is dynamic and changes with culture. Yellow, for example, is shown to be correlated with nobility in China, sorrow in Greece, doing the wrong thing in Italy, and hunger in Egypt.

Table 1
Colors, Created Spirituality, and Their Symbolic Connotations (Malandro, Barker, & Baker, 1989)

Colors
Spiritual condition they create Symbolic Connotation
Brown Sad, fragile, sorrowful, languishing, melancholic, being notr Melancholy, protection, fall, deterioration, sensitivity, apologize
White Cheer, ease, being notr, cold Seriousness, purity, cleanness, femininity, sensitivity, joy, light, innocence, loyalty, accuracy, pusillanimity
Black Sad, stressful, fear, sorrowful, languishing, melancholic Dark, power, leadership, protection, deterioration, secrecy, wisdom, death, apologize
Green Pleasure, doing business without hurry, being controlled Security, peace, jealousy, hatred, silence
Purple Depressive, sad, sober, noble, splendid Wisdom, victory, show off, richness, tragedy
Orange Displeasure, excitement, disturbed, distress, simulative Sun, fruit, appetite, being thoughtful (gentle)
Yellow Displeasure, excitement, hostility, joy, brilliant Sun, light, wisdom, masculine, nobility (China), sorrow (Greece) using a bad thing for a bad reason (Italy), hunger (Egypt)
Red Hot, affectionate, angry, opposite, hatred, live, excitement, love Happiness, relish, intimacy, sin, blood, fury, formality, disturbance
Blue Calmness, pleasure, doing business without hurry, distance, security, superiority, being easily hurt, being easily upset Dignity, sadness, compassion, reality

When assessing red it is often associated with aggression and dominance (Hill & Barton, 2005) and often with desire wherein the color orange shares some of the same characteristics as red but without the intensity. Green is often associated with nature; it has a soothing, peaceful, and calming effect on the human mind (Rahmatabadi, Teimouri, & Azar, 2011). In other research it was observed that black uniforms were associated with greater perceived aggression, leading to a higher number of disciplinary actions from referees, but also in a laboratory setting with higher levels of actual aggressive intent (Frank & Gilovich, 1988).

Physical Attractiveness & Environments

Not only is there an emphasis on the physical attraction of the self but also the aesthetic beauty of an environment. Adornments and décor may serve as a tool to reinforce and enhance the newly perceived physical beauty of an individual (Patzer, 2013). The environment includes a number of elements; time, place, historical period, relationship, and a speaker's and listener's cultural background (West & Turner, 2010). For the purpose of this study, numerous artifacts (i.e., semi-fixed featured objects) displayed in a particular setting make up a communicative environment. Personal settings (e.g., bedroom or residence hall, vehicle, home) as well as social settings (e.g., friend's house, restaurant) are inclusive of environments that can be descriptive of us.

We have often heard the phrase that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Research suggests that appearance plays a crucial role in communication (Zelley, 2007). The communicative functions of artifacts are multifaceted and may serve as a tool to communicate desired physical attractiveness to peer groups. The color of your clothing, the artifacts you choose to adorn yourself, as well as the environment you are in at the time all serve as a medium that may potentially influence others to perceive you either as physically attractive or not physically attractive.

In one survey by Aizenmean & Jensen (2007), 86 percent of those surveyed reported that the primary reason they acquired a tattoo was for artistic expression, while 32 percent of those who acquired a piercing acquired it for the purpose of artistic expression. In a survey, 15 percent of participants attributed the reason for tattooing was to make themselves more physically attractive, while 32 percent of those who acquired piercings claimed it was to make themselves more physically attractive. Ultimately the study displayed the desire for expressiveness and the desire to manage physical appearance through the use of artifacts.

Criticism

As stated previously, while general observation and inferences of artifacts can allow for an individual to get a better understanding of a human being, on the surface artifactual communication could be criticized because the skilled impression manager is capable of masking their true self by means of deception. However, most individuals are not skilled impression managers.

It is also understood that there can be variation from culture to culture as well as from historical time period to historical time period. It is important to note that all cultures perceive differently the meaning of colors and what certain artifacts might mean based on the shared meaning of those cultures. In addition, this paper does not suggest that the interpretation of individuals based on their artifacts are indicative of the individual being interpreted, but that artifacts have, currently are, and will always be a tool used for interpretation. When used outside the context of communication, and perceived in a more literal sense, artifacts can potentially lead to stereotyping behavior and generalizations which is deplorable and not the purpose of this study.

As underscored by Samovar et al., (2012), it is recognized that generalizing can be a problem when understanding intercultural communication, and seeking to avoid stereotyping behavior the same supposition can be extended to artifactual communication. In an attempt to avoid the misleading effects of generalizing they emphasized four main points: (a) Generalizations should be viewed as approximations and never as absolute representations, (b) When generalizations are employed, primary values of a particular culture should be the focal point, (c) it is ideal for generalizations to be based on empirically supported evidence from a multitude of sources when attempting to understand intercultural communication, (d) and in order to avoid absolutes, conclusions about cultures should be qualified.

Method

Qualitative interviews with a phenomenological approach were selected as the method for this study. Seeking to explain the perspectives of the participants in respect to the participant's point of view, this study explored the emic perspective. Interviews conducted though qualitative research provides in-depth analysis of the opinions, experiences, perceptions, and narratives of research participants (Creswell, 2009). As underscored by Hennink, Hutter, & Bailey (2011) the emic approach is best characterized by its inclusion of the research participant's narrative and how it transpired relative to her or his own life lenses. In general, qualitative interviews can provide valuable insight in the plight of otherwise marginalized individuals, as well as provide insight and explanation in a raw and uncensored form minimizing mutation (Mikėnė, Gaižauskaitė, & Valavičienė, 2013). Qualitative interviews and the emic perspective in tandem provide a foundation for a phenomenological approach. As highlighted by Lester (1999), the phenomenological approach is rooted in the objective of using qualitative research methods such as interviewing to gain an in-depth and individualized understanding of perspectives held by participants.

Participants and Procedure

The total number of participants were 6, ranging in age from 18-21 years of age and were both males and females. All participants were university students in the southeastern region of the United States. On average interviews took 35 minutes to complete. In this research multiple themes were combined to help provide a more concrete understanding of the role of artifactual communication in our everyday lives. General themes as outlined in the literature review (i.e., adornments, materialism, color, physical attractiveness, & environments) are individually and collectively interrogated to provide a more holistic understanding of artifactual communication as a discipline of study. Questions were designed to interrogate five main themes of artifactual communication: (a) adornments, (b) materialism, (c) color, (d) physical attractiveness, and (e) environments as well as artifactual communication's implications on gender, dissonance, and self-confidence. All of the interviews conducted used the same questioning guide constructed by the author. Interviews were conducted online through electronic mail and were saved in encrypted word documents to preserve anonymity.

RQ: How does communication through artifacts play a role in our everyday lives?

Saturation

Because of the nature of this research we purport that saturation was reached after conducting just 4 interviews. After 4 interviews there was enough deviation, as well as emergence of underlying themes, to suggest that the way we make meaning of artifacts: (a) can be unique to an individual, (b) is based on the perception of an individual, and (3) sometimes can display commonalities or general themes. For instance respondents were asked to name artifacts that helped to influence their perception of male masculinity. All participants added at least one new item that had not been previously listed that helped to construct a general theme of what masculinity might look like unique to their own life experiences. This conclusion was reached through the data analysis of the results that show deviation from one participant to the next. Moreover, as stated in the methods section, this paper is methodologically rooted from a phenomenological foundation which seeks to portray the individual narratives of the participants as they experienced them. We can safely conclude that one individual will interpret and make meaning of the world around them and the artifacts in the world in a uniquely different way than another individual.

Results

Artifacts

The first question that was asked as a means to measure the direct use of artifacts was to "Imagine someone who keeps up and purchases all the latest Apple products. What are your perceptions of this individual?" A similar question was asked on the perception of individuals who wear Beats headphones by Dr. Dre. Participants reported that they perceived individuals who regularly purchased Apple products as, a need for quality, affluent, wasteful, or up to date on current technology. When participants were asked to explain their perceptions on those individuals who regularly wear Dr. Dre's Beats as a neck accessory one respondent reported that individuals who regularly wore Beats is attempting to obtain an optimal listening experience while all of the other respondents reported that they perceived others that wore the headsets as being concerned with brand recognition and trying to make a "fashion statement:"

"They're going more for a fashion statement rather for sound quality. There are better sounding earphones that are cheaper and better built."

In the second question respondents were asked about artifacts that influenced their perception of masculinity. Clothing artifacts that were almost always described as masculine included all of the following: tank tops, cargo pants, caps, t-shirts, gym shorts, and running shoes.

Constructing "Hipsterdom" 

Respondents were asked the question "What does the term 'hipster' mean to you? How does someone appear to be a hipster?" All respondents reported that "hipsterdom" was about being yourself and refusing to allow society to manipulate the way you present or express yourself. One respondent reported:

"I see it as someone that does not allow social norms to define them and what they like. The stereotypical hipster wears faux glasses, mustache adornments, and striped clothes. In reality, most hipsters just wear what they want to wear while not engaging in commercial brands, such as Aero or American Eagle."

"Hipsters" were also characterized as creative, trend setters, and as individuals who break everyday stereotypes and social norms of what society perceives people should be.

Materialism

Participants were asked to report how much money a year they spent on clothing items in a year. On average participants in this research spent $500 annually on clothing items for reasons ranging from fashion to human need.

Color

Participants were asked a number of questions on the topic of color and its role in their daily lives based upon the participants own perception of color on other wearers. The color black was expressed by respondents as a color used to express sorrow. Another respondent believed the color black was perceived as a color that implied that the wearer might have a particular interest in "rock music." Additionally the color white was perceived as a color worn by those who are "neat/clean" or "confident." Respondents reported that the color red represented romance, power, curiosity, and excitement, while the color blue stood for "peace" and "loyalty." When asked about their favorite colors respondents reported that they had acquired their favorite color because it allowed for them to feel as if they were more aesthetically pleasing. It is also important to note that some participants were unable to determine what feelings were invoked by certain colors.

Environments

On the topic of environments in artifactual communication, participants were asked two separate questions on their perceptions of two scenarios. In the first scenario participants were asked to indicate their perception of a professor that had a messy desk. Almost all of the participants stated that a messy desk stated that the professor was unorganized, always busy, or unprofessional. One participant reported:

"I think of professors with messy desks as professors whose classes I want to drop.  Professors who are messy and unorganized typically lose all of my work. I'd much prefer a professor that can keep up with my work."

Additionally participants were asked about their perceptions of those professors who had a clean desk. One participant said, "I think of professors with clean desks as more responsible. I also think of them as more approachable and inviting." In another question participants were asked to describe what assumptions people might make about them based on the current condition of their room. In general all participants believed that their room indicated something about them whether it was their likes, interests, or hobbies.

Physical Attractiveness

When asked how to maintain physical attractiveness all but two of the participants reported that clothing played a significant role in whether or not they perceived themselves to be physically attractive. In addition to clothing participants reported that whether or not their hygiene was satisfactory also played a significant role in whether or not they perceived themselves to be more physically attractive.

Additionally participants reported that as a result of feeling more physically attractive they were in general more comfortable with themselves—rewarding much of the credit to clothing, jewelry, tattoos, electronics, piercings, hygiene, and hairstyles. In general participants also reported that even when they felt more physically attractive and comfortable with themselves they were not more willing to approach other people because of issues such as social shyness, awkwardness, general empathy, or being out of character. Thirty-three percent of participants reported that, as a result of feeling more physically attractive, they would be more likely to approach someone else in an interpersonal setting.

Discussion

Implications: Communication & Materialism

Artifacts can say volumes about an individual. Clothing can indicate masculinity or femininity of an individual depending on whether or not a clothing artifact is inside or outside the norms of that respective gender. In addition occupations can be determined based on the individual's type of clothing, which could in turn indicate the social status of an individual (i.e., amount of money spent on an artifact). Even today it can be observed which individuals are following all the social trends and wearing name brands that are in style, in comparison to those individuals who do not follow social trends. Based on these artifacts individuals often make assumptions of the sender that can lead to an interpersonal relationship, or cause a receiver to not seek an interpersonal relationship.

As evidence in the literature review indicated, one of the primary artifacts that students seek are tattoos and piercings, either to express themselves or to increase their perceived physical attractiveness; the same analysis can be used when explaining the use of other popular artifacts in mainstream culture, as a result of materialism (e.g., Apple's iPod, Nike's shoes, Beats by Dr. Dre headphones, or clothing brands such as Ralph Lauren). Like tattoos and piercings, artifacts function the same and can serve a variety of personal, interpersonal, and social functions such as: (a) establishing a personal identity or promoting individuality, (b) strengthening self-image, and (c) establishing a sense of belonging to a given group (Michal, 2003).

Research conducted by Patzer (2013), showed that while the amount of importance placed on the physical attractiveness of individuals might be argued as excessive, reasonable, unreasonable, justified, or unjustified, the fact is that people all over the world overwhelmingly consider good looks to be important and spend their financial resources accordingly.

Subjective Norms & Influences

In America today it is hardly disputed that teenagers appreciate fashion, art, and culture (Carter, 2011). There are a number of influences on teenagers that give credence to a culture of materialism (e.g., friends, parents, and social media). Parents often influence their children the most, not to undercut the intricate role that both social media and peer groups play in the creation of a materialistic culture as well. Regardless of the cause, research indicates that materialism serves a number of purposes as observed in adults. Researchers believe that the same assessment can be made as to why the same observations can be made in teenagers. For example, research by Foley, Holzman, & Wearing (2007) show that among young girls, cell-phones are also a fashion item and a source of self-confidence. Teenagers and young adults use items like cell phones, often in very decorative phone cases, to display status among their peers. Not only do artifacts like cell phones help teens to achieve status but to feel more confident when interacting with effective interpersonal communication. This decreases cognitive dissonance which, according to Cognitive Dissonance Theory (CDT) by Leon Festinger, states that individuals seek consonance. Dissonance is created by psychological inconsistencies; thus, dissonance is sought to be avoided and dissonance motivates individuals to achieve consonance (West & Turner, 2010). Not only is the artifact itself important, but so is the way the artifact is displayed. It is not uncommon to see headphones around the necks of teenagers and young adults or cellphones erected from the interior of the back pocket of ones trousers. Teenagers consume artifacts for a number of reasons: (a) it is fashionable in a culture (b) it rejects popular culture by means of expression (c) to increase physical attractiveness.

An Aesthetic Code

Davis (1992) suggested that clothing is in fact an aesthetic code, which communicates ambiguity and complexity. This underscores the idea that clothing is indeed dynamic and changes with culture in respect to the meaning assigned. Identity and dress are intricately linked (Powell & Gilbert, 2009; Comulada et al., 2011). If identity is in fact related to the way someone dresses, then it is imperative to analyze the choices that an individual makes in order to express themselves. We must also consider how society perceives the individual in order to acquire a better understanding of the use of artifacts as a tool for communication. In one scenario consider someone who society would consider a "hipster." "Hipsterdom," Olsen (2010), is the first "counterculture" to be born under the advertising industry's microscope, leaving it open to constant manipulation but also forcing its participants to continually shift their interests and affiliations. Artifacts such as large, thick glasses, skinny jeans, V-necks, and environments like thrift shops, local vegan hotspots, and coffee shops are all commonly associated with the kind of setting we would expect "hipsters" to thrive in. In another scenario consider how society constructs the urban youth. Artifacts like snapbacks, jerseys, letterman or denim jackets, conspicuous shoes, large watches, and even rosaries would be common artifacts that would be associated with today's urban youth, and malls, teen clubs, and on the street are all associated with the types of environments that are more commonly today associated with urban youth.

Final Considerations

In the United States today teenagers alone make up roughly 10 percent of the population, and have significant buying power (Akcay, 2012); thus, we can infer that materialism is, in fact, a growing phenomenon and, more explicitly, here to stay. A messy room and how artifacts are scattered around may indicate that an individual is very uncouth or not the most fastidious or perhaps have many time constraints that prevent them from keeping an orderly room. An individual who regularly attends class in sweat pants might suggest that the individual might not place too much emphasis on physical attractiveness or how they are perceived. Probably a certain individual who always follows the trends that are very popular and those artifacts could indicate that they pay close attention to trends, put considerable emphasis on how they are perceived or maybe are very vain.

Regardless of how an individual decodes a message, absolutisms must be avoided and it should never be enrooted in racism or sexism. It must be understood that messages can be misinterpreted, much like an incorrect diagnosis in the medical community or even the incorrect interpretation of nonverbal expressions whether it be haptics, kinesics, or another form.

Conclusion, Limitations & Further Research

Materialism fuels artifacts, based upon the premise that teenagers and young adults consume products such as clothing, technology, and body modifications. Teenagers and young adults may, but not always, consume these products as a means to express themselves whether it is in consonance with popular culture or to reject popular culture. Based on the artifacts, general assumptions can be made about individuals such as their taste in music, the way they feel, or other interests that the perceiver might share with the individual being perceived, and also as an indicator as to whether or not social interaction would be desirable. The decoding of artifacts is not absolute, should be based on approximations, and should be cautious generalizations at least. Individuals often conform to norms in order to be perceived as more favorable in society, and may be quick to follow trends, or might reject society and conform to a counter culture. Artifacts and the display of artifacts can give way to the perception of social status, which plays an intricate role with perceived physical attractiveness, helps to decrease cognitive dissonance or social anxiety, and then allows for effective interpersonal communication among peer groups. Regionality as well as the number of participants are some of the limitations to this research—conducted with college students who attended a university in the south eastern portion of the United States. In addition, we conclude that artifactual communication would be worthy of further study.

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