TONE OF VOICE: METACOMMUNICATION & SUBTEXT

The concept of metacommunication refers to shared, but usually unstated, taken-for-granted assumptions about the nature of communication itself. It is communication about communication. Gregory Bateson defined metacommunication as the level of communication where "the subject of discourse is the relationship between the speakers" (1972).

Though these assumptions are generally unspoken, in daily life we may monitor this level of communication by tone of voice, or facial gesture, or body language. Only when we notice a split between this command level and "the content level" or the report portion of a message does our attention become focused on the emotional politics of metacommunication. Over the space of decades of constant exposure to ads, viewers have developed a resistance to being positioned. Advertisers firmly repressed all hints of the metacommunicative dimension for decades, but in recent years they have begun to draw attention to it for the purpose of cooling out (appeasing) viewer resistance.