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Running head: LOST in Communication

LOST in Communication Sara Beth Jones Queens University

Running head: LOST in Communication

As technology advances into new levels, some people are left behind for many different reasons. Some simply cannot afford to purchase the new equipment while others do not have any interest in them. This shortness of technology in some regions is known as the digital divide. The television show, produced by Bryan Burk airing on ABC, LOST deals with the digital divide too, but in a different way (Burk, 2004). The survivors of a plane crash learn to communicate with having no technology whatsoever. This quick transition and change created conflict which in turn became beneficial to the groups success. Going from having technology devises to absolutely none is a big change; but through leader member relationships, diversity and change, and group relationships, the survivors of the Oceanic Airlines Flight 815 plane crash were able to find ways to communicate on a tropical island through shared meaning and power on the island to work towards a common goal-that of going home (Burk, 2004). The survivors from this plane crash landed on a beach in the South Pacific with no resources, crisis management plans, or anything. They had to work as a group to accomplish the extremely difficult task of getting off the island and back to America. This task is easier said than done; even getting along with the other survivors was a difficult mission. Technology was one aspect of the survivors daily lives taken for granted, thus was a total shock to them when they landed on the island with absolutely no means of technology to communicate. Throughout the first season of LOST, the survivors go through a number of conflicts and fights for power that evolve into creating an organization strong enough to face future invaders (Burk, 2004). According to Papa, Daniels, and Spikers Organizational Communication: Perspectives and Trends (2008) book, Jablin explains that organizational exits in the LOST series would be when each and every survivor from Oceanic 815 left the organizations they were a part of at home and created a new organization on the island, which would be an organizational entry (p.

Running head: LOST in Communication 197). None of the survivors knew each other previous to the Oceanic 815 flight, and all came

from different cultures with different strengths and weaknesses which made a diverse group. For an organization to be truly successful there needs to be members of different gender, race, socioeconomic class, etc. Diversity also needs to be valued in order for true success to evolve. People from different cultures and environments have different perspectives on certain topics. This creates room for conflict, which in turn means room for change that could be beneficial to the organization. In the first few episodes of Season 1 of LOST, a few members of the organization would separate themselves from the island and discover clues to the big puzzle the island has wrapped the survivors into (Burk, 2004). If the survivors would have trusted the other members of the organization and told them about the findings, the group could have become prepared for what lay ahead. Since the culture of the organization was being determined by the actions of the members right now, more conflicts arose due to a lack of group relationships and a sense of community (Papa, Spiker, Daniels, 2008, p. 247). In the fourth episode of Season 1, a character by the name of John Locke encounters a monster on the island, but does not tell the other survivors (Burk, 2004). A few episodes later, one of the other survivors was killed by this monster when it caught her off guard. If Locke would have acted according to his expected role a life could have been saved. But because Locke did not feel like the organization he was a member of did not need to know about the monster, he played the perceived role instead of doing what others believed he should do (Papa, Daniels, Spiker, 2008, p.245). By the time the tenth episode of Season 1, the survivors were beginning to value the diversity of the group and began opening up to each other about the experiences the members had when separated from the group (Burk, 2004). For example, in the tenth episode, one

Running head: LOST in Communication character, Sayid returned to the survivors camp on the beach after being captured and wounded by another person on the island (Burk, 2004). When he told the other survivors about what happened to him, this was his first realization of being part of the organization. The group of

people who were also on the island were then referred to as the Others by the survivors (Burk, 2004). Knowing that other people were on the island gave the survivors motivation to become united and be prepared for an attack. For the survivors the conflicts took time to become beneficial, but the gradual steps to successful change were key in the survivors process to become a cohesive group. Leadermember relationships emerged as a result from the diversity in the organization; according to Papa, Daniels, and Spiker, there are many communication scholars who describe different styles of leadership from situations, motivation, influence, etc. that describe characters from LOST (2008, p. 268). Strength played a large role in determining who had power within the group; Sayid hurt other members of the group to gain respect, which showed his role in the organization was an aggressor (Papa, Daniels, Spiker, 2008, p.246). Sayids role in the organization became beneficial when other members recognized he brought a certain strength and protection to the group (Burk, 2004). Each member of the organization brought something to the table, but discovering what exactly that something was did not come that easy. As Papa, Daniels, and Spiker suggest that leadership is a trait determined by personality traits such as intelligence, responsibility, and character (2008, p. 260). This describes one of the survivors on the island, Jack. He was an intelligent doctor who had the personality of a leader and took the initiative to bring the survivors together to form a cooperative organization. His motivation to get off the island was so strong that it carried over to the other members of the organization to work together too. Jack became a strong leader with different strategies to work

Running head: LOST in Communication together; for example he suggested that there be a camp on the beach so everyone in the organization could find it, but during the day different groups would have tasks like finding water, food, or other signs of human life. This organization and communication through discursive practices created trust in the group and with the leader, Jack. Jacks transformation as a leader was a very big step in the series for the effectiveness of the organization. According to Papa, Spiker, and Daniels, transformational leadership is a great opportunity for change in an organization and change members values by motivating them to perform beyond expectations, (2008, p. 266). Leaders transform daily across the universe, and when one experiences or observes this transformation, their eyes are opened to organizational communication techniques whether they are conscious of it or not. In Season 1, Episode 11, Jack transformed into a leader when performing CPR on another member of the survivors organization who was kidnapped and hanging from a tree branch (Burk, 2004). This was a big step for the organization, because it made them closer and know that trust was nothing to be afraid of. Jack helped this man, whom he hardly knew, out of the goodwill in his heart; this characteristic is desired in leaders and Jack was able to be a great asset to the organization. As Jack transformed into a leader of the group, John Locke also utilized his leadership skills towards the success of the organization. John Locke followed more of the situational theory of leadership that Papa, Spiker, and Daniels interpret; this consists of three factors that influence leader effectives: leader-member relationships, task structure, and position power (2008, p.266). John Locke built up trust from the members of the organization by being honest

and insightful, which made his leader-member relationships beneficial to the effectiveness of his leadership. He followed a task structure, which means that he was straight forward and unambiguous with his communication techniques so that the members of the organization knew

Running head: LOST in Communication what the goal was and the steps to take to accomplish it. John Locke also had position power because he was very persuasive and could introduce his strategies to members of the organization; most of the members of the organization believed him, but it was split when John Locke and Jack had different goals or plans.

Along with conflicting ideas in goals and plans, one woman in the organization raised her opinion several times and was shut down. Kate had great ideas, but could never really have her voice heard, which follows the concept of glass-ceiling as described by Papa, Daniels, and Spiker as when women can see the top, but they are still excluded from positions there, (2008, p. 212). Kate could visualize herself as being a leader of the organization, but was not able to accomplish that goal because she was a woman and her voice was not heard. This hindered the organizations success because she was discriminated against just because of her sex when really some of her ideas were better than the other leaders, Jack and John Locke. As leaders arose and the survivors became an organization with shared meaning, they were ready to face the Others. Although they did not meet in the first season, it was not long after that they did meet which came with many conflicts. The survivors learned to communicate effectively within their organization without technology, but the others were a much more developed organization with technology at their fingertips. This digital divide played as a benefit to the others, while hindering the efficiency of the survivors to a certain degree. The time the survivors had on the island before meeting the Others gave them ample time to create communication techniques that would be beneficial to their survival, and since getting off of the island was a common goal it motivated the members of the organization to work hard.

Running head: LOST in Communication The survivors were lead by Jack and John Locke to prepare for the Others and to

brainstorm techniques of ambush with no communication and with no machinery. Both of these leaders established leader-member relations, which helped with trust throughout the entire organization. They also were democratic leaders, which Papa, Daniels, and Spiker explain as more oriented toward guiding and coaching members rather than completely controlling their activities, (2008, p. 264). The organizational culture that was established by the time the survivors had to face conflicts with the Others really helped them communicate and cooperate. The leaders complemented each other and were able to talk about certain things; although they did not always agree, they were still working towards the same goal. The survivors acted as what Papa, Daniels, and Spiker describe as the systems theory, which in short is the organization working as a human body to function with wholeness, hierarchy, openness, and feedback (2008, p. 110). These several parts to this concept that explain what category each member of the organization falls into and make the organization work as a human body. When facing the challenges of the digital divide, it was vital that the survivors work together to be prepared for ambush, harm, and kidnapping. The Others had endless access to technology, meaning that they could watch the survivors every move and be prepared for anything. On the other hand, the survivors did not have any way of communicating through technology, which created the digital divide. Thus, having a set plan for what different groups did throughout the day was vital to their success. Working together as a group helped the survivors when making decisions, because it was more brains working together; if one of the leaders missed a huge concern, there was a high probability that one of the other members of the organization would have caught it.

Running head: LOST in Communication The plan from day to day was determined by group communication and discursive practices of the organizations methods. Through different techniques the survivors were able to develop strategies together to be sneaky around the island and not get kidnapped by the Others. As the series goes on, the survivors discover many different clues to help them solve the puzzle of the island to go back to their homeland, but also come across more challenges to make their stay on the island even longer. Another concept that Papa, Daniels, and Spiker explain is that of

group decision making, which can be much more effective than individual decision making; four questions must be answered: problem analysis, objectives, choices, and evaluation (2008 p. 236). Taking time to go through these questions means that a lot of thinking has gone into both the positives and negatives of each situation so that the best decision can be made. If the group can all participate in the process they will feel connected and the satisfaction of being part of a group will be fulfilled. Although the survivors did not classify their problem solving as communication scholars would, they did participate in the concept of quality circles that Papa, Daniels, and Spiker explain (2008, p. 238). These circles are meant to be a small group of members of an organization meeting together to work on a certain problem, but the survivors quality circles were not professional or communicated as such. However, they were still there when groups formed and were discussing different issues they were facing. These issues ranged from one member being pregnant, to finding food, to building a raft to get off of the island. Members had different opinions about these situations and the quality circles were beneficial in solving conflicts, and leaving room for improvement of the organization to get off of the island. In order to defeat the Others, there were many strategies used that a communication scholar would refer to as task forces. This term discussed by Papa, Daniels, and Spiker is a

Running head: LOST in Communication committee authorized by management to study a specific subject or problem for a specified period of time, (2008, p. 239). So, the survivors organization had many problems to face and split up the studies within the organization. Many groups were focused on finding out more information about the Others, and began spying on them a lot. These tasks were vital to the

organization accomplishing its common goal of going home. In order to do that, they had to stay out of reach of the Others, while stealing their supplies and technological devices. The series is still airing on television, thus the outcome of the organization with the best communication techniques to win the battles on the island. Both organizations have different resources and different members to work with to accomplish desired tasks and goals. The survivors faced the challenge of the digital divide on the island, and having to adapt to not having technology as a way of communication. Through leader member relationships, diversity and change, and group relationships, the survivors of the Oceanic Airlines Flight 815 plane crash were able to find ways to communicate on a tropical island through shared meaning and power on the island to face the Others. The organization they formed was built off of open, honest communication which is key to success.

Running head: LOST in Communication References


Papa, M.J., Daniels, T.D., & Spiker, B.K. (2008). Organizational Communication: Perspectives and Trends. (5th ed.). Newbury Park, CA: Sage. Burk, Bryan (Executive Producer). 2004. LOST [Television series]. New York :American Broadcasting Company.