UAH's Eletra Gilchrist-Petty examines the Dark Side of Communication in new book


Dr. Eletra Gilchrist-Petty, UAH Associate Professor of Communication Arts and co-editor of the newly published book, "Contexts of the Dark Side of Communication."

Eletra S. Gilchrist-Petty, Associate Professor of Communication Arts at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) said because dark side behaviors pervade human communication on every level, it was necessary to write the book Contexts of the Dark Side of Communication. She noted too, that computers, social media and other forms of technology embolden people and provide anonymity to say and do hurtful things that they may not say or do in face-to-face communication.

Gilchrist-Petty co-edited Contexts of the Dark Side of Communication (published by Peter Lang), with Dr. Shawn D. Long, Chairperson of the Department of Communication Studies in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at The University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Book chapters are written by academicians, researchers and professionals who are tops in the field of communication studies.

"I often tell students in my Dark Side of Interpersonal Communication class that life is not all about roses, popcorn, and butterflies…things that are pretty and sweet," said Gilchrist-Petty. "Unfortunately, life can be filled with a lot of hurt, pain, disappointment, and unfavorable relationships that warrant our discussion in the academic world. Absent the face-to-face element, it's also easier to deceive, lie, spread rumors, bully, and stalk individuals because the actor is presented with a sense of security to commit egregious acts."

Gilchrist-Petty said the genre of the dark side of communication has traditionally been studied from the interpersonal/relational perspective, but from her experiences and classroom discussions with students, it became clear to her that it is a multi-contextual phenomenon.

Communication is a powerful tool. One thing that we stress in the book is how to use communication as a means to mitigate a wealth of dark side behaviors

Dr. Eletra Gilchrist-Petty
UAH Associate Professor of Communication Arts

The idea behind Dark Side of Communication came about two years ago, at an annual national conference, attended by Long and Gilchrist-Petty.

"I spoke to Dr. Long about the possibility of creating a dark side volume that spanned various contexts-interpersonal, computer mediated, organizational, health, and blended. He agreed that this volume needed to be written, since no previous book had explored the dark side from a multi-contextual perspective. We immediately began working on it, and from conception to publication took about two years," she said.

Gilchrist-Petty said the book applies to a mix of modern-day dark side topics of concern, such as sexualization, microaggressive communication (insults against people of other races and gender), cyberbullying and triggers of social media jealousy. "Chapter contributors write candidly about how they and the various populations studied experience the noted dark side behaviors," Gilchrist-Petty said. "Each chapter clearly defines, explains, and applies each dark side topic to real-life experiences through scholastic theory and practical application."


She noted too, that although the book is a scholarly work firstly, the concepts are absolutely applicable to the general population, since "we all" have experienced dark side behaviors in some form. "Our goal with creating this volume was simply to present a multi-contextual scholastic work that serves as a vanguard text by offering a more complete view of how dark side behaviors permeate human communication across various domains."

"Communication is a powerful tool," Gilchrist-Petty said. "One thing that we stress in the book is how to use communication as a means to mitigate a wealth of dark side behaviors. However, Dr. Long and I would like to stress that this volume is not conceptualized as simply a book on negative communication, because sometimes difficult conversations and human interactions are needed, possibly remain unresolved, and exist within a consensus-building fashion or dialectic, and that too is okay."

Additionally, Gilchrist-Petty is the editor of Experiences of Single African-American Women Professors: With This PhD, I Thee Wed (2011).

Contexts of the Dark Side of Communication will be the primary book used in Gilchrist-Petty's Dark Side of Interpersonal Communication class this fall.


Dr. Eletra Gilchrist-Petty