Thank you Slith for your serious open-minded question. It is obviously complex and could entail essay- long answers.
The general consensus among the believers in the non-human related phenomenon is that these formations are being made by a non-human intelligence that has great technological advantage over us, but also expresses curiosity, benevolence, and compassion toward us through a medium that is not readily subject to the spin of our electronic media, at least not before you have had a chance to witness the message.
The messages are many and varied. Some seem to be simply beautiful art, some are definitely depictions of astronomical events, some are intellectual puzzles, some are spiritual symbols. See Dr. Horace Drew's excellent answer to this question here http://www.cropcircleconnector.com/anas ... 2011s.html
Sometimes the messages are quite direct. This year's theme is "NO MORE WAR", as manifested in the spiral that encoded those words in Morse code