Communication

Communication is a process of transferring information from one entity to another. Communication processes are sign-mediated interactions between at least two agents which share a repertoire of signs and semiotic rules. Communication is commonly defined as “the imparting or interchange of thoughts, opinions, or information by speech, writing, or signs”. Although there is such a thing as one-way communication, communication can be perceived better as a two-way process in which there is an exchange and progression of thoughts, feelings or ideas (energy) towards a mutually accepted goal or direction (information).[1]

Communication is a process whereby information is enclosed in a package and is channeled and imparted by a sender to a receiver via some medium. The receiver then decodes the message and gives the sender a feedback. All forms of communication require a sender, a message, and a receiver. Communication requires that all parties have an area of communicative commonality. There are auditory means, such as speech, song, and tone of voice, and there are nonverbal means, such as body language, sign language, paralanguage, touch, eye contact, through media, i.e., picures, graphics and sound, and writing.

Information communication revolutions

Over time, technology has progressed and has created new forms of and ideas about communication. The newer advances include media and communications psychology. Media psychology is an emerging field of study. These technological advances revolutionized the processes of communication. Researchers have divided how communication was transformed into three revolutionary stages:

In the 1st Information Communication Revolution, the first written communication began, with pictographs. These writings were made on stone, which were too heavy to transfer. During this era, written communication was not mobile, but nonetheless existed.

In the 2nd Information Communication Revolution, writing began to appear on paper, papyrus, clay, wax, etc. Common alphabets were introduced, allowing the uniformity of language across large distances. Much later the Gutenberg printing-press was invented. Gutenberg created this printing-press after a long period of time in the 15th century. In the 3rd Information Communication Revolution, information can now be transferred via controlled waves and electronic signals.

Communication is thus a process by which meaning is assigned and conveyed in an attempt to create shared understanding. This process requires a vast repertoire of skills in intrapersonal and interpersonal processing, listening, observing, speaking, questioning, analyzing, and evaluating. It is through communication that collaboration and cooperation occur.[2]

There are also many common barriers to successful communication, two of which are message overload (when a person receives too many messages at the same time), and message complexity.[3] Communication is a continuous process. The psychology of media communications is an emerging area of increasing attention and study.

 Types of communication

Albert Mehrabian (UCLA, 1967)[4] identified three major parts that convey meaning in human face to face communication: body language, voice tonality, and words. He conducted research to determine how people make meaning when a speaker says one thing but means another. If the speaker is sending a mixed message the listener will rely on the following cues to determine true meaning:[5]

  • 55% of impact is determined by body language—postures, gestures, and eye contact,
  • 38% by the tone of voice, and
  • 7% by the content or the words spoken.

Mehrabian says this only applies in situations where the speaker is talking about feelings or attitudes.

Although the exact percentage of influence may differ due to variables such as the perceptions or biases of the listener and the speaker, communication as a whole is meant to convey meaning and thus, in some cases, can be universal. A system of signals, such as voice sounds, intonations or pitch, gestures or written symbols can communicate thoughts or feelings. If a language employs communicating with signals, voice, sounds, gestures, or written symbols, can animal communications be considered to be a language? Animals do not have a written form of a language, but use a language to communicate with each another. In that sense, animal communication can be considered as a separate language.

Human spoken and written languages can be described as a system of symbols (sometimes known as lexemes) and the grammars (rules) by which the symbols are manipulated. The word “language” is also used to refer to common properties of languages. Language learning is normal in human childhood. Most human languages use patterns of sound or gesture for symbols which enable communication with others around them. There are thousands of human languages, and these seem to share certain properties, even though many shared properties have exceptions.

There is no defined line between a language and a dialect, but the linguist Max Weinreich is credited as saying that “a language is a dialect with an army and a navy”. Constructed languages such as Esperanto, programming languages, and various mathematical formalisms are not necessarily restricted to the properties shared by human languages.

Bernard Luskin, UCLA, 1970, advanced computer assisted instruction and began to connect media and psychology into what is now the field of media psychology. In 1998, the American Association of Psychology, Media Psychology Division 46 Task Force report on psychology and new technologies combined media and communication as pictures, graphics and sound increasingly dominate modern communication.

 Nonverbal communication

Nonverbal communication is the process of communicating through sending and receiving wordless messages. Such messages can be communicated through gesture, body language or posture; facial expression and eye contact, object communication such as clothing, hairstyles or even architecture, or symbols and infographics, as well as through an aggregate of the above, such as behavioral communication. Nonverbal communication plays a key role in every person’s day to day life, from employment to romantic engagements.

Speech may also contain nonverbal elements known as paralanguage, including voice quality, emotion and speaking style, as well as prosodic features such as rhythm, intonation and stress. Likewise, written texts have nonverbal elements such as handwriting style, spatial arrangement of words, or the use of emoticons. A portmanteau of the English words emotion (or emote) and icon, an emoticon is a symbol or combination of symbols used to convey emotional content in written or message form.

Other communication channels such as telegraphy fit into this category, whereby signals travel from person to person by an alternative means. These signals can in themselves be representative of words, objects or merely be state projections. Trials have shown that humans can communicate directly in this way[6] without body language, voice tonality or words.

Categories and Features G. W. Porter divides non-verbal communication into four broad categories:

Physical. This is the personal type of communication. It includes facial expressions, tone of voice, sense of touch, sense of smell, and body motions.

Aesthetic. This is the type of communication that takes place through creative expressions: playing instrumental music, dancing, painting and sculpturing.

Signs. This is the mechanical type of communication, which includes the use of signal flags, the 21-gun salute, horns, and sirens.

Symbolic. This is the type of communication that makes use of religious, status, or ego-building symbols.

Static Features

Distance. The distance one stands from another frequently conveys a non-verbal message. In some cultures it is a sign of attraction, while in others it may reflect status or the intensity of the exchange.

Orientation. People may present themselves in various ways: face-to-face, side-to-side, or even back-to-back. For example, cooperating people are likely to sit side-by-side while competitors frequently face one another.

Posture. Obviously one can be lying down, seated, or standing. These are not the elements of posture that convey messages. Are we slouched or erect ? Are our legs crossed or our arms folded ? Such postures convey a degree of formality and the degree of relaxation in the communication exchange.

Physical Contact. Shaking hands, touching, holding, embracing, pushing, or patting on the back all convey messages. They reflect an element of intimacy or a feeling of (or lack of) attraction.

Dynamic Features

Facial Expressions. A smile, frown, raised eyebrow, yawn, and sneer all convey information. Facial expressions continually change during interaction and are monitored constantly by the recipient. There is evidence that the meaning of these expressions may be similar across cultures.

Gestures. One of the most frequently observed, but least understood, cues is a hand movement. Most people use hand movements regularly when talking. While some gestures (e.g., a clenched fist) have universal meanings, most of the others are individually learned and idiosyncratic.

Looking. A major feature of social communication is eye contact. It can convey emotion, signal when to talk or finish, or aversion. The frequency of contact may suggest either interest or boredom.

 Visual communication

Visual communication as the name suggests is communication through visual aid. It is the conveyance of ideas and information in forms that can be read or looked upon. Primarily associated with two dimensional images, it includes: signs, typography, drawing, graphic design, illustration, colour and electronic resources. It solely relies on vision. It is form of communication with visual effect. It explores the idea that a visual message with text has a greater power to inform, educate or persuade a person. It is communication by presenting information through visual form.

The evaluation of a good visual design is based on measuring comprehension by the audience, not on aesthetic or artistic preference. There are no universally agreed-upon principles of beauty and ugliness. There exists a variety of ways to present information visually, like gestures, body languages, video and TV. Here, focus is on the presentation of text, pictures, diagrams, photos, et cetera, integrated on a computer display. The term visual presentation is used to refer to the actual presentation of information. Recent research in the field has focused on web design and graphically oriented usability. Graphic designers use methods of visual communication in their professional practice.

Understanding the Field of Communication

The field of communication is typically broken into three distinct camps: human communication, mass communications, and communication disorders [7]

Human Communication or Communication Studies is the study of how individuals communicate. Some examples of the distinct areas that human communication scholars study are:

Examples of Mass Communications include:

Examples of Communication Disorders include:

 Oral Communication

Oral communication is a process whereby information is transferred from a sender to receiver usually by a verbal means but visual aid can support the process.. The receiver could be an individual person, a group of persons or even an audience. There are a few of oral communication types: discussion, speeches, presentations, etc. However, often when you communicate face to face the body language and your voice tonality has a bigger impact than the actual words that you are saying.

A widely cited and widely mis-interpreted figure, used to emphasize the importance of delivery, is that “communication is 55% body language, 38% tone of voice, 7% content of words”, the so-called 55/38/7 rule.[8] This is not however what the cited research shows – rather, when conveying emotion, if body language, tone of voice, and words disagree, then body language and tone of voice will be believed more than words.[9] For example, a person saying “I’m delighted to meet you” while mumbling, hunched over, and looking away will be interpreted as insincere. Further discussion at Albert Mehrabian: Three elements of communication.

You can notice that the content or the word that you are using is not the determining part of a good communication. The “how you say it” has a major impact on the receiver. You have to capture the attention of the audience and connect with them. For example, two persons saying the same joke, one of them could make the audience die laughing related to his good body language and tone of voice. However, the second person that has the exact same words could make the audience stare at one another.[citation needed]

In an oral communication, it is possible to have visual aid helping you to provide more precise information. Often enough, we use a presentation program in presentations related to our speech to facilitate or enhance the communication process. Although, we cannot communicate by providing only visual content because we would not be talking about oral communication anymore.

Communication Modeling

Shannon and Weaver Model of Communication

Communication major dimensions scheme

Communication code scheme

Linear Communication Model

Interactional Model of Communication

Berlo’s Sender-Message-Channel-Receiver Model of Communication

Transactional Model of Communication

The first major model for communication came in 1949 by Claude Shannon and Warren Weaver for Bell Laboratories [10] The original model was designed to mirror the functioning of radio and telephone technologies. Their initial model consisted of three primary parts: sender, channel, and receiver. The sender was the part of a telephone a person spoke into, the channel was the telephone itself, and the receiver was the part of the phone where one could hear the other person. Shannon and Weaver also recognized that often there is static that interferes with one listening to a telephone conversation, which they deemed noise.

In a simple model, often referred to as the transmission model or standard view of communication, information or content (e.g. a message in natural language) is sent in some form (as spoken language) from an emisor/ sender/ encoder to a destination/ receiver/ decoder. This common conception of communication simply views communication as a means of sending and receiving information. The strengths of this model are simplicity, generality, and quantifiability. Social scientists Claude Shannon and Warren Weaver structured this model based on the following elements:

  1. An information source, which produces a message.
  2. A transmitter, which encodes the message into signals
  3. A channel, to which signals are adapted for transmission
  4. A receiver, which ‘decodes’ (reconstructs) the message from the signal.
  5. A destination, where the message arrives.

Shannon and Weaver argued that there were three levels of problems for communication within this theory.

The technical problem: how accurately can the message be transmitted?
The semantic problem: how precisely is the meaning ‘conveyed’?
The effectiveness problem: how effectively does the received meaning affect behavior?

Daniel Chandler critiques the transmission model by stating

It assumes communicators are isolated individuals.
No allowance for differing purposes.
No allowance for differing interpretations.
No allowance for unequal power relations.
No allowance for situational contexts.

In 1960, David Berlo expanded on Shannon and Weaver’s (1949) linear model of communication and created the SMCR Model of Communication [11]. The Sender-Message-Channel-Receiver Model of communication separated the model into clear parts and has been expanded upon by other scholars.

Communication is usually described along a few major dimensions: Message (what type of things are communicated), source / emisor / sender / encoder (by whom), form (in which form), channel (through which medium), destination / receiver / target / decoder (to whom), and Receiver. Wilbur Schram (1954) also indicated that we should also examine the impact that a message has (both desired and undesired) on the target of the message [12]. Between parties, communication includes acts that confer knowledge and experiences, give advice and commands, and ask questions. These acts may take many forms, in one of the various manners of communication. The form depends on the abilities of the group communicating. Together, communication content and form make messages that are sent towards a destination. The target can be oneself, another person or being, another entity (such as a corporation or group of beings).

Communication can be seen as processes of information transmission governed by three levels of semiotic rules:

  1. Syntactic (formal properties of signs and symbols),
  2. Pragmatic (concerned with the relations between signs/expressions and their users) and
  3. Semantic (study of relationships between signs and symbols and what they represent).

Therefore, communication is social interaction where at least two interacting agents share a common set of signs and a common set of semiotic rules. This commonly held rules in some sense ignores autocommunication, including intrapersonal communication via diaries or self-talk, both secondary phenomena that followed the primary acquisition of communicative competences within social interactions.

In light of these weaknesses, Barnlund (2008) proposed a transactional model of communication [13]. The basic premise of the transactional model of communication is that individuals are simultaneously engaging in the sending and receiving of messages.

In a slightly more complex form a sender and a receiver are linked reciprocally. This second attitude of communication, referred to as the constitutive model or constructionist view, focuses on how an individual communicates as the determining factor of the way the message will be interpreted. Communication is viewed as a conduit; a passage in which information travels from one individual to another and this information becomes separate from the communication itself. A particular instance of communication is called a speech act. The sender’s personal filters and the receiver’s personal filters may vary depending upon different regional traditions, cultures, or gender; which may alter the intended meaning of message contents. In the presence of “communication noise” on the transmission channel (air, in this case), reception and decoding of content may be faulty, and thus the speech act may not achieve the desired effect. One problem with this encode-transmit-receive-decode model is that the processes of encoding and decoding imply that the sender and receiver each possess something that functions as a code book, and that these two code books are, at the very least, similar if not identical. Although something like code books is implied by the model, they are nowhere represented in the model, which creates many conceptual difficulties.

Theories of coregulation describe communication as a creative and dynamic continuous process, rather than a discrete exchange of information. Canadian media scholar Harold Innis had the theory that people use different types of media to communicate and which one they choose to use will offer different possibilities for the shape and durability of society (Wark, McKenzie 1997). His famous example of this is using ancient Egypt and looking at the ways they built themselves out of media with very different properties stone and papyrus. Papyrus is what he called ‘Space Binding’. it made possible the transmission of written orders across space, empires and enables the waging of distant military campaigns and colonial administration. The other is stone and ‘Time Binding’, through the construction of temples and the pyramids can sustain their authority generation to generation, through this media they can change and shape communication in their society (Wark, McKenzie 1997).

The Krishi Vigyan Kendra Kannur under Kerala Agricultural University has pioneered a new branch of agricultural communication called Creative Extension.

Communication Noise

In every communication models, noise is anything that interferes with the decoding of messages sent over the channel by an encoder. There are many examples of noise:

Environmental Noise: Noise that physically disrupts communication, such as standing next to loud speakers at a party, or a construction site next to a classroom making it hard to hear the professor.

Physiological-Impairment Noise: physical maladies that prevent effective communication, such as actual deafness or blindness preventing messages from being received correctly.

Semantic Noise: different interpretations of the meanings of certain words, like how the word “weed” can be interpreted as both an undesirable plant in your yard or marijuana, or how “LOL” is easily recognizable by most teens, but complete gibberish to older readers.

Syntactical Noise: mistakes in grammar can disrupt communication, such as abrupt changes in verb tense during a sentence, or differing sentence structures between different cultures.

Organizational Noise: poorly structured communication can prevent the receiver from accurate interpretations, like unclear and badly stated directions can make the receiver even more lost, or how unfocused and disorganized lectures by professors are extremely hard for students to understand.

Cultural Noise: stereotypical assumptions can cause misunderstandings, such as unintentionally offending Jews by wishing them a “Merry Christmas,” or how Democrats and Republicans alike are bigoted about the other party’s policies.

Psychological Noise: certain attitudes can make communication difficult, like when great anger or sadness causes someone to lose focus on the present, or how more serious psychological diseases like autism severely hamper effective communication.[14]

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