Information Transmission Model and its Meaning

Tianyi Zhao

This week’s readings mainly unveiled the Information Transmission Model raised by Claud Shannon, which summarizes a simple and unidirectional path showing how the signs and symbols being encoded, transmitted and decoded. There are six basic elements: information source that produces information, transmitter which encodes it to the signals, channel that adapted to the signal for transmission, receiver that decodes the message from the signals, destination which the message arrives, and noise that interferes the signals travel during the channel part. For example, in a conversation, the transmitter is the mouth; the other one’s ears are the receivers; the signals are the sound waves; while the noise could be others’ distraction from their environment. The brains are the information source and destination where their ideas going to be encoded to language words and the words heard being decoded.

Instagram is a popular social media application mainly based on photos sharing. When we upload our photos online, as photos are made of pixel patterns, the transmission process sends the pixels through online channels. Then the pixels are reconstructed and decoded on the software, being displayed on our mobile device as a recognizable photo instead of random pixels. When your friends comment on the posted photos, their input words are encoded as bytes, then transmitted in packets, and decoded on the device.

Professor Irvine claims that the meaning is not “in” the system, it is the system. Put another way, a message does not have meaning until people attach signs to the referents. Furthermore, whether information transmitted successfully depends on how the receivers interpret the message. The communicating groups should share and understand a common knowledge, which means to exchange message and interpret in “assumed context.” (Irvine, 12) For example, when a Korean friend comments my photo in Korean. As a receiver who can only speak Chinese and English, I cannot successfully interpret the Korean characters. They are meaningless for me. So the transmission process fails because the Korean friend and I do not share the common language. Also, it is clear that every information depends on people’s mind to attach referent and interpret.

All in all, there are two levels of communication transmission. Technically, information is encoded and transmitted by bytes, and then it is decoded to adapt to displaying on the device. As for the meaning level, senders attach signs to the referent with a specific meaning, while receivers decode to get the meaning. The success of transmission relies on both information communication theory and semiotics.


Works Cited

Irvine, Martin. “Introduction to the Technical Theory of Information.” Feb. 4, 2019.

Denning, Peter J. and Martell, Craig H. Great Principles of Computing. MIT Press, 2015.