week 2: communication theory

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In communication, meanings can be found not only in the content of the message, but also in the context– the medium, in a sense. The environment, psycho-social states of the people being communicated with, as well as any non-verbal cues– these factors also influence the content of the message because they influence how the message is received.

I believe that it is difficult to model the meaning of these implicit or not explicitly stated influences. Despite this, it is almost a critical error to disregard or ignore them completely. This external information can completely alter the content of a message. Another way to view the importance of the method of delivery of a communicated message is by looking at the medium. If the same exact message is delivered via phone and via text message (ex. “Will you go out with me tonight?”), one might argue that the meaning of the message is the same because the content (“Will you go out with me tonight?”) is the same– however anyone who has personally been in a position where they have been asked such a question via both mediums might argue that the method of delivery does in fact matter. One may argue that there is much more information (implied and explicit!) within the medium of the telephone: any person with sensory information can detect vocal and tonal intonations, sincerity, and other factors. Even something seemingly as insignificant as the pauses within a conversation also provide information to the members within an act of communication–in a feedback loop sort of way. On the reverse, the lack of this additional information in the other medium (text message) may also serve as information itself. 

Claude Shannon’s information theory of communication does not account for nuances such as these, including the influence of feedback within communication. “Noise” is the only external influence on the transmission of a message from sender to receiver that Shannon accounts for–and noise is something disruptive. Shannon does not accommodate for the fact that such interruptions he may consider as noise can add information to a communication–and that senders and receivers can in turn respond to that interruption. Being that it is a mathematical theory of communication, it is very linear, which in my opinion is not an adequate model for representing how communication occurs. It does not account for interaction between the sender and receiver. What interested me most in studying communication is the psychology behind it– something which this theory disregards entirely. Therefore, I find much to be desired in using Shannon’s theory when trying to describe the complex nature of communication between individuals in society. It may have been able to provide a direct, simple model of communication but communication is often not direct or simple by any means.



Works Cited