Category Archives: Week 2: Com & Info Theory

week 2: communication theory

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



Crash Into You

Elizabeth-Burton Jones
January 23rd, 2012
Week 2

Crash Into You: A Brief on Communicating in a World Full of Broken Strings and the Possibility of Mending the Strings Through Theory


Lack of communication. Those three simply powerful words can bring most communication students to their knees. The very sound stings the ears and makes the stomach turn. Then suddenly, a flood of questions from the outside world washes away all certainty of a possible legitimacy of the communication field. Why did it happen? Why wasn’t the communication student there to save the day? Don’t they know theories? What exactly does a communication student study any way? Next, the observer realizes that the communication student is human and cannot solve every single communication blip in the world.

But, still there is lack of communication and as current communication students, we have the obligation to know these sorts of theories that are displayed in the readings for this week.  However, even though we have this obligation to know survey the surface of communication theories, it is often difficult to transform these messages in the everyday “real world”. For the first weekly writing, I would like to explore the question of: Where and when are “meanings” in communication and information? But, I would like to change the question to address the theories and ideas.

Philosophical Speaking:

Throughout this week’s materials, I gathered that we must work with what we have including our current existence and everything that influences our thoughts. Each person is different and follows different ways of thinking about life and communication. The substance lies within the residue of our differences. This residue can often cloud our perception of communication and how to properly communicate to other humans. Yet, it has the power to alter the perspective on communication.  I could not help but to think about Jean-Paul Sartre and the philosophy of “essence precedes existence” in that our past experiences have a profound impact on our existence. To further relate this to our readings, we could add that our essence impacts the existence of our communication.  In other words, we are seemingly somewhat defined by our trained ways of communication and these lessons overshadow our way of communicating as a whole. I think I will delve into Sartre later in the course, but I would like to just take note.

Space and Time:

In the “James Carey: Communication as Culture”, the words “space” and “time” jumped out at me. This reminded me of Kant’s way of thinking about Space and Time.

“Space is not something objective and real, nor a substance, nor an accident, nor a relation; instead, it is subjective and ideal, and originates from the mind’s nature in accord with a stable law as a scheme, as it were, for coordinating everything sensed externally. (Ak 2: 403)
In this one sentence, we find a list of many important early modern questions concerning space. Is space “real,” or is it “ideal” in some sense?”(

With this information related to the “James Carey: Communication as Culture” idea of the ritual, we could possibly explore the idea of reality of the ritual and the ritual in the reality. In the end, are we creating an ideal? And if so, why?

On a musical note:

In the “An Ecological Model of the Communication Process”, Davis Foulger mentions that we use languages “both learned (proposition 6) and created (proposition 7)”. With these languages, we all have a set of languages. We all come to the gathering place with all of our languages and the meanings that make up the languages. For instance, in the music world, we all have our own interpretations and pay homage to different musicians. Accordingly, we also associate certain tunes with different artists. For instance, if I quote “whatever my man is, I’m his, forevermore” I (Elizabeth) am quoting the movie, “Lady Sings the Blues”. This movie is quoting the life and times of Billie Holiday. However, to someone else, they might think that I am quoting Barbara Streisand. Yet, another person might think that I am quoting Lea Michele on Glee quoting Barbara Streisand. But, at the very moment that all of these different interpretations are going on, as suggested in a 505 lecture, each different opinion “is relevant and valued”.

Click the links for music: Diana Ross, Billie Holiday , Barbra Streisand , Lea Michele

Digital Divide:

Digital divide and communication. Various people have noted that communication is changing because of the digital age. I might want to explore this in another weekly writing.  However, for this weeks reading, I think that it is important to note that communication can be weakened by the use of digital tools. We can lose face-to-face communication skills. By replacing face-to-face with screen-to-screen we can adversely effect other skill sets needed.

Crashes Together:

But what if they crash? As an undergrad communication and theatre arts student with minors in history and Spanish, I was constantly bombarded with theories of communication and required to apply these theories to different contexts based on the subject. In my interpersonal communication course, I remember looking into theories and different studies involving proper communication. One example that we used in the class was the movie “Crash”. We studied the various cultural contexts and norms and how they all blended together. In relation to this week’s readings, I cannot help but place society into the “Crash” dialogue.


We all are leading various lives. We come from different backgrounds. In DC, you really don’t talk to strangers. We are in our own little worlds, with our own views of the American Dream and how we can achieve it. In some situations, when people do decide to break the wall of communication, it is often mortared back with insidious competition, threat of success, and jealousy. Then, the wall is painted with a digital sheen of division perpetuated by targeted advertising.

Therefore, we are separated. There are many “gatekeepers”. In some situations, the gatekeeper could be a variety of things. The gatekeeper could be a cellphone when a person gets a call. Sometimes we have the option of ignoring the call. The “gatekeeper” or scapegoat could also be a cell phone when someone is avoiding someone else. The gatekeeper could be the phone during a conversation. For instance, if I am talking to someone through my phone, this person becomes the audience. I can use the gatekeeper phone to monitor mute my side of the phone, hold the call, etc. By the same token, if we make communication a two way street, then we can see that at one point the audience member will switch roles with the speaker and with that the roles can be changed. Another gatekeeper could be headphones. If we plug them in, then they keep us away from the crowd. They have their own implications. For instance, after a few of my studies as an undergraduate, I had to do a very observational studies. In these studies, I observed that the cellphone was sometimes used as a gatekeeper when it came to ignoring people. People could pretend that they were on their phones to avoid the audience of the busy hallways. To further exemplify these ideas Davis Foulger says, “The caller in most telephone conversations has the initial upper hand in setting the direction and tone of a a telephone caller than the receiver of the call (Hopper, 1992).In face-to-face head-complement interactions, the boss (head) has considerably more freedom (in terms of message choice, media choice, ability to frame meaning, ability to set the rules of interaction) and power to allocate message bandwidth than does the employee (complement).”( “Models of the Communication Process” Davis Foulger)


This relates to “Crash” because it all relates to the world now. There are so many gatekeepers in our world today. Each person has their own American Dream. Each area has certain standards for competition. We can be separate. However, when there is such an absence of communication, within an instance we could crash and finally talk to one another without the gatekeeper. Then and only then can the true form of communication come out to play with no strings attached.

Additional thoughts:

“The first is that communication is used by people (a term which is used here to refer not only to Homo Sapiens Sapiens, but to any intelligent communicator). In an age where we are seriously looking to see if we can find evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence and there is growing evidence that at least a subset of animal species communicate, it seems reasonable to extend the term use the term person to refer to any intelligent entity that can use tools to transmit meaning to another intelligent entity. The second element of the definition is the assertion that communication is a process. Communication is not a a thing. It is a means of enabling things. The third is that the object of that process is meaning. Meaning is a thing. Communication is a means of processing (e.g. constructing that thing sufficient to interpretation of) that thing.” (“An Ecological Model of the Communication Process” Davis Foulger).

Additional Musical Selection:
Some DMB never hurt.

What happens when thoughts crash into each other?
How do we address the fundamental theories and practices of Communication in the Digital Era?
Are digital tools changing our definition of communication?
If we are to carry conversations or transmissions from the past around with us in the present, how do we avoid the minutia of the criss cross in the future?
What is real communication? Do we only recognize it when we crash?

“Models of the Communication Process” article written by Davis Foulger.

Leaving a Digital Environment and the Impact of Television as a Medium

The part of the reading that resonated most with me came from Floridi’s Information and the idea that we are creating a digital landscape that can alter social status, economic status and one’s place in the world, but also that we will create a landscape that will be left behind for generations behind us. Floridi talked about the merging of a sort of virtual reality with humanity and how they are overlapping as people create digital presences. But the idea that the digital world we’re creating could be something left as a legacy was something I had never really considered before. You hear about the morbid stories of a digital presence after someone dies. But this is on a much bigger scale, where the potential for online currency exists and where the digital divide could essentially decide the “haves” versus the “have nots” more than any state or national economy could. The idea of the digital divide is interesting because it also factors in different generations and rate of digital adoption. He specifically says “the digital divide will become a chasm, generating new forms of discrimination”…”It will redesign the map of worldwide society, generating or widening generational, geographic, socio-economic, and cultural divides” …”We are preparing the ground for tomorrow’s digital slums”. I honestly don’t know what else to say about this except that it made me think and is something to keep in mind. This requires almost taking a foreign policy type of mindset and applying it to the internet. How do you interact with online entities? How do you level the playing field? How do you help those in need?

Foulger talked a lot about the idea of the medium, and how medium becomes part of communication. It is not just the message, or the media, or the language. As we learned throughout all of the readings, all of these are interconnected and play their role in shaping how communication is understood between creators and consumers. But the idea that the medium can be an integral part of the message; that the medium we choose deliberately is every bit as important as the thought behind the message, is interesting in today’s media landscape. Obviously, different types of stories work best within different mediums; some can be adapted to fit other mediums, but it usually requires some manipulation. For example, taking a book and making it into a movie requires writing a screenplay that will make it usable for a visual medium. Longer stories work best on television where there is time to develop characters and storylines over a period of time. Television, in particular, seemed a good example of this new form of communication in today’s digital culture that Foulger talked about. He mentioned how with television, how people react is not necessarily instantly impactful to the show, but once viewers begin to talk about it together, they can affect the outcome. Also, since television reaches so many people at once, if something memorable enough happens on a show, then it can have “immediate and sweeping effects within social systems”.

I can think of a couple of examples of television making a big social impact, especially in the case of live news broadcasts. One big example is when tragic events occur on tape, and people can see it live, such as when the Challenger exploded or during 9/11. On 9/11, I was in a journalism class and got pulled into the library to watch the story unfold. While we were sitting there watching a reporter cover the first tower, a plane hit the second tower behind her – live. We watched her turn around and react to seeing it in person, and saw it unfold in real time. In the past, big events like this wouldn’t be actually viewed by the public. There could be arguments made to the benefit or detriment of the public seeing something like this unfold, but there’s no turning back on the availability of those images. People didn’t see Pearl Harbor happen. They read about it, or heard about it on the radio, but they didn’t actually see the explosions. In this case, the medium became a part of the message. The visual component made a strong impression, and the emotions that came from that could be used in tons of other kinds of media whether it was used for propaganda abroad, for persuasion domestically, or for entertainment purposes in movies about the war on terror.

For a lighter example, consider the finales of big shows like The Sopranos or Lost. The creators had put together a story and messages they wanted the consumers/audience to receive. However, both of those endings were left open for viewers to decide for themselves. Immediately, there were reactions across the country about the endings. They were highly anticipated; there were online cultures devoted solely to predicting what could or would happen. Once aired, the reactions came in and there was an immediate social impact. People either loved or hated the episodes and devoted a lot of time to explaining why or talking to others about it. In some cases, conversations about it opened minds or created new opinions. But also, with another new medium created in the time between the Sopranos and Lost, came another dimension to the experience. Now, people could instantly react on social media. They could tell their friends what they thought immediately – and in some cases, spoil others in different time zones on what was to come. They could speak directly to the creators and writers of the show, telling them exactly what they thought. With the mix of social media and television, the audience now can have a say. They can tell the powers that be when they don’t like something, and in some cases, they listen. On the Good Wife, creators of the show removed a character after so much public backlash on social media. It’s becoming like the communications models where messages are sent, received, processed, and sent back; the communication of entertainment can now be collaborative and a full communication loops as opposed to just sending out a message to be decoded.

Works Cited
Floridi “Information” Chapters 1-2

Davis Foulger “An Ecological Model of the Communication Process”. April 16, 2004. Brooklyn College/CUNY.

New Forms of Language?

Written communication on the web and via mobile phones can be considered as one of the primary methods of communication nowadays, where people are increasingly using instant messaging, emails, wall posts, tweets, and other similar methods to stay in touch and exchange information. The structure and form of language used for such communications differs from standard, formal language. Most of the time, and particularly in informal situations, language used for such communication does not follow the rules and grammar of formal language. Simple examples would be using shortcuts rather than full words, like the use of “u” in place of “you”, and “i” is rarely capitalized, and so on.

However, this does not mean that emerging web language trends do not follow rules; they just follow new sets of rules. As mentioned in Chomsky’s Revolution article, the evolution of language structure happens based on the needs of communication and according to how those needs are served best. In our digital information age, where the speed of communication is a main characteristic, shortcuts and abbreviations in written language are being used to facilitate this speed. In addition, those changes are not only affecting written language, but are touching upon spoken language as well. For instance, popular abbreviations that originated in web and text messaging communications, such as “fyi” and “omg” are now being used in spoken language and have become popular and widespread in recent years especially among younger internet users.

Those changes are not affecting English and English-speakers, but also speakers of other languages. For instance, a new form of written Arabic which is very popular on the web emerged and spread with the internet. In this form, Latin letters are used rather than Arabic letters in writing, and even use numbers to represent certain Arabic letters that are absent from the Latin alphabet (for example, using “7” in place of the Arabic letter “ح”, which has a sharp H sound). This form of language is even well known among Arabs as “Arabeezyah” which is a word that merges the Arabic words for Arabic and English together. It mainly started due to the lack of Arabic alphabet on many computer and mobile phone systems, as well as English being the internet’s dominant language, where people are generally more familiar with English interfaces, and are faster and more efficient when typing in English. This language trend is so widespread that it is being used for domain names of many Arabic websites (eg: and elsewhere. Also, Arabic speakers have adopted a wide range of new words that have to do with the internet from English. The words “post”, “admin”, “group”, “like”, “tag”, and others are all regularly used within both written and spoken Arabic conversations, and seem to have become a normal and natural part of it.


Some pictures from the internet on “3rbeezeyah” language. The picture on the right is a guide to which Arabic letter each numeral represents. The picture on the left translates to “You can now write in Arabeezyah”

This picture shows a website header that also uses “Arabeezyah” to form the website name.

Infoglut: how are we going to deal with the information explosion?

This week’s readings introduce a great deal of the fundamental theories of communication and information: how a piece of message is transmitted, shaped, affected and in reverse affects the society, which to a large extent reminded me of what I learned in college on the Communication Theory class. To me, these theories and thoughts are systematic, in a linear pattern to explain the communication process itself and the agents involved. Take Shannon’s Model for example, it gives us such a linear explanation of the communication process: from information source to transmitter, distorted by some noise source and then reaches the receiver and its destination. (Shannon, P2) Among the process, the noise can be human agents or nonhuman agents, as a derivative model introduces the concept of gatekeepers, who guard the transmission of the message and shapes it with their own purpose. (Foulger, 2004) This particularly happens in the case of mass media, where the information content is largely determined by the preference of its editors or moderators. These theories are theoretically perfect for me to understand certain knowledge of what we are talking about when we talk about communication.

Until one day, the information society emerged, and the communication process tended to be non-linear and the noise became much louder than ever. Here comes my question: if the communication process is less linear than the thinkers had thought before, how could we deal with it? During the transmission of network information, is there still a meaning for the gatekeepers? Marshall McLuhan had this classical declaration of “the medium is the message”: “All media work us over completely. They are so pervasive in their personal, political, economic, aesthetic, psychological, moral, ethical, and social consequences that they leave no part of us untouched, unaffected, unaltered.” (McLuhan, P26, Understanding Media) The information transmission nowadays not only fits in this declaration but also extends it since the power of Internet, information technology and new media forms has substantially changed the way people communicate and remodeled the process that a message is being transmitted. When it comes to Facebook, Twitter, I’m not talking about our friends and the celebrities on Facebook and Twitter, nor the texts, pictures, videos they publish on these two popular platforms, but the platforms themselves, how they shape the way we communicate and live.

(Marshall McLuhan,

Let’s not go there but take a look at Floridi’s book: Information: A Very Short Introduction. Floridi mentioned the word “infoglut” – the inability to determine relevance of information – to describe an extended consequence of information exploration. “It’s like being told again and again, by a million sources, a trillion different kinds of messages that are being sent and being told again and again.” (Floridi, 2010) (An online video introduction of “infoglut” by Floridi himself)

Now we are experiencing the abundance of information: the messages we receive everyday on Twitter is being retransmitted again and again, although in a way it strengthens the impact of this message, the effectiveness of information is missed out. I often find myself facing the difficulty of selecting the real useful information in the vast ocean of information, and this may lead to wrong decisions or the passing of misinformation. When I look at Shannon’s model again, I would easily neglect the information source, get lost while wandering in the transmitter’s world, and be disturbed by the other thousand pieces of irrelevant messages. Now I’m getting back to ask the simplest question: If the more information cannot necessarily bring the more convenience, what is the meaning of communication when there is such information explosion?

While I’m still thinking about the answer to my own questions, Graph Search, Facebook’s new function launched last week catches my attention. Graph Search, simply put, is a search function for people to search with specific conditions and get results within Facebook. For instance, they can search for “People live in DC and like Rock’ n Roll”, and Facebook would give result to it by showing the avatars of those who match this condition.  Although the function is still in limited beta and I haven’t had a chance to try it, the idea behind this is pretty eloquent. With the abundance of information that we have provided on the “cloud”, we can discover the connections between people, places and other fun facts around us – isn’t it a good way to deal with information explosion and explain the meaning of communication? The thinkers are on their way, and the tinkers are putting ideas into practice, no matter what kind of puzzle they wish to solve – that’s a good sign.

Works Cited:
1. Marshall McLuhan. Understanding Media: The Extension of Man. The MIT Press. Reprint edition. Oct. 1994.
2. C. E. Shannon. A Mathematical Theory of Communication. Reprinted with corrections from The Bell System Technical Journal, Vol. 27, pp. 379–423, 623–656, July, October, 1948.
3. Davis Foulger. Models of Communication Process. 2004.
4. L. Floridi. Information: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press. 2010.


Fandom and the Communication Process

“Fandom and the Communication Process”
Sara Levine

Davis Foulger argues that Shannon’s model for communication processes functions well enough as an introductory model, but it may be time to turn to alternative models in order to accommodate for newer forms of technology and media. He writes that Shannon’s model is too basic and abstract in light of how people selectively consume and interact with media today (Foulger 1). Additionally, Ronald Day concludes in his piece that the linear conduit model is reminiscent of a Cold War era way of thinking about communication (Day 10). One of the more recent phenomena that may require a more complicated diagram than Shannon’s is the rapid growth of fandom within the Internet sphere. Fandom is composed of a large, varied, and sometimes hierarchical network that does not function as a simple linear route through a transmitter. Foulger’s ecological diagram from “Models of the Communication Process” and “An Ecological Model of the Communication Process

Foulger goes on to explore alternative communication models that have been modified over the years since Shannon published his diagram. The ecological diagram attempts to fill in the missing aspects from older models that seem to demonstrate an “injection” of content into the consumer (Foulger 2). Foulger’s diagram, on the other hand, positions “creators” and “consumers” as the main actors within a process through which messages are conveyed and interpreted within media content (Foulger Fig. 6).

Tweets from actress Shay Mitchell and showrunner Marlene King ( and

Twitter has opened up a channel of communication between media producers and consumers that had not existed previously. Writers, producers, and actors of a television show often “live-tweet” an episode along with fans as it airs. Fans may ask questions and convey their opinions of the show directly to the people who created it. These creators become aware of the culture of their particular fandom, and may even incorporate fans’ ideas and popular romantic couple portmanteaus. For example, every Tuesday night actress Shay Mitchell utilizes the hashtag “#PLLayWithShay” in order to interact with fans while they watch the newest episode of Pretty Little Liars. Occasionally the show’s creator, Marlene King, will join in and answer fans’ questions. Using the ecological model as a guide, Marlene King produces messages through the medium of television that fans then willingly watch and interpret. Fandom produces its own messages that reflect their interpretations of Pretty Little Liars, and the creators may then willingly consume and interpret those messages through Twitter. The two people involved – creator and consumer – develop a relationship (although not always a direct one, as Foulger is quick to point out) through these interactions. However, this cycle neglects activity within fandom.

A screenshot of, which allows users to peruse fan-written stories about their favorite shows (

A screenshot taken from a tribute blog to a well-known fanfiction author (

The ecological model posited by Foulger may be too simplified to apply to examples of communication that occur within fandom. Foulger’s model demonstrates the intersection between people (creators and consumers), messages, language, and media. There is an arrow that indicates the existence of “relationships,” but does not further demonstrate how convoluted relationships amongst consumers (or fans, in this case) can become. Fandom sometimes utilizes what Stuart Hall may label a “negotiated position” in regards to the media that they consume (Hall 516). Fans may interpret and accept the messages conveyed by creators, but they also create their own forms of media in order to correct or explore other messages that they find lacking in the creator’s content. For example, oftentimes fans believe that two characters should be romantically involved, or that there is not enough LGBTQ representation within a creator’s work.

These grievances can manifest through fanfiction, fanart, fanvids, etc. Other fans consume this fan media, and some fan creators have become prominent figures within fandoms due to a particularly well-produced piece of fanwork. The most successful fanfiction writers are those like EL James, who adapted her Twilight fanfiction for mainstream publication. Others are simply known by their author names on websites such as LiveJournal and These authors produce their own messages through media based on media that they had previously consumed along with their fellow fans. They seem to enter into a more complicated model of communication that is still connected to the process of consuming the original content. Some fanfiction writers even appear as featured guests at fandom conventions. Their work blurs the line between creator and consumer.

Screenshot of A Very Potter Musical, which you can view here.

This is an entirely different communicative process that may take place without the direct knowledge of the original creators of media content. For example, JK Rowling produced the Harry Potter book series which was then voraciously consumed by her fans. They read the books and interpreted messages conveyed through the books. However, there is also a considerable amount of media and other content produced within the Harry Potter fandom. A Very Potter Musical is one of the most popular of these fanworks, and seems to have its own sub-fandom. The creators of the Musical are members of the Harry Potter fandom and fit into the ecological model as consumers of Rowling’s messages. However, they departed from the plot of the text and produced their own works based on her creation, which were then consumed and interpreted by other Harry Potter fans. It is unclear if Rowling has consumed this piece of fan media, so there may or may not be a full cycle to be made from fan to creator in this instance. Therefore, perhaps the ecological model could be expanded to account for fandom communication that occurs across mediums and may never actually come back to the creator.

Floridi writes in his first chapter of Information that we are entering into a fourth revolution. Our reality has become informational, and the divide between digital and analogue is quickly becoming blurred (Floridi 12-18). Fandom may have previously functioned only within physical spaces and through fanzines. Now, however, the rapid development of the “infosphere” has reorganized the relationships both between fans and creators and amongst fans. Foulger’s diagram reflects these changing relationships, but may not account for all of the communicative activity occurring within online fandoms. Taken a step further, the mixing of different mediums throughout this communication process (from television to Twitter, or from film to may have its own impact that requires further exploration.

Works Cited

Day, Ronald E. “The ‘conduit Metaphor’ and the Nature and Politics of Information Studies.”

Journal of the American Society for Information Science 51, no. 9 (2000): 805-811.

Floridi, Luciano. Information: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2010. Print.
Foulger, Davis. “An Ecological Model of the Communication Process.” A Ecological Model of the Communication Process. N.p., n.d. Web.

Foulger, Davis. “Models of the Communication Process.” Models of the Communication Process. N.p., n.d. Web.

Hall, Stuart. “Encoding/Decoding” (first published, 1973).

On Some Limitation of Papers

Models of communication have developed much from the minimalist abstraction of Claude Shannon in 1948 to the elaborate ones that we see today such as the ecological model advocated by Davis Foulger. But human communication is such a complex mechanism that there still seems to be something missing from the picture. Let’s first look at what we have on the table: messages, people (producer of the message, receiver of the message, or other roles), languages, codes, the “alphabet”, media, channel, time, space, noises, etc. (These are the most basic ones, but we should never neglect the sub-branches in each of them such as dominant/preferred/professional meanings/codes and the importance of symbols.) There are links between each and every one of these components that it would seem almost impossible to fit all of these comprehensively onto one piece of paper.
Now we see the problem. Here we face a limitation of the medium. Most people who have struggled with drawing diagrams have perhaps experienced this frustration of not being able to fit their thoughts into a two-dimensional simplistic model. There are aspects that are too complicated or confusing to show with a bunch of lines, bubbles and notes, and there are also ideas that simply cannot be sufficiently illustrated on a single surface (for example, time). Such is the limit of paper.
However, academic work has, traditionally and dominantly, been considered a form of work constrained to the medium of paper. In fact, a majority of them are even explicitly called “papers” with an emphasis on this character. For a piece of academic work to be influential, it has to be published in a prestigious journal, which usually has its primary existence in printed-paper form. Even in this era of digital culture, most journals still insist on this paper-based way of operation, paying at the most very limited attention to a digital copy of the paper version. One possible explanation for this phenomenon of stubbornness is an attempt of the ivory tower to establish its authority by demarcating themselves against the quickly digitized business of mass media and the grass-root bloggers whose contents can theoretically be just as rigorous, and another is the mindset/mental models humans possess that places an importance on the cultural value of paper/book forms. There has been much debate on this, yet the tradition lingers on. However, this insistence on paper has substantial consequences. In this case, such a choice of media has served to limit and hinder the development of the theories of communication.
Now, suppose we use an interactive, three-dimensional demonstration for our communication model. We will be able to move around the structure, paying specific attention to each element/link from different angles; we might even be able to illustrate the role of time/delay, which had always been a tricky part to explain in a diagram. Although it seems that the paper culture is here to stay, at least for another few decades, there might be ways to work around that. It would be helpful to look into other fields that are more model-structure-dependent and see how they got around the issue. For example, chemical science should have had much more experience in dealing with this problem of presentation of complicated models in journals. Or we can also put a two-dimensional code in the middle of the printed article that one can scan with their digital devices to link to the multimedia model. (Although this may still be hard to accomplish with a stubborn editor who has made up his/her mind to cling onto the “tradition”.)
Of course, a change in the medium would never serve as a panacea. There are still aspects of the complexity of human communication that cannot yet be modeled. However, by liberating ourselves from the limitation of the two-dimensional space, we will be instantly offered more choices and perspectives to illustrate and contemplate the puzzle.

Foulger, D. (2004). Models of the Communication Process. Retrieved at
Hall, S. (2001). “Encoding/Decoding.” In M.G. Durham & D.M. Kellner (Eds.), Media and Cultural Studies Keyworks (166-176). Blackwell Publishers.
Shannon, C. (1948). The Mathematical Theory of Communication. The Bell System Technical Journal; 27, 379-423, 623-656.

Ignoring the Decoders: Audience Agency

According to Stuart Hall (1980), there are three positions that people take when they decode a media message. The Dominant Hegemonic Position is when the audience interprets the message in such a way that bodes with exactly how the senders and producers of that message encode and intend it to mean. This ‘preferred meaning’ is a manifestation of the pervasiveness and strength of ‘the whole social order embedded in them as a set of meanings, practices and beliefs’ that legitimize the ubiquitous ideology of broadcasters and society (Hall 1980, 513). The Negotiated Position is when the audience decodes a media message by adapting to a situation and opposing certain codes i.e. this is when the audience accepts the dominant codes in the abstract and general but decides to oppose such codes within the context of the situational and specific. Finally, the Globally Contrary Position is when the audience decodes the message of knowledge producers using an ‘alternative framework of reference’, which leads to a totally oppositional decoding of the message (Hall 1980, 517).

Although Hall offers a model of communications that explores the relationship between sender, message, and receiver, he does not give enough agency to the receiver of the message. In the case of the audience of TV, Hall makes the assumption that those who watch television simply react to a message artifact through either fully accepting the intended message, partly accepting the intended message, or completely discarding the intended message. He totally ignores how the audience chooses to do any of these things and why. According to studies done by social scientists that study advertising, the process of negotiation and decoding of messages relies significantly on many features that Hall does not mention: the viewers’ culture, class, experience, worldview, and expectations, all of which comprise a mental schema (O’Shaughnessy and O’Shaughnessy 2004). Media’s constructs of meaning, are offered to audiences, who incorporate the media-offered constructs with their own ‘framed images of reality’ (McQuail 2005, 46). Consumers thus negotiate with the incoming messages through their schematic agency. In other words, what Hall does not mention is the agency of the audience through their mental schemata.

An example of the power of people’s schema can be found in their negotiations with advertising messages. Numerous survey studies suggest that teenagers’ and young adults’ alcohol consumption is significantly related to influences from peers and family, two groups that are vital in helping form an individual’s conceptual schema (Gunter et. al. 2010). In a California State University study, the frequency and quantity alcohol consumption among college students is assessed vis-à-vis their association with their parents’ drinking and finds that there is a significant correlation between male drinking scores and their fathers’ drinking behavior (Jung 1995 in Gunter et. al. 2010). Because an individual’s schema is based on social learning, when an individual grows up with a parent who has certain habits or worldviews, the individual’s own habits and worldviews will be influenced (O’Shaughnessy and O’Shaughnessy 2004); thus, schema is more powerful than ads in determining how an individual consumes alcohol. A central England study conducted on 17-21 year-olds finds that heavier alcohol consumption is related to the number of friends who drink and to the frequency of friend outings to pubs and bars (Gunter, Hansen, and Touri 2009 in Gunter et. al. 2010). Friends help shape an individual’s schema via their contribution to the individual’s cultural conditioning (O’Shaughnessy and O’Shaughnessy 2004)– in this case, friends appear to become the de facto influence behind the individual’s relationship with alcohol. Furthermore, a New Zealand study on under-age drinkers finds that the amount of alcohol consumed is closely related to whether friends approve of alcohol or not i.e. boys with girlfriends who disapprove of alcohol drink less and those with girlfriends who approve of alcohol drink more (Gunter et. al. 2010). This means that advertising cannot change tastes, create needs or wants, or even create demand (O’Shaughnessy and O’Shaughnessy 2004). That is up to one’s schema, which is formed by social conditioning aided, as shown in these studies, by friends and family. Studies such as these show how Hall’s different positions may occur and why, which consequently show how little agency Hall gives the audience.


Gunter, Barrie, Hansen, Anders, and Touri, Maria (2010) Alcohol Advertising
and Young People’s Drinking: Representation, Reception, and Regulation Basingstoke, UK and New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan

Hall, Stuart (1980) ‘Encoding/Decoding’ (pp. 128-138) in Hall, Stuart et al. (eds.) Culture, Media, Language

McQuail, Denis (2005) McQuail’s Mass Communication Theory: Fifth Edition London, UK, Thousand Oaks, CA and New Delhi, IN: SAGE Publications

O’Shaughnessy, John and O’Shaughnessy, Nicholas Jackson (2004) Persuasion in Advertising London, UK and New York, NY: Routledge

Communication Models, Media and the Inauguration

Throughout the many theories and models of communication and information systems, an often controversial argument is the process of transmission and communicative powers of the mass media. This medium transmits messages that are not only shaped by production, companies and institutions, but through the construction of language and perception that create the reality. In “Encoding/Decoding”, Hall points out that,

“A raw historical event cannot, in that form, be transmitted by a television newscast. Events can only be signified within the aural-visual forms of the television discourse. In the moment when a historical event passes under the sign of discourse, it is subject to all complex formal rules by which language signifies. The event must become a story before it becomes a communicative event.”

This excerpt of Hall’s points out a timely concept that frames the coverage of the 2013 Inauguration in relation to this week’s breakdown of the complexity of mediums and societal effects in communication and the way we process information. As an excited and incredibly fatigued attendee of President Obama’s 2nd inauguration, I found it surreal to turn on the TV or browse online the vast number of accounts and depictions the event I just witnessed on ironically enough on the TV screen of the jumbotrons at the National Mall. This reaches beyond the simple sender/receiver model of Shannon’s Mathematical Communication Theory and showcases how the digital age has provided not only new ways in contextualizing or receiving messages and data, but how it can change our understanding of information systems.

This interactive feature on the New York Times webpage NYTimes-President Obama’s Inaugural Address Dissected dissects and frames the meaning behind Obama’s speech,with the writings of several different NY Times authors in order to provide context and observance. In essence, it is giving the historical event a different observation or perception of reality by time snippet. Not only does this coincide with Hall’s notion of “complex structure of dominance” in which each separation of Obama’s speech is imprinted to readers in the view of the NYT as an institution, but it also provides examples of the use of language and symbolism to facilitate the understanding of media’s role in communication models.

This medium of interactive new media helps us to understand how more complex models of communication that effect the fabric of social, political and cultural creation. In Foulger’s “Ecological Model”, “communication between people (creators and consumers) is mediated by three constructs, with language used to build messages within media.” Barack Obama’s Inauguration speech created by him and a team of speech writers, is a message to communicate his plans for the next four years via words that are then transmitted through a loudspeaker to the public and then broadcast as well as written about. To the many people who watched the event on TV or read about it online or in the newspaper, this historical event was framed around the grand history and story of the United States as well as within the perception of Obama and his first term. Additionally, the idea that“communication is a symbolic process whereby reality is produced, maintained, repaired, and transformed” presented by Carey gives the reproduction of this speech within the context of the NYTimes feature a different understanding of the event than a person actually at the Capitol. It also raises the question of for those in attendance of inauguration of the effect of thousands of flags waving in the air on the jumbotron, providing the crows a medium of communication that reflects themselves live on the screen and to the millions of people watching.

In Floridi’s “Information: A Short Introduction,” he sets up a very methodical process of how humans consume and utilize data in even the most simple contexts. In relation to the production of media and the presentation of media, our ability manipulate and understand data has allowed us to become one with the information. He states that “ICTs have made the creation and the utilization of information, communication, and computational resources vital issues, not only in our understanding of the world and of our interactions with it, but also in our self-assessment and identity.” Today, ICT’s like cellphones are truly apart of self-assessment and identity which is why many people at the inauguration were annoyed to find the cellphone networks jammed due to the amount of people attempting to facebook, tweet, instagram and send text messages live to their family, friends and the world.

Even the first family is a product of the information age which is then framed and placed into reality through the media:

Photo Courtesy of Huffington Post

In a kind of meta-analysis of new media and old media, this photograph demonstrates the overall distribution of information systems and the new avenues of communication in the digital world. The photo, filmed on CNN, posted on the Huffington Post was then posted on my Facebook by a friend. It was created in a story that reflected a representation of the first family and generated numerous stories, creating a new communicative event.

Finding Meaning in Communication and Information

As an introduction, the week’s readings covered topics that we will see throughout the course: a discussion concerning the history of communication and media theory, semiotics, cultural meanings, and digital life that intermingles the “non-living” analog systems with “a-live” [1]. This initial overarching exposé of all things “media” causes new media scholars (and even experienced ones) to take a step back and ask what can individually be dissected from the content.  What ideas are frequently brought up across disciplines? Are researchers and media experts sharing similar insights about the new dimensions of media and mediation? These types of questions must be running in the back of our heads to grasp any sort of understanding of an ever-present world of digital culture. What resonated with me the most was finding meaning in the often polarized worlds of communication and information.  Regis Debray helps to bridge this gap by urging people to think as mediologists. He wants us to re-conceptualize early communication theory and realize that there is indeed an “invisible force of institutions and social structures in providing the shared platforms for relaying messages, meanings, and cultural identities among large communities that endure over time”  (“Media Theory: An Introduction”). Looking at the large picture helps one to see that first, history counts and second, organizations have major influences over what types of technologies and mediums rise in their scope and use.  

To use the example of the telegraph system, its development signaled a shift in the desire for communication that was faster and more reliable. Everyday farmers and laborers prior to the mid-19th century did not all of a sudden demand that communication become “instant”, but the gradual shifting of American hegemonic ideologies encouraged innovation and new ways of producing. Thanks to the new rail network, time took on a new cultural meaning (significance of when, exactly, a message could be received) and the Industrial Revolution only highlighted the change of social ideals influenced by powerful institutions like Carnegie, Rockefeller, J.P. Morgan, etc.  And according to Carey, “the desire to increase speed and effect of messages as they travel in space” is still of extreme importance today (2).

The mediums in which communication and information are expressed in the current post-digital era still maintain a deep interconnectedness of social, political and financial forces.  A prime example of this type of convergence took place this past week with the 57th Presidential Inauguration.  Comparing how individuals in 2009 communicated the Inauguration’s personal and national meaning to how it was done in 2013, reveals that the medium in which meanings are shared must be flexible to adapt to our technological preferences.  Of course, photo and internet-capable mobile phones were of high use in 2009, but in 2013 the meaning of sharing information in real-time bears more weight.  I find that the momentarily popular vernacular phrase “pics or it didn’t happen” (which caught on well especially for digital natives) coincides with Floridi’s statement:  “no records, no history” (p. 3).  Photographs, since their inception have been vital mediums in how we extract “meanings” from historical moments.  They provide a hyper-visual format compared to basic and less-stimulating records such as text. Yet, in this current era, there is a burgeoning sense of pressure to produce records of the meanings we come across instantaneously. This form of recording, is now chiefly digital. People often deem it necessary to “capture” photos as a verifiable source of information that not only provides evidence of our actions at a particular moment in time, but also can be added to the plethora of information that gets added to our growing digital lockers. 

My photo. Taken 1/21/2013.

Memes have become quite popular recently.

Attempting to relate this idea back to mediology, taking photos at a presidential inauguration implies that the devices we use to capture history are more than a technical piece of equipment:  they suggest a social awareness of the cultural relationships that have  altered over time and imply that making a “record”  of a historic event can be shared across multiple platforms which can later be bought, sold or reproduced (Ask: what rights does Facebook, Instagram, Twitter have to this image I’ve uploaded? What financial gains or hidden losses can I get if I decide to sell my image online?). Delving deeper into the core of mediology and applying it to all areas, especially with social institutions and organizations, is what I hope to gain from this course.  Obviously, there is no single divine answer to how to find meaning in communication and information. But it is important to not get trapped by finding an answer to our questions by only considering approaches from one discipline. Unearthing media theory and culture in the digital realm requires a constant questioning of what has already been said and what people are saying about its future. And these skills will only be developed throughout the semester, especially by having an open environment of discussion among peers and new media theorists like myself.


[1] A-live, or “artificially alive” systems that have the ability to communicate, and learn with human and non-human devices, according to L. Floridi, Information: A Very Short Introduction, 2010. P. 17


“Media Theory: An Introduction”

Carey, James “A Cultural Approach to Communication”

Conversations with Siri: Is all communication created equal?

Alisa Wiersema
CCT 748 – Irvine
January 23, 2013

This week’s readings concentrated on a variety of discussions that in some way or another addressed communication through the form of a model or representation. The examples presented in these readings made me think about my own patterns of communication, as well as any conscious problems I may have had communicating with others. However, as pathetic as it sounds, I came to the realization that my major issues with communication largely occur between my iPhone and myself when Siri does not understand what I am asking her to do. This realization seemed to fit well with the introductory readings.

Anyone with an iPhone will probably admit to being frustrated by Siri at some point because we initially feel like another person did not comprehend our requests, rather than instantly acknowledge the fact that we are speaking to an inanimate object. Stuart Hall’s discussion about televisual signs could be applicable to highlight this issue between people and their smartphones. As he states in ‘Encoding, Decoding’,  “reality exists outside language, but it is constantly mediated by and through language.” Given that Siri can mediate language and respond to people verbally, we tend to treat the technology as a real person and go as far as referring to it/her by name. Our perception of reality gets a bit twisted when we engage in conversations with Siri because we use its/her ability to “speak” our language as a means for engagement. Despite this, we are also aware of our own reality whenever Siri misunderstands the conversation or cannot respond the way a human would be able to respond. Additionally, we are also aware of our human reality whenever we attempt to trick Siri into saying something inappropriate or coax a humorous statement out of her collection of responses.

However, as Hall goes on to explain: “There is no intelligible discourse without the operation of a code.” This assertion is what quickly reminds people they are speaking to a machine whenever Siri cannot answer properly – the communication codes between the two parties are completely different since Siri’s code is literally that of a computer. From anecdotal experience, it is safe to say that we often expect our technology to relate to the world in a human way, as though our phones are an extension of our minds. There are so many personal elements available to us — from GPS locators, to maps and favorite settings — that we grow accustomed to having our technology tailored to our specific preferences, that we find it strange when our phones do not automatically continue tailoring these preferences into the more technical operations. In this sense, our codes are not in sync, and our discourse cannot be intelligible.

Floridi also discusses this kind of interaction in the “Life in the Infosphere” section of Chapter 1. Siri seems to be the perfect example of the blurring between what he describes as the “here” and “there” thresholds; people using this technology are interpreting information first hand and offline, while simultaneously receiving digital, intangible information from the little voice living in their phones. His example of GPS tracking also highlights this idea.

Even so, as easy as it may be to “communicate” with technology, we cannot admit to treating all kinds of communication the same way. No matter how human-like Siri’s answers may be, feeling misunderstood by your phone feels a lot different than feeling misunderstood by your peer. After all, as James Carey wrote, “Men live in a community in virtue of the things which they come to possess things in common…such things cannot be passed physically from one to another like bricks.” Therefore, as brought up in our first class discussion, despite having similar overarching models of communication and comprehending the basic issues of miscommunication or disruption, ultimately, the medium does tend to be the message.

Info theory


Theory and assumptions have both methodological and real-world consequences: what are normally called “core assumptions” or “presuppositions” are expressed in a set of guiding metaphors, terms, and networks of discourse that act as models–whole modeling systems–through which longer arguments, positions, and ideologies can be articulated. For our work, a “method” is formed by the kinds of questions one can ask through the kind of discourse used, and the resulting work that counts as recognizable “output” from an application of the model. As we will see, theories get deployed heuristically–used as discovery procedures–which is largely what a “method” is in many fields.