COMMUNICATION OF INFORMATION; COMMUNICATION SYSTEM
by Osarome Ogbebor
Communication is defined as a process by which we assign and convey meaning in an attempt to create shared understanding. It is a process that allows organisms to exchange information by several methods. Communication is the articulation of sending a message, whether it is verbal or nonverbal, so long as a being transmits a thought provoking idea, gesture, action, etc.
Communication is defined as a process by which we assign and convey meaning in an attempt to create shared understanding. Communication happens at many levels (even for one single action), in many different ways, and for most beings, as well as certain machines. Several, if not all, fields of study dedicate a portion of attention to communication
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.
Information can mean a message received and understood; a collection of facts from which conclusions may be drawn, or knowledge which has been acquired in some way, such as by learning or experience.
The communication process is the guide toward realizing effective communication. It is through the communication process that the sharing of a common meaning between the sender and the receiver takes place. Individuals that follow the communication process will have the opportunity to become more productive in every aspect of their profession. Effective communication leads to understanding.
The communication process is made up of four key components. Those components include:
• Medium of transmission
• The communication process begins with the sender and ends with the receiver.
The sender is an individual, group, or organization who initiates the communication. This source is initially responsible for the success of the message. The sender's experiences, attitudes, knowledge, skill, perceptions, and culture influence the message. "The written words, spoken words, and nonverbal language selected are paramount in ensuring the receiver interprets the message as intended by the sender" (Burnett & Dollar, 1989). All communication begins with the sender.
The first step the sender is faced with involves the encoding process. In order to convey meaning, the sender must begin encoding, which means translating information into a message in the form of symbols that represent ideas or concepts. This process translates the ideas or concepts into the coded message that will be communicated. The symbols can take on numerous forms such as, languages, words, or gestures. These symbols are used to encode ideas into messages that others can understand.
Medium of Transmission
A medium of communication is, in short, the product of a set of complex interactions between its primary constituents: messages, people (acting as creators of messages, consumers of messages, and in other roles), languages, and media.
To begin transmitting the message, the sender uses some kind of channel (also called a medium). The channel is the means used to convey the message. Most channels are either oral or written, but currently visual channels are becoming more common as technology expands. Common channels include the telephone and a variety of written forms such as memos, letters, and reports. The effectiveness of the various channels fluctuates depending on the characteristics of the communication.
The receiver is the individual or individuals to whom the message is directed. The extent to which this person comprehends the message will depend on a number of factors, which include the following: how much the individual or individuals know about the topic, their receptivity to the message, and the relationship and trust that exists between sender and receiver
After the appropriate channel or channels are selected, the message enters the decoding stage of the communication process. Decoding is conducted by the receiver. Once the message is received and examined, the stimulus is sent to the brain for interpreting, in order to assign some type of meaning to it. It is this processing stage that constitutes decoding. The receiver begins to interpret the symbols sent by the sender, translating the message to their own set of experiences in order to make the symbols meaningful. Successful communication takes place when the receiver correctly interprets the sender's message.
All interpretations by the receiver are influenced by their experiences, attitudes, knowledge, skills, perceptions, and culture. It is similar to the sender's relationship with encoding.
Feedback is the final link in the chain of the communication process. After receiving a message, the receiver responds in some way and signals that response to the sender. The signal may take the form of a spoken comment, a long sigh, a written message, a smile, or some other action. "Even a lack of response, is in a sense, a form of response" (Bovee & Thill, 1992). Without feedback, the sender cannot confirm that the receiver has interpreted the message correctly.
Feedback is a key component in the communication process because it allows the sender to evaluate the effectiveness of the message. Feedback ultimately provides an opportunity for the sender to take corrective action to clarify a misunderstood message.
Communication Process Barriers
Anything that prevents understanding of the message is a barrier to communication. Many physical and psychological barriers exist:
• Culture, background, and bias — we allow our past experiences to change the meaning of the message. Our culture, background, and bias can be good as they allow us to use our past experiences to understand something new, it is when they change the meaning of the message that they interfere with the communication process.
• Noise — Equipment or environmental noise impedes clear communication. The sender and the receiver must both be able to concentrate on the messages being sent to each other.
• Ourselves — Focusing on ourselves, rather than the other person can lead to confusion and conflict. The “Me Generation” is out when it comes to effective communication.
• Perception — if we feel the person is talking too fast, not fluently, does not articulate clearly, etc., we may dismiss the person. Also our preconceived attitudes affect our ability to listen. We listen uncritically to persons of high status and dismiss those of low status.
• Message — Distractions happen when we focus on the facts rather than the idea. Our educational institutions reinforce this with tests and questions. Semantic distractions occur when a word is used differently than you prefer.
• Environmental — Bright lights, an attractive person, unusual sights, or any other stimulus provides a potential distraction.
• Smothering — we take it for granted that the impulse to send useful information is automatic. Not true! Too often we believe that certain information has no value to others or they are already aware of the facts.
• Stress — People do not see things the same way when under stress. What we see and believe at a given moment is influenced by our psychological frames of references — our beliefs, values, knowledge, experiences, and goals
Shannon's Model of the Communication Process
Shannon's (1948) model of the communication process is, in important ways, the beginning of the modern field. It provided, for the first time, a general model of the communication process that could be treated as the common ground of such diverse disciplines as journalism, rhetoric, linguistics, and speech and hearing sciences. Part of its success is due to its structuralist reduction of communication to a set of basic constituents that not only explain how communication happens, but why communication sometimes fails. Good timing played a role as well. Shannon's model breaks the process of communication down into eight discrete components:
1. An information source. Presumably a person who creates a message.
2. The message, which is both sent by the information source and received by the destination.
3. A transmitter. For Shannon's immediate purpose a telephone instrument that captures an audio signal, converts it into an electronic signal, and amplifies it for transmission through the telephone network. The simplest transmission system, which associated with face-to-face communication, has at least two layers of transmission. The first, the mouth (sound) and body (gesture) create and modulate a signal. The second layer, which might also be described as a channel, is built of the air (sound) and light (gesture) that enable the transmission of those signals from one person to another. A television broadcast would obviously include many more layers
4. The signal, which flows through a channel. There may be multiple parallel signals, as is the case in face-to-face interaction where sound and gesture involve different signal systems that depend on different channels and modes of transmission.
5. A carrier or channel. The most commonly used channels include air, light, electricity, radio waves, paper, and postal systems. Note that there may be multiple channels associated with the multiple layers of transmission.
6. Noise, in the form of secondary signals that obscure or confuse the signal carried. Today we have at least some media which are so noise free that compressed signals are constructed with an absolutely minimal amount information and little likelihood of signal loss.
7. A receiver. In Shannon's conception, the receiving telephone instrument. In face to face communication a set of ears (sound) and eyes (gesture). In television, several layers of receiver, including an antenna and a television set.
8. A destination. Presumably a person who consumes and processes the message.
Successful and effective communication stems from the implementation of the communication process. It has been proven that individuals that understand the communication process will blossom into more effective communicators, and effective communicators have a greater opportunity for becoming a success.