Communication is a process that allows beings - in particular humans - to exchange information by several methods. Communication requires that some kinds of symbols from a kind of language are exchanged. There are auditory means, such as speaking or singing, and nonverbal, physical means, such as body language, sign language, paralanguage, touch or eye contact.
Communication happens at many levels (even for one single action), in many different ways, and for all beings, and some machines. Many or all, fields of study dedicate some attention to communication, so when speaking about communication it is very important to be sure about what aspect of communication one is speaking about. Some definitions are broad, recognizing that animals can communicate with each other as well as human beings, and some are more narrow, only including human beings within the parameters of human symbolic interaction.
Nonetheless, communication is usually described along a few major dimensions:
- Content (what type of things are communicated)
- Source (by whom)
- Form (in which form)
- Channel (through which medium)
- Destination/Receiver (to whom)
- Purpose/Pragmatic aspect (with what kind of results)
Between parties, communication content include acts that declare knowledge and experiences, give advice and commands, and ask questions. These acts may take many forms, including all variations of nonverbal communication. The form depends on the symbol systems used. Together, communication content and form make messages that are sent towards a destination. The target can be oneself, another person (in interpersonal communication), or another entity (such as a corporation or group).
Depending on the focus (who, what, in which form, to whom, to which effect), there exist various classifications. Some of those systematical questions are elaborated in Communication theory.
Communication as information transmission
Communication can be seen as processes of information transmission governed by three levels of semiotic rules: Syntactic (formal properties of signs and symbols), pragmatic (concerned with the relations between signs/expressions and their users) and semantic (study of relationships between signs and symbols and what they represent). Therefore, communication is a kind of social interaction where at least two interacting agents share a common set of signs and a common set of semiotic rules. (This commonly held rule essentially ignores autocommunication, including intrapersonal communication via diaries or self-talk).
In a simplistic model, information or content (e.g. a message in natural language) is sent in some form (as spoken language) from a emisor/sender/encoder to a destination/receiver/decoder. In a slightly more complex form a sender and a receiver are linked reciprocally.
A particular instance of communication is called a speech act. A speech act typically follows a variation of logical means of delivery. The most common of these, and perhaps the best, is the dialogue. The dialogue is a form of communication where both the parties are involved in sending information. There are many other forms of communication but the reason the dialogue is good is because the dialogue lends itself to clearer communication due to feedback. (Feedback being encoded information, either verbal or nonverbal, sent back to the original sender (now the receiver) and then decoded.)
In the presence of "communication noise" on the transmission channel (air, in this case) received and decoded content can become faulty in the sense that it will contain errors and thus probably not cause the desired effect.
Theories of coregulation describe communication as a creative and dynamic continuous process, rather than a discrete exchange of information. Verbal communication is when we communicate our message verbally to whoever is receiving the message. Symbolic communications are the things that we have given meaning to and that represent a certain idea we have in place, for example, the American flag is a symbol that represent freedom for the Americans themselves, or imperialism and evil for some other countries.
Put generally, communication is the exchange of information between members of a group of living beings that enables survival or improved living conditions for the sender or receiver of the message or both. As expressed in the theory of symbolic communication, the exchange of messages change the a priori expectation of events.
Since the beginning of time, the need to communicate emerges from a set of universal questions: Who am I? Who needs to know? Why do they need to know? How will they find out? How do I want them to respond? Individuals, communities, and organizations express their individuality through their identity. On the continuum from the cave paintings at Lascaux to digital messages transmitted via satellite, humanity continues to create an infinite sensory palette of visual andverbal expression.
As a process, communication has synonyms such as expressing feelings, conversing, speaking, corresponding, writing, listening and exchanging. Communication is often formed around the principles of respect, promises and the want for social improvement. People communicate to satisfy needs in both their work and non-work lives. People want to be heard, to be appreciated and to be wanted. They also want to accomplish tasks and to achieve goals. Obviously, then, a major purpose of communication is to help people feel good about themselves and about their friends, groups, and organizations. For these types of communication, there must be a transmission of thoughts, ideas and feelings from one mind to another.
Nonverbal communication is the act of imparting or interchanging thoughts, opinions or information without the use of words, using gestures sign language, facial expressions and body language instead. Much of the “emotional meaning” we take from other people is found in the person’s facial expressions and tone of voice, comparatively little is taken from what the person actually says (More Than Talk).
A language is a syntactically organized system of signals, such as voice sounds, intonations or pitch, gestures or , written symbols which communicate thoughts or feelings. If a language is about communicating with signals, voice, sounds, gestures, or written symbols, can animal communications be considered as a language? Animals do not have a written form of a language, but use a language to communicate with each another. In that sense, an animal communication can be considered as a separated 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. Tell the world, learn a language.
Humans and computer programs have also constructed other languages, including constructed languages such as Esperanto, Ido, Interlingua, Klingon, programming languages, and various mathematical formalisms. These languages are not necessarily restricted to the properties shared by human languages.
Channels / Media
Our indebtedness to the Ancient Romans in the field of communication does not end with the Latin root "communicare". They devised what might be described as the first real mail or postal system in order to centralize control of the empire from Rome. This allowed for personal letters and for Rome to gather knowledge about events in its many widespread provinces.
The adoption of a dominant communication medium is important enough that historians have folded civilization into "ages" according to the medium most widely used. A book titled "Five Epochs of Civilization" by William McGaughey (Thistlerose, 2000) divides history into the following stages: Ideographic writing produced the first civilization; alphabetic writing, the second; printing, the third; electronic recording and broadcasting, the fourth; and computer communication, the fifth. The media effects what people think about themselves and how they perceive people as well. What we think about self image and what others should look like comes from the media.
While it could be argued that these "Epochs" are just a historian's construction, digital and computer communication shows concrete evidence of changing the way humans organize. The latest trend in communication, termed smartmobbing, involves ad-hoc organization through mobile devices, allowing for effective many-to-many communication and social networking.
In the last century, a revolution in telecommunications has greatly altered communication by providing new media for long distance communication. The first transatlantic two-way radio broadcast occurred in 1906 and led to common communication via analogue and digital media:
- Analog telecommunications include traditional telephony, radio, and TV broadcasts.
- Digital telecommunications allow for computer-mediated communication, telegraphy, and computer networks.
Communications media impact more than the reach of messages. They impact content and customs; for example, Thomas Edison had to discover that hello was the least ambiguous greeting by voice over a distance; previous greetings such as hail tended to be garbled in the transmission. Similarly, the terseness of e-mail and chat rooms produced the need for the emoticon.
Modern communication media now allow for intense long-distance exchanges between larger numbers of people (many-to-many communication via e-mail, Internet forums). On the other hand, many traditional broadcast media and mass media favor one-to-many communication (television, cinema, radio, newspaper, magazines).
Mass media is a term used to denote, as a class, that section of the media specifically conceived and designed to reach a very large audience (typically at least as large as the whole population of a nation state). It was coined in the 1920s with the advent of nationwide radio networks and of mass-circulation newspapers and magazines. The mass-media audience has been viewed by some commentators as forming a mass society with special characteristics, notably atomization or lack of social connections, which render it especially susceptible to the influence of modern mass-media techniques such as advertising and propaganda.
Communication in many of its facets is not limited to humans or even primates. Every information exchange between living organisms, a transmission of signals involving a living sender and receiver, can count as communication. Most of this, necessarily, is nonverbal. Thus, there is the wide field of animal communication that is the basis of most of the issues in ethology, but we also know about, Cell signaling, Cellular communication (biology), chemical communication between primitive organisms like bacteria and within the plant and [[fungi|fungal kingdoms. One distinctive non-intrinsic feature of these types of communication in contrast to human communication is allegedly the absence of emotional features, and a limitation to the pure informational level.
Animal communication is any behaviour on the part of one animal that has an effect on the current or future behaviour of another animal. Of course, human communication can be subsumed as a highly developed form of animal communication. The study of animal communication, called zoosemiotics (distinguishable from anthroposemiotics, the study of human communication) has played an important part in the development of ethology, sociobiology, and the study of animal cognition.This is quite evident as humans are able to communicate with animals especially dolphins and other animals used in circuses however these animals have to learn a special means of communication.
Animal communication, and indeed the understanding of the animal world in general, is a rapidly growing field, and even in the 21st century so far, many prior understandings related to diverse fields such as personal symbolic name use, animal emotions, animal culture and learning, and even sexual conduct, long thought to be well understood, have been revolutionized.
Plant communication is observed (a) within the plant organism, i.e. within plant cells and between plant cells, (b) between plants of the same or related species and (c) between plants and non-plant organisms, especially in the rootzone. Plant roots communicate in parallel with rhizobia bacteria, with fungi and with insects in the soil. This parallel sign-mediated interactions which are governed by syntactic, pragmatic and semantic rules are possible because of the decentralized "nervous system" of plants. As recent research shows 99% of intraorganismic plant communication processes are neuronal-like. Plants also communicate via volatiles in the case of herbivory attack behavior to warn neighboring plants. In parallel they produce other volatiles which attract parasites which attack these herbivores. In stress situations plants can overwrite the genetic code they inherited from their parents and revert to that of their grand- or great-grandparents.
For effective communication in specialized contexts, certain strategies can be taken that will help people achieve their goals and can be seen as techniques for attaining the purpose of communication.
Below is a list with explanations of effective communication strategies used in marketing and selling:
- Adaptive Innovation: Building or improving products, services, and processes while working with a customer versus building products or services outside a customer engagement. Relates to service companies working with large enterprises.
- Entrepreneurial Management: Describes a business where the employees are expected to work and relate to each other as self driven business partners versus expecting to be mentored by a command and control management structure. This assumes the phrase, "be the leader you seek."
- One Voice:A skill used to manage customer team meetings where one person is designated the leader and other team members direct all their comments and questions through the designated OneVoice speaker rather than to the customer(s).
- ShowTime: A term related to business people being "on stage" at all times during a meeting or customer visit.
- Strategic speed: A term related to working fast and smart, constantly looking for opportunities to improve and innovate.
- Discipline of Dialogue: A term related to controlling your words and conversations during a business meeting or presentation.
SOLER (Egan, 1986) is a technique used by care workers. It helps the clients or patients to trust the care-giver and to feel safe and helps in effective communication. SOLER is:
- S – sit Squarely in relation to the patient
- O – Open position
- L – Lean slightly towards the patient
- E – Eye contact
- R – Relax
Metacommunication is the process of communicating about communication, for example, to discuss a past conversation and to determine the meanings behind certain words, phrases, etc.. It can be used as a tool for sense making, or for better understanding events, places, people, relationships, etc.. The ability to communicate on the meta-level requires introspection and, more specifically what is called metacommunicative competence. It is not a distinct form of communication as seen from the five aspects mentioned in the introduction.
(Perfected space communication is to be had on all these worlds; and your anywhere reception of such communications is made possible by carrying the "harp of God," a morontia contrivance compensating for the inability to directly adjust the immature morontia sensory mechanism to the reception of space communications.)
- Baumeister, R. F., & Leary, M. R. (1995). The need to belong: Desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation. Psychological Bulletin 117, 497-529.
- Severin, Werner J., Tankard, James W., Jr., (1979). Communication Theories: Origins, Methods, Uses. New York: Hastings House, ISBN 0801317037
- Witzany, G. (2007). The Logos of the Bios 2. Bio-Communication. Umweb, Helsinki.
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