Communication Notes


Introduction to Communication

Communication is the activity of conveying information through the exchange of thoughts, messages, or information, as by speech, visuals, signals, writing, or behavior.


The process of communication involves a procedure consisting of only a few steps. 

  1. A communication source or an encoder,
  2. A message,
  3. A channel,
  4. A decoder or a communication receiver or a destination.
This is illustrated as under:
The information source decides to communicate and encodes a message, transmits it through a channel to the receiver, which is then decoded and acted upon. There are noises or distortions in between. Thus, as illustrated above, we see that there are six elements of communication:
  1. a code
  2. a channel 
  3. encoding 
  4. decoding
  5. encoder and
  6. decoder 
           A message is communicated, or a piece of information is conveyed by means of a mechanism. This is necessary with a view to being able to convey the message/information fully and completely. Thus, there is a sender of the message who is aiso called an encoder, "just as a computer understands the language of a code."
              A channel or device is used to communicate the message. It could be a radio or a television set, newspaper or magazine and the like. The encoding process means putting the message together or arranging the idea in a recognizable, and understandable form, for conveying it to the receivers. Unlike in telegraphy, the encoder here is an human agent.
            The encoder decides the content of the message. Similarly, decoder is the destination where the message lands. The receiver has to wait for the words to be spoken or written and to make out what he/she can make of them according to his/her knowledge, experience, assumption; and attitudes. When two people communicate who are equally matched in intelligence, social backgrounds and comprehension power; the advantages and disadvantages pass from one to the other. Thus, the encoder (who is the initiator of the communication activity) chooses his subject and the channel of communication and makes the first impact on the mind of the decoder.
             Decoding is one of the most important and very crucial elements of the communication process. The entire process of comprehension process of communication hinges on the decoder of course, the message will be received, recorded and interpreted differently by different people according to their knowledge, experience and understanding levels.
We can define communication as a systemic process in which people interact with and through symbols to create and interpret meanings.
The definition of communication has three important facets.
Process: Communication is a process, which means that it is ongoing and always-in motion. It's hard to tell when communication starts and stops because what happened before we talk with someone may influence our interaction, and what occurs in a particular encounter may affect the future. That communication is a process means it is always in motion, moving forward and changing continuously. We cannot freeze communication at anyone moment. So itis dynamic in process.
Systemic: Communication takes place within systems. A system consists of interrelated,parts that affect one another. In classroom communication, teacher and each student is part of the system. In addition, the physical environment and the time of day are elements of the system that affect interaction. The history of a system also affects communication. If a student has a history of listening sensitively and working out problems constructively, then he/she will be in better communication mode. On the other hand, if the student has a record of nasty conflicts and internal strife, he/she will not communicate in a better way in classroom. Communication is also affected by the larger systems within which it takes place. Symbolic communication is symbolic. It relies on symbols, which are abstract, arbitrary, and ambiguous representations of other things. 
We can determine the elements involved analyze how those elements affect one another,and thus determine the nature of the communicated process as a whole. Applying this approach the communication process, we find eight elements  (1)a source/encoder of communication, which sends(2) a message (3) through a channel to (4) a receiver decoder, which (5) responds via feedback with (6) possibilities of communication breakdowns (Barrier) in each stage of communication. However, these elements must be understood and analyzed in relation to (7) the situation or context, and (8) the system (such as relationship), which is created and maintained at some level/ by the communicators.The Source/ encoder and the sender begins the communication processby forming the ideas, intentions and feelings that will be transmitted. The sender is required to filter out the details ,that are unimportant and focus his/her energy on the most relevant information. The source, or encoder makes the decision to communicate. The source also determines what the purpose of the message will be to inform, persuade or entertain.
Message : The second element of the communication process is the message or that information which is being communicated. The source encodes an idea and then determines whether or not to inform, persuade, or entertain. After deciding what message to send,·the source uses symbols to get the message across to others. These symbols stand for other  things. The most iinportant symbols are words, which can represent objects, ideas, and feelings. These words permit us to share our thoughts with other mem bers of our species. To increase the likelihood of successful communication, the source must try to encode,in a way that the receiver understands, so that the receiver can properly decode (interpret) the message.
Channel: Channels are the means (that is pathways or, devices) by which messages are of the communicated. Channels may be described and analyzed in two different ways. The first involves the form in which messages are sent to receivers. Forms include both verbal and non verbal channels of communication. We use our five senses to reeceive messages from others. Channels may also be described according to the manner of presentation employed in communication. Depending on the situation, the source would concentrate on verbal and/or non verbal channels of communication. If the speaker is not in front of the audience his/her physical appearance wouldn't matter, but if he or she is giving lectures in a classroom or before a live audience, persorial appearance could easily influence the reception of the message. Whatever channels of communication are used, the source must learn to adapt the message to make use of the most appropriate channels available for the situation. 
Receiver/lDecoder : The person (or persons) who attends to the source's message is the receiver. The act of interpreting messages is called decoding. Receivers decode messages based on past experiences, perceptions, th<;mghts, and feelings. We first have a ,physiological reception of stimuli (a noise causes sound waves to hit our eardrum or a movement catches our eye). We then pay attention to both the verbal and nonverbal stimuli and !educe all the stimuli bombarding us to one or two we can cope-with more easily.Next, we try to understand the stimuli and interpret them into messages (we decide that the noise. is a telephone bell or that the movement is a friend waving to us across campus). Finally, we store this information for later use so that next time we will be able to respond to the stimuli more quickly. It is important to remember that receivers make immediate decisions about what they will respond to in a given situation.
Feedback : Another element in the communication process is feedback. Each party in an interaction continuously sends messages back to the other. This return process is called feedback. Feedback tells the source how the receiver has interpreted each message. The feedback, which conveys lack of understanding, is known as negative feedback. Positive feedback, on the other hand, indicates that the receiver has understood the source's message. It does not necessarily mean that he or she agrees with the source, just that ,the message was interpreted accurately. Feedback can also be ambiguous, not clearly positive or negative "1- see" and "mm-hmm" can be examples of ambiguous feedback. The effective communicator is always sensitive to feedback and constantly modifies his or her messages as a result of the feedback received.
Barriets/Noise: The human communication system 'can be compared witli a radio or telephone circuit. Just as in radio transmissions, where distortion can occur at any point along the circuit (channel), there can be similar barriers in human communication. The source's information may be insufficient or unclear. or the message can be ineffectively or inaccurately encoded. The wrong channel of communication may be used. The message may not be decoded the way it was encoded. Finaily, the receiver may not equipped to handle the decoded message in such a way as to produce the response (feedback) expected by the source.'Barriers' are any obstacles or difficulties that come in the way of communication. They may be physical mechanical, psychological, cultural or linguistic in nature. Besides, then are the barriers, raised by interpersonal relationships between individual and groups, the prejudices of both individuals and groups and the channels they use to communicate. Barriers to communication also occur if the sender and receiver are not on the same "wavelength". This is as true in human communication as it is in radio transmission. In the 'jargon' of communication, all barriers whatever their nature are clubbed under a common label noise, it denotes not only atmospheric or channel disturbance, but all barriers that distort communications in any manner.
Physical Bdrriers: Four main kinds of distractions act as 'physical barriers' to the communication process.These are:
(1) The competing stimulus:  in the form of another conversation going on within hearing distance, or loud music or traffic noise in the background.
(2) Envirorimental Stress: A  high temperature and humidity, poor ventilation, vibrations felt, a strong glare all. can contribute to distortions in the sending and receiving of messages. 
(3) Subjective Stress: Sleeplessness  ill health, the effects of drugs and mood variations give rise to forms of subjective stress that often lead to great difficulties in listening and interpretation.
(4) Ignorance of the medium: The various media for communication are: oral, written, audio, visual and audiovisual. The use of a medium with which the communicators are not familiar would turn the medium itself into a barrier.
Psychological Barriers: Each of us has a certain 'frame of reference', a kind of window through which we look out at the world, at peopl§, and events and situations. A frame of reference is a system of standards and values, usually implicit, underlying and to some extent controlling an action , or the expression of emy belief, attitude or idea. No two individuals possess exactly similar frames of reference, even if they are identical twins. To a large extent our experiences, particularly our childhood experiences, and the cultural environment  have grown up in influence our frames of reference.
Linguistics and Cultural Barriers: language is the expression of the thoughts and experiences of people in terms oftheir cultural environment. When the same language is made use of in a different culture, it takes an another colour, another meaning.
Mechanical Barriers: Mechanical barriers are those raised by the channels employed for interpersonal, group or mass communication. Channels become barrier whenthe message is. interfered with by some disturbance, which (1) increased the difficulty in reception or (2) prevented some elements of the message reaching its destination or both. The absence of communication  facilities too would be inechanical barrier. This type of barrier includes any disturbance, which interferes with the fidelity of the physical transmission of the message.
Communication has, been classified into several types: in terms of the verbal-nonverbal, oral- written, intentional- unintentional etc. One of the most common typology relates to the size of the social group or the number of people involved in the experience of communication. Such a typology ranges from the intrapersonal and interpersonal and transpersonal, to the group and the mass.
This means communicating within yourself. When you think, daydream, solve problems, and image, you are in the realm of intrap~rsonal communication. Some investigators also include all physical feedback mechanisms, such as the sensations of hunger, pain, and pleasure in this area.
This form of communication describes the interactions of two or more people. The most significant setting for interpersonal communication is direct face-to-face communication between two persons., An interview, a conversation, and intimate communications come under this heading. It is more persuasive and influential than any other type of communica,tion. For it involves the interplay of words and gestures, the warmth of human closeness and in fact all the five senses. Feedback is the key word here. Feedback is instantaneous.
Group communication shares all these qualities, though in a much less measure. The larger the group the less personal and intimate is the possibility of exchange. In fact, as the group grows, in size communication tends to become more and more of monologue, for participation becomes problematic. The degree of directness and intimacy, therefore, depends upon the size of the group, the place where it meets, as also the relationship of the members of the group to one another, and to the group leader. Group communication requires the following conditions: leadership, equal sharing of ideas, peer pressure, roles and norms, and focus on a common goal.
When a message needs help to get from its source to its destination, mass communication begins to function. Usually some  form of medium one meaning of which is 'between' is needed to connect the sender to receivers. These media and visibility to some people and points of views, whereas it mutes. other voices and viewpoints. Thus mass communication affects our perceptions of issues, events, and people.