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Theories and Models of Communication.

By Martinsblaise Jul 01, 2012 4316 Words
DATE – 11th of MAY, 2010



Currently, many definitions of communication are used in order to conceptualize the processes by which people navigate and assign meaning. Communication is also understood as the exchanging of understanding. Additionally the biocommunication theory investigates communicative processes within and among non-humans such as bacteria, animals, fungi and plants. Communication stands so deeply rooted in human behaviors and the structures of society that scholars have difficulty thinking of it while excluding social or behavioral events. Because communication theory remains a relatively young field of inquiry and integrates itself with other disciplines such as philosophy, psychology, and sociology, one probably cannot yet[update] expect a consensus conceptualization of communication across disciplines.

We might say that communication consists of transmitting information. In fact, many scholars of communication take this as a working definition, and use Lasswell's maxim ("who says what to whom") as a means of circumscribing the field of communication. Others stress the importance of clearly characterizing the historical, economic and social context. The field of communication theory can benefit from a conceptualization of communication that is widely shared. I.e. Communication consists of transmitting information from one person to another. Lasswell's maxim, states that “who says what to whom in what channel with what effect," as a means of circumscribing the field of communication theory. Other commentators claim that a ritual process of communication exists, one not artificially divorcible from a particular historical and social context. This approaches communication theory from a biographical perspective, in an attempt to show theory development within a social context. Many of these theorists would not actually consider themselves "communication" researchers. The field of communication study is remarkably inclusionary, and integrates theoretical perspectives originally developed in a range of other disciplines. We may turn to etymology for clues: "communication" (from the Latin "communicare") literally means "to put in common", "to share". The term originally meant sharing of tangible things; food, land, goods, and property. Today, it is often applied to knowledge and information processed by living things or computers.


The Definition of communication is ubiquitous; it appears nonetheless difficult to define. We see that different individuals define communication in different ways depending upon their interests. Ruben (1984) says that communication is any “information related behavior.” Dale (1969) says it is the “sharing of ideas and feelings in a mood of mutuality.” Other definitions emphasize the significance of symbols, as in Berelson and Steiner (1964): “The transmission of information, ideas, emotions and skills…by the use of symbols,” and Theodorson (1969): “the transmission of information, ideas, attitudes, or emotion from one person or group to another…primarily through symbols.” Taken together, theses definitions hint at the general picture. They also illustrate the influence that an individual’s perspective may have on the way he or she approaches a problem. The source of the definitions works (variously) in psychology, sociology, philosophy and education. Their definitions are influenced by the aspect of human behavior of greatest interest to them. We will see similar influences in models of communication in the other pages.


Many suggest that there is no such thing as a successful body of communication theory, but that we have been relatively more successful in generating models of communication. A model, according to Karl Deutsch 1952 ("On Communication Models in the Social Sciences"), is "a structure of symbols and operating rules which is supposed to match a set of relevant points in an existing structure or process." In other words, it is a simplified representation or template of a process that can be used to help understand the nature of communication in a social setting. Such models are necessarily not one-to-one maps of the real world, but they are successful only insofar as they accurately represent the most important elements of the real world, and the dynamics of their relationship to one another. Deutsch suggests that a model should provide four functions. It should organize a complex system (while being as general as possible), and should provide an heuristic function. Both these functions are similar to those listed above for theories. He goes on to suggest models should be as original as possible, that they should not be obvious enough that they fail to shed light on the existing system. They should also provide some form of measurement of the system that will work analogously within the model and within the actual system being observed. Models provide a simplified view of something to be studied. We choose those elements of interest and use the model to help us frame questions and predictions. The elements we include (or exclude) and the relationships between them that we represent will by necessity dictate the domain of inquiry. What we don’t see (or acknowledge) we cannot study. I.e. Models are tools of inquiry in a way that theories may not be. By representing the system being observed, they provide a way of working through the problems of a "real world" system in a more abstract way. As such, they lend themselves to the eventual construction of theory, though it may be that theory of the sort found in the natural sciences is something that cannot be achieved in the social sciences. Unfortunately, while models provide the "what" and the "how," they are not as suited to explaining "why," and therefore are rarely as satisfying as strong theory. Lanham chose to view communication as the rival to the over encompassing use of CBS model (which pursued to further the transmission model). CBS model argues that charity, brevity, and sincerity are the only purpose to prose discourse, therefore communication. Lanham wrote, “If words matter too, if the whole range of human motive is seen as animating prose discourse, then rhetoric analysis leads us to the essential questions about prose style” (Lanham 10). This is saying that rhetoric and style are fundamentally important; they are not errors to what we actually intend to transmit. The process which we construct and deconstruct meaning deserves analysis. Erving Goffman sees the performance of self as the most important frame to understand communication. Goffman wrote, “What does seem to be required of the individual is that he learn enough pieces of expression to be able to ‘fill in’ and manage, more or less, any part that he is likely to be given” (Goffman 73) Goffman is highlighting the significance of expression. The truth in both cases is the articulation of the message and the package as one. The construction of the message from social and historical context is the seed as is the pre-existing message is for the transmission model. Therefore any look into communication theory should include the possibilities drafted by such great scholars as Robert A. Lanham and Erving Goffman that style and performance is the whole process. Communication Theory attempts to document types of communication, and to optimize communications for the benefit of all. Indeed, a theory is some form of explanation of a class of observed phenomena. Karl Popper colorfully described theory as "the net which we throw out in order to catch the world--to rationalize, explain, and dominate it." The idea of a theory lies at the heart of any scholarly process, and while those in the social sciences tend to adopt the tests of a good theory from the natural sciences, many who study communication adhere to an idea of communication theory that is akin to that found in other academic fields. This approaches communication theory from a biographical perspective, in an attempt to show theory development within a social context. Many of these theorists would not actually consider themselves "communication" researchers. The field of communication study is remarkably inclusionary, and integrates theoretical perspectives originally developed in a range of other disciplines. Humans communicate everyday. Communication is a basic activity by which humans consider fundamental. Everybody delivers messages but not everybody understands the underlying theories and studies about this way of life. The following are the major theorist with their theories and models

|Theory |Date |Theorist |Definition |Illustrations | |Verbal Model of |1948 |Harold Lasswell |Who says what in which channel to|Persuasive speaker | |Communication | | |whom with what effects? | | |Transmission Model of |1949 |Claude Shannon & |Diagram of Transmission Model of |Telephone conversation, Radio or television broadcast | |Communication | |Warren Weaver |Communication (see below) | | | | | | | | |Coorientation Model of |1953 |Theodore |Diagram of Coorientation Model of|Tobacco companies and health agencies differ on public | |Communication | |Newcomb |Communication (see below) |policies about tobacco. | | | | | | | | | | | |Accuracy, Agreement, and Congruency | |Shared Experience Model of|1954 |Wilbur Schramm |Diagram of Shared Experience |Successful message encoding and decoding depends on | |Communication | | |Model of Communication (see |similar language and values. | | | | |below) |Feedback helps to clarify meanings | |Transcendental Model of |1967 |Alfred Schutz |Diagram of Transcendental Model |Cultural and background differences result in different | |Communication | | |of Communication (see below) |understandings of messages. | | | | | |Anonymity keeps us from full understanding of each other | | | | | |and ourselves. | |HUB Model of Mass |1991 |Hiebert Unguarait |Mass communication is depicted as|Gatekeepers in a media organization determine what | |Communication | |&Bohn |a series of concentric circles |messages are passed. | |. | | |(see below). |Filters are informational, linguistic, psychological, | | | | | |cultural, and physical | |Information Processing |1986 |John Robinson |Communication is limited by human|Humans compared to computers. | |Theory | | |capacity to process information. |TV is NOT "The Main Source" for News. | |. | | | | |

NOTE – Not all theories that were written ‘’ see below’’ were explained and not all theory that was explained, was in the table. [pic] [pic]
Transcendental Model of Communication Coorientation Model of Communication [pic] [pic]

Shared Experience Model of Communication HUB Model of Mass Communication

Communication is a good research paper or other academic paper topic due to the many theories involved with it. Many theorists and communication scholars formulated models and theories about communication. There are multidimensional models of communication. However, due to their complexity, it may not be possible to fully explain each without the use of diagrams and drawings. For a research paper, it may be suffice to cite and discuss simple models. Among the many are the following:

1. ARISTOTLEAN MODEL OF COMMUNICATION – One of the earliest recorded models is attributed to the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle. Aristotle represented communication as might an orator who speaks to large audiences. His model incorporates few elements. it is a one-way model for public speaking. The speaker delivers the message to the audience.

Figure One: Aristotle’s Model of Communication 2. SHANNON AND WEAVER MODEL OF COMMUNICATION – Shannon's (1949) model introduced the concept of noise in communication. This model states that the information is encoded and goes through a channel. The information, then, is decoded and goes to the destination. In the middle of the process, the 'noise' or barrier interferes with the process. This model is focused on information theory, and in particular the transmission and reception of messages. The model introduces three elements not found in Aristotle’s model: a transmitter, a receiver, and sources of noise. In telecommunications the transmitter and receiver would be the hardware used by the sender and receiver during the act of communication. Noise may come from static sources (like solar flares), unusual weather conditions, or electron equipment that interferes with the signal. Although at first glance, this model seems to be geared strictly for telecommunications such as radio and television, some of the elements may easily generalize into other fields of interest. Consider that in any face-to-face situation, there may be environmental or other sources of noise that interfere with the communication. [pic]

|Figure 2: Shannon's and Weaver’s (1948) Model. |

C & W's original model consisted of five elements:
1. An information source, which produces a message.
2. A transmitter, which encodes the message into signals
3. A channel, to which signals are adapted for transmission
4. A receiver, which 'decodes' (reconstructs) the message from the signal. 5. A destination, where the message arrives.
A sixth element, noise is a dysfunctional factor: any interference with the message traveling along the channel (such as 'static' on the telephone or radio) which may lead to the signal received being different from that sent. Although in Shannon and Weaver's model a speaker and a listener would strictly be the source and the destination rather than the transmitter and the receiver, in discussions of the model the participants are commonly humanised as the sender and the receiver. My critical comments will refer less specifically to Shannon and Weaver's model than to the general transmission model which it reflects, where communication consists of a Sender passing a Message to a Receiver. Shannon and Weaver's transmission model is the best-known example of the 'informational' approach to communication. Although no serious communication theorist would still accept it, it has also been the most influential model of communication which has yet been developed, and it reflects a commonsense (if misleading) understanding of what communication is. Lasswell's verbal version of this model: 'Who says what in which channel to whom with what effect?' was reflected in subsequent research in human communication which was closely allied to behaviorist approaches.

Levels of problems in the analysis of communication

Shannon and Weaver argued that there were three levels of problems of communication: 1. The technical problem: how accurately can the message be transmitted? 2. The semantic problem: how precisely is the meaning 'conveyed'? 3. The effectiveness problem: how effectively does the received meaning affect behaviour? Shannon and Weaver somewhat naively assumed that sorting out Level A problems would lead to improvements at the other levels. 3. BERLO’S MODEL OF COMMUNICATION – Berlo (1960) took a different approach to constructing a model. Rather than attempting to identify elements of interest, and relationships between those elements, he created what he called “a model of the ingredients of communication”. This model identifies controlling factors for four identified elements of communication: source (S) – message (M) – channel (C) – receiver (R). The source sends the message to the receiver through a channel. This model promises to be helpful in identifying specific factors to use in experimentation.

Figure Three: Berlo’s “SMCR” Model 4. INTERMEDIARY MODEL OF COMMUNICATION -- Intermediary model of communication (sometimes referred to as the gatekeeper model or two-step flow (Katz, 1957)). This model, which is frequently depicted in introductory texts in mass communication, focuses on the important role that intermediaries often play in the communication process. Mass communication texts frequently specifically associate editors, who decide what stories, will fit in a newspaper or news broadcast, with this intermediary or gatekeeper role. There are, however, many intermediary roles associated with communication. Many of these intermediaries have the ability to decide what messages others see, the context in which they are seen, and when they see them. They often have the ability, moreover, to change messages or to prevent them from reaching an audience (destination). In extreme variations we refer to such gatekeepers as censors. |[pic] | |Figure 4: An Intermediary Model. |

5. INTERACTIVE MODEL OF COMMUNICATION -- The interactive model, a variant of which is shown in Figure 6, elaborates Shannon's model with the cybernetic concept of feedback (Weiner, 1948, 1986), often without changing any other element of Shannon's model. The key concept associated with this elaboration is that destinations provide feedback on the messages they receive such that the information sources can adapt their messages, in real time. This is an important elaboration, and as generally depicted, a radically oversimplified one. Feedback is a message (or a set of messages). The source of feedback is an information source. Wilbur Schramm (1954) was one of the first to alter the mathematical model of Shannon and Weaver. He conceived of decoding and encoding as activities maintained simultaneously by sender and receiver; he also made provisions for a two-way interchange of messages. Notice also the inclusion of an “interpreter” as an abstract representation of the problem of meaning. The consumer of feedback is a destination. Feedback is transmitted, received, and potentially disruptable via noise sources. None of this is visible in the typical depiction of the interactive model. This doesn't diminish the importance of feedback or the usefulness of elaborating Shannon's model to include it. People really do adapt their messages based on the feedback they receive. It is useful, however, to notice that the interactive model depicts feedback at a much higher level of abstraction than it does messages. |[pic] | |Figure 5: An Interactive Model: |

6. TRANSACTIONAL MODEL OF COMMUNICATION -- This difference in the level of abstraction is addressed in the transactional model of communication, a variant of which is shown in Figure 5. This model acknowledges neither creators nor consumers of messages, preferring to label the people associated with the model as communicators who both create and consume messages. The model presumes additional symmetries as well, with each participant creating messages that are received by the other communicator. This is, in many ways, an excellent model of the face-to-face interactive process which extends readily to any interactive medium that provides users with symmetrical interfaces for creation and consumption of messages, including notes, letters, C.B. Radio, electronic mail, and the radio. It is, however, a distinctly interpersonal model that implies equality between communicators that often doesn't exist, even in interpersonal contexts. The caller in most telephone conversations has the initial upper hand in setting the direction and tone of a telephone call than the receiver of the call (Hopper, 1992). |[pic] | |Figure 6: A Transactional Model: |

For communications students (or any course related to it), the use of models and theories relating to everyday life and the media is important. They must use advanced studies. Such studies include: 1. Cultivation Theory – this states that exposure to media shapes and cultivates the consumers. 2. 'The Medium is the Message' – this states that the medium plants itself in the message. It also says that the medium itself affects the society, not the message or content it carries. 3. Agenda Setting Theory – this states that the news media have the influence on people due to the news they deliver. 4. Uses and Gratifications Theory – this states that people use the media to fulfill their needs. Such theories are evident in the society. Due to the vast innovation of technology, people become more dependent to it, therefore exposing them to more opportunities (and threats). I.e. Communication is deeply rooted in human behaviors and societies. It is difficult to think of social or behavioral events from which communication is absent. Indeed, communication applies to shared behaviors and properties of any collection of things, whether they are human or not.


The ecological model of communication, shown in Figure 8, attempts to provide a platform on which these issues can be explored. It asserts that communication occurs in the intersection of four fundamental constructs: communication between people (creators and consumers) is mediated by messages which are created using language within media; consumed from media and interpreted using language. This model is, in many ways, a more detailed elaboration of Lasswell's (1948) classic outline of the study of communication: "Who ... says what ... in which channel ... to whom ... with what effect". In the ecological model, the "who" are the creators of messages, the "says what" are the messages, the "in which channel" is elaborated into languages (which are the content of channels) and media (which channels are a component of), the "to whom" are the consumers of messages, and the effects are found in various relationships between the primitives, including relationships, perspectives, attributions, interpretations, and the continuing evolution of languages and media. This ecological model of communication is, in its most fundamental reading, a compact theory of messages and the systems that enable them. Messages are the central feature of the model and the most fundamental product of the interaction of people, language, and media. But there are other products of the model that build up from that base of messages, including (in a rough ordering to increased complexity) observation, learning, interpretation, socialization, attribution, perspectives, and relationships. The ecological model of communication presented here cannot, by itself, remediate such differences, but it does reconstitute and extend these models in ways that make it useful, both pedagogically and theoretically, across the normal disciplinary boundaries of the field of communication. The author has made good use of the model in teaching a variety of courses within several communication disciplines, including on interpersonal communication, mass media criticism, organizational communication, and communication ethics, communication in relationships and communities, and new communication technologies. In introductory Interpersonal Communication classes the model has shown considerable value in outlining and tying together such diverse topics as the social construction of the self, verbal and non-verbal languages, listening, relationship formation and development, miscommunication, perception, attribution, and the ways in which communication changes in different interpersonal media. |[pic] | |Figure 8: A Ecological Model of the Communication Process |

A number of relationships are described in this model:
Messages are created and consumed using language
Language occurs within the context of media
Messages are constructed and consumed within the context of media The roles of consumer and creator are reflexive. People become creators when they reply or supply feedback to other people. Creators become consumers when they make use of feedback to adapt their messages to message consumers. People learn how to create messages through the act of consuming other peoples messages. The roles of consumer and creator are introspective. Creators of messages create messages within the context of their perspectives of and relationships with anticipated consumers of messages. Creators optimize their messages to their target audiences. Consumers of messages interpret those messages within the context of their perspectives of, and relationships with, creators of messages. Consumers make attributions of meaning based on their opinion of the message creator. People form these perspectives and relationships as a function of their communication. The messages creators of messages construct are necessarily imperfect representations of the meaning they imagine. Messages are created within the expressive limitations of the medium selected and the meaning representation space provided by the language used. The message created is almost always a partial and imperfect representation of what the creator would like to say. A consumer’s interpretation of messages necessarily attributes meaning imperfectly. Consumers interpret messages within the limits of the languages used and the media those languages are used in. A consumer’s interpretation of a message may be very different than what the creator of a message imagined. People learn media by using media. The media they learn will necessarily be the media used by the people they communicate with. People invent and evolve media while some of the modalities and channels associated with communication are naturally occurring, the media we use to communicate are not. A medium of communication is, in short, the product of a set of complex interactions between its primary consituents: messages, people (acting as creators of messages, consumers of messages, and in other roles), languages, and media. Three of these consituents are themselves complex systems and the subject of entire fields of study, including psychology, sociology, anthropology (all three of which study people), linguistics (language), media ecology (media), and communication (messages, language, and media). Even messages can be regarded as complex entities, but its complexities can be described entirely within the scope of languages, media, and the people who use them.

Models are a fundamental building block of theory. They are also a fundamental tool of instruction. Shannon's information theory model, Weiner's Cybernetic model, and Katz' two step flow each allowed scholars decompose the process of communication into discrete structural elements. Each provides the basis for considerable bodies of communication theory and research. Each model also provides teachers with a powerful pedagogical tool for teaching students to understand that communication is a complex process in which many things can, and frequently do, go wrong; for teaching students the ways in which they can perfect different skills at different points in the communication process to become more effective communicators. But while Shannon's model has proved effective across the primary divides in the field of communication, the other models Katz' and Weiner's models have not. Indeed, they in many ways exemplify that divide and the differences in what is taught in courses oriented to interpersonal communication and mass communication. It may be be that complex model of the communication process that bridges the theoretical orientations of interpersonal, organizational, and mass media perspectives can help to bridge this gap and provide something more than the kind of metamodel that Craig calls for. Defining media directly into the process of communication may help to provide the kind of substrate that would satisfy Cappella's (1991) suggestion we can "remake the field by altering the organizational format", replacing contexts with processes that operate within the scope of media. This perspective does exactly that. The result does not integrate all of communication theory, but it may provide a useful starting point on which a more integrated communication theory can be built.

• Katz, E. (1957). The Two-Step Flow of Communication. Public Opinion Quarterly, 21, p. 61-78. • Lasswell, H. (1948). The structure and function of communication in society. In "The Communication of Ideas". Bryson, Lymon (Ed). New York: Institute for Religious and Social Studies, p. 37-51. • Lasswell, H. (1948). The structure and function of communication in society. In L. Bryson (Ed.), The communication of ideas. New York: Harper. • Shannon, C. E. A (1948). Mathematical Theory of Communication. Bell System Technical Journal, vol. 27, pp. 379-423 and 623-656, July and October, 1948 • Schramm, W. (1954). How communication works. In W. Schramm (Ed.), The process and effects of mass communication. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press. • Shannon, C. & Weaver, W. (1949). The mathematical theory of communication. . Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press. • Theodorson, S. & Theodorson, A. (1969). A modern dictionary of sociology. New York: Cassell Education Limited.

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