Instructional Technology/Communications Theory

Elements of Communications TheoryEdit

Communications theory looks at how information is communicated from one place or person to another. This theory looks at the processes involved in transmitting information and how the methods of the transmission will affect the interpretation of the message.

One model of communication that we have is the transmission model of communications. It really is about passing information from one place to another or from one person to another. In this view, communication is how you get information from one place to another. An example of this model is the 1947 Shannon-Weaver general model of communication. The emphasis is on the transmission and reception of information. It proposes that communication is comprised of the following six elements:

  1. Sources of a Message
  2. Encoding of a Message
  3. Transmission of a Message
  4. Channels of Communication
  5. Receiving of a Message
  6. Decoding of a Message

Sources of a MessageEdit

All communication has a source. The source is responsible for sending messages; it always has a purpose for the message. It may be an individual, a group of individuals, or an organization . The thing about senders and receivers are all the complexities of what you think about the message being sent. The characteristics of the message (cultural background, experiential background, and the attitudes and aptitudes of the sender) all help you understand where the message is coming from.

Encoding of a MessageEdit

Information must be coded in such a way so it can be received. Encoding is the process of codifying the message to be sent. Most of our messages are put into words. Speaking face-to-face, we use rules of grammar to help us transfer our thoughts to another person or a group of people. However, more and more messages are being put into visuals. We can often represent our ideas without words, e.g. using facial expressions and gestures or by using pictures.

To help understand encoding, consider the way a telephone works. The source, usually a person, speaks into the phone. The phone acts as the encoder, converting the message into electrical signals which can be sent out over the telephone network.

Transmission of a MessageEdit

The message can be transmitted aurally, visually, textually, or by a combination of these mediums. You can decide what method to use, and this will have an impact on the message. The transmitter of a coded message may be speech, printed words, a picture. In the case of the telephone, the trasmitter is the electrical signal sent out by the phone and transmitted to the receiver through a series of electrical connections - a channel for this kind of information.

Channels of CommunicationEdit

The channel is the vehicle of message transmission. There can be different types. There is the auditory channel for verbal information; and, a visual channel which uses symbols to convey a message and express ideas. Important issues to consider are how much information someone can handle in single or dual channels, Moore, et. al, an important consideration for multimedia design.

Receiving of a MessageEdit

For communication to occur, there must be somewhere at the end of the channel to receive the message. And the receiver needs to be compatible with the channel and transmission for communication to occur. For example, a television signal won't work with a telephone receiver. In other words, the receiver is what takes in the message.

Decoding of a MessageEdit

While encoding is all about forming the message, decoding is about figuring out what it says. Of course, all messages are affected by a certain amount of noise. Noise is extraneous and distracting information that inferes with the process of communication. It is any kind of distraction to the receiver that interferes with the transmission of the message such as physical noise, emotions, and visual distractions. It is often thought of as a problem with transmission, e.g., electrical interference with a television signal; or, several people talking at once. However, there may be noise in the message itself.

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