Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Communication Theories

Theories of communications have their roots back 2,500 years ago to the classical Greece. The traditional theory was improved by the Romans and remained static until the 20th century. During World War I and World War II communication was developed for propaganda techniques to persuade troops. Later, sociologists entered the field of communications theory.

Communication can be described as information-related behavior which is a necessary life process. There are three common settings of communications: Interpersonal, machine-assisted, and mass communication. Popular theorists of communication are Harold Laswell, Shannon & Weaver, Wilbur Schramm, Katz & Lazarsfeld, Westley & MacLean, and Kincaid.

Model of Laswell

Laswell developed a model in 1948 which focused on verbal messaging. It deals with the question: “Who says what to whom in what channel with what effect?” Thus, it emphasizes speaker, message, and audience and provides a more generalized view of goal or effect of communication.

Model of Shannon and Weaver

The model of Shannon and Weaver was developed one year later in 1949. It measures accuracy of message transmission in a given system, based on a technology analogy. Information is not equated with meaning and therefore, there is an opportunity to reduce uncertainty. Furthermore, noise is overcome by using redundancy of information. However, the limitation is that the model deals only with mechanistic representation of information. It does not deal with meaning, content, or substance. The model of Shannon and Weaver can be regarded as the father of Information Theory and bought all disciplines together to focus on research. The most important contribution of Shannon and Weaver is the concept of information.

Three Models of Schramm

Schramm developed his first model in 1954. It is a simple model of communications where a source encoders a signal, sends it to a destination which has to decoder the signal. In his second model Schramm introduced the “field of experience” on both sides, source and destination, for the correct interpretation. The purpose was to overcome the problem of noise. Communication becomes circular and a relational model is created.
Schramm’s third model is a further development in terms of feedback that the destination sends to the source.

1st model:

2nd model:

3rd Model
Model of Katz and Lazarsfeld

Katz and Lazarsfeld, two political scientists, developed a 2-step flow of communication model in 1955. It includes mass media and links interpersonal dynamics to mass communications. Furthermore, it involves opinion leaders who influence the message on its way from the source to the public.

Westley-MacLean Model

The Westley-MacLean Model states that communication begins with a potential message. Then, an advocate is involved and selects an event to form a new message. The model accounts for both, interpersonal and mass media communication. It broadened and elaborated the feedback concept.

kincaids’s Convergence Model

This model developed in 1979 says that communication is a process in which participants create and share information to reach mutual understanding. Several cycles may increase mutual understanding but do not complete it. Furthermore, communication ceases when sufficient level of mutual understanding has been reached. The dominant components of the model are information and mutual understanding. Human communication takes place in a dynamic, cyclical process over time. Hereby, mutual understanding and agreement are the primary goals.

Personal experience

An example for the application of a communication model with a feedback component would be a class in college. The feedback component could be seen from two sides. The first possibility is to see the professor as a source that sends a message (knowledge) to the students. The students on the other hand give their feedback in tests or assignments to show the professor the understanding of the materials.

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