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Shannon weaver model of communication?
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The Shannon-Weaver Model (1949)The Shannon-Weaver model is typical of what are often referred to as transmission models of communication. For criticisms of such models, you should consult the section
on criticisms of transmission models. If you have looked through the examples of typical everyday forms of communication, you will have noticed that some of the examples refer to less immediate
methods of communication than face-to-face interaction, e.g. using the radio, newspapers or the telephone. In these cases, technology is introduced. When, for instance, the telephone is used, you
speak, the phone turns the sound waves into electrical impulses and those electrical impulses are turned back into sound waves by the phone at the other end of the line. Shannon and Weaver's
mathematical model of communication is widely accepted as one of the main seeds out of which communication studies have grown. Their work developed during the Second World War in the Bell Telephone
laboratories in the US; their main concern was to work out a way in which the channels of communication could be used most efficiently.Claude Shannon and Warren Weaver produced a general model of
communication:This is now known after them as the Shannon-Weaver Model. Although they were principally concerned with communication technology, their model has become one, which is frequently
introduced to students of human communication early in their study. However, despite the fact that it is frequently used early in the study of human communication, I think it's worth bearing in mind
that information theory, or statistical communication theory was initially developed to separate noise from information-carrying signals. That involved breaking down an information system into
sub-systems so as to evaluate the efficiency of various communication channels and codes. You might ask yourself how viable the transfer of Shannon's insights from information theory to human
communication is likely to be. The concepts of information theory and cybernetics are essentially mathematical and are intended to be applied to technical problems under clearly defined conditions.
After you've read this section, which, I think, is a reasonable attempt to loosely apply Shannon's ideas to human communication, ask yourself whether you feel enlightened.The Shannon-Weaver Model
(1947) proposes that all communication must include sixelements: • a source• an encoder• a message• a channel• a decoder• a receiverThese six elements are shown graphically in the model.
As Shannon was researching in the field of information theory, his model was initially very technology-oriented. The model was produced in 1949, a year after Lasswell's and you will immediately see
the similarity to the Lasswell Formula.The emphasis here is very much on the transmission and reception of information. 'Information' is understood rather differently from the way you and I would
normally use the term, as well. This model is often referred to as an 'information model' of communication. (But you don't need to worry about that if you're just starting.)Apart from its obvious
technological bias, a drawback from our point of view is the model's obvious linearity. It looks at communication as a one-way process. That is remedied by the addition of the feedback loop, which you
can see in the developed version of the model:A further drawback with this kind of model is that the message is seen as relatively unproblematic.Shannon-Weaver: The Source All human communication has
some source (information source in Shannon's terminology), some person or group of persons with a given purpose, a reason for engaging in communication. You'll also find the terms transmitter and
communicator used. We have discussed sender in detail in our previous lessons.Shannon-Weaver: The Encoder When you communicate, you have a particular purpose in mind:• You want to show that you're a
friendly person• You want to give them some information• You want to get them to do something• You want to persuade them of your point of viewand so on. You, as the source, have to express your
purpose in the form of a message. That message has to be formulated in some kind of code. How do the source's purposes get translated into a code? This requires an encoder. The communication encoder
is responsible for taking the ideas of the source and putting them in code, expressing the source's purpose in the form of a message.It's fairly easy to think in terms of source and encoder when you
are talking on the phone (transmitter in Shannon's terminology). You are the source of the message and the 'phone is the encoder which does the job of turning your sounds into electrical impulses. The
distinction is not quite so obvious when you think of yourself communicating face-to-face.In person-to-person communication, the encoding process is performed by the motor skills of the source - vocal
mechanisms (lip and tongue movements, the vocal cords, the lungs, face muscles etc.), muscles in the hand and so on. Some people's encoding systems are not as efficient as others'. So, for example, a
disabled person might not be able to control movement of their limbs and so find it difficult to encode the intended non-verbal messages or they may communicate unintended messages. A person who has
suffered throat cancer may have had their vocal cords removed. They can encode their messages verbally using an artificial aid, but much of the non-verbal messages most of us send via pitch,
intonation, volume and so on cannot be encoded.Shannon was not particularly concerned with the communication of meanings. The inclusion of the encoding and decoding processes is very helpful to us
since it draws our attention to the possibility of a mismatch between the operation of the encoding and decoding devices, which can cause semantic noise to be set up. With good reason, the source of
the message may wonder whether the picture in the receiver's head will bear any resemblance to what's in his/her own.Shannon-Weaver: The Message The message of course is what communication is all
about. Whatever is communicated is the message. Denis McQuail (1975) in his book Communication writes that the simplest way of regarding human communication is 'to consider it as the sending from one
person to another of meaningful messages'.The Shannon-Weaver Model, in common with many others separates the message from other components of the process of communication. In reality, though, you can
only reasonably examine the message within the context of all the other interlinked elements. Whenever we are in contact with other people we and they are involved in sending and receiving messages.
The crucial question for Communication Studies is: to what extent does the message received correspond to the message transmitted? That's where all the other factors in the communication process come
into play. The Shannon-Weaver model and others like it tends to portray the message as a relatively uncomplicated matter. Note that this is not a criticism of Shannon since meanings were simply not
his concern:Frequently the messages have meaning that is they refer to or are correlated according to some system with certain physical or conceptual entities. These considerations are irrelevant to
the engineering problem.This was particularly emphasized in Warren Weaver's introduction to Shannon's paper:The word information, in this theory, is used in a special sense that must not be confused
with its ordinary usage. In particular information must not be confused with meaning. In fact, two messages, one of which is heavily loaded with meaning and the other of which is pure nonsense, can be
exactly equivalent, from the present viewpoint, as regards information.It may however be a criticism of the application of Shannon's model to the more general area of human-to-human communication.
Meanings are assumed to be somehow contained within the signs used in the message and the receiver can, as it were, take them out again. Matters such as the social context in which the message is
transmitted, the assumptions made by source and receiver, their past experiences and so on are simply disregarded. In this respect, models, which incorporate such factors, are probably more revealing
of the complexity of the communication process.Shannon-Weaver: The ChannelYou tap on a membrane suspended above a steadily flowing jet of water. The air under the membrane causes slight deflections in
the jet of water. A laser is aimed at a receiver. The jet of water flows through the laser beam, deflecting it from its target. Every time the movement of the air deflects the water jet, the laser
beam hits its target. The laser receiver is connected to a computer, which takes each 'hit' and turns it into a 1 and each miss and turns it into a 0. The computer sends this etc. etc....You get the
idea: the air waves, the jet of water and so on are all channels. The words channel and medium are often used interchangeably, if slightly inaccurately. The choice (a pretty stupid one above) of the
appropriate channel is a vitally important choice in communication. It's obvious that you don't use the visual channel to communicate with the blind or the auditory channel with the deaf, but there
are more subtle considerations to be taken into account as well. A colleague of mine was clearly much more responsive to visual communication than I. To elucidate his arguments he would inevitably
grab a pencil and a piece of paper and sketch out complex diagrams of his arguments. Though they may have helped him to clarify his ideas, they merely served to confuse me, who would have preferred a
verbal exposition. It's curious that in the college where I work many students who are dyslexic or have other learning difficulties end up studying information technology in so-called flexible
learning centres. Bearing in mind the statement above that "the choice of the appropriate channel is a vitally important choice in communication", it's less than obvious how a student who has
difficulty reading and writing can have their needs met by a learning model which boils down in essence to 'read this; it will tell you what to write'.Shannon-Weaver: Physical noiseShannon is
generally considered to have been primarily concerned with physical (or 'mechanical' or 'engineering') noise in the channel, i.e. unexplained variation in a communication channel or random error in
the transmission of information. Everyday examples of physical noise are:• A loud motorbike roaring down the road while you're trying to hold a conversation• Your little brother standing in front
of the TV set• Mist on the inside of the car windscreen• Smudges on a printed page• 'Snow' on a TV setIt might seem odd to use the word noise in this way, unless perhaps you're a hi-fi buff, in
which case you'll be familiar with looking up the claimed 'signal-to-noise ratio' for the various bits of equipment you buy. In this technical sense, 'noise' is not necessarily audible. Thus a TV
technician might speak of a 'noisy picture'. Generally speaking, in this kind of everyday communication, we're fairly good at avoiding physical noise: we shout when the motorbike goes past; you clout
your little brother; cars have demisters.However, it is possible for a message to be distorted by channel overload. Channel overload is not due to any noise source, but rather to the channel capacity
being exceeded. You may come across that at a party where you are holding a conversation amidst lots of others going on around you or, perhaps, in a Communication lesson where everyone has split into
small groups for discussion or simulations.Shannon and Weaver were primarily involved with the investigation of technological communication. Their model is perhaps more accurately referred to as a
model of information theory (rather than communication theory). Consequently, their main concern was with the kind of physical (or mechanical) noise discussed above.Shannon-Weaver: The Decoder Just as
a source needs an encoder to translate her purposes into a message, so the receiver needs a decoder to retranslate. The decoder (receiver in Shannon's paper) is an interesting and very useful
development over, say, the Lasswell Formula.If you take a look at our discussion of the receiver, you'll see that we considered how, for example, a blind person would not have the equipment to receive
whatever non-verbal messages you send in the visual channel.The notion of a decoder reminds us that it is quite possible for a person to have all the equipment required to receive the messages you
send (all five senses, any necessary technology and so on) and yet be unable to decode your messages. An obvious example would be:ولكن لا شيء مثير للاهتمامYou can see it.
You probably guess that it's a language, maybe even that it's Arabic. You probably don't understand it, though. In fact, it is Arabic and it does mean (but nothing very interesting). You cannot decode
my message, encoded to you in that short sentence, by you. You have the appropriate receiving equipment, but no decoder. You don't understand the code. Can you think of where you might come across a
similar inability to decode where the English language is concerned? Suppose you've been reading around Communication Studies and have come across a reference to the philosopher Immanuel Kant. So you
ask your teacher about him. She replies, "Well, the Critique of Pure Reason is essentially all about answering the question: how are synthetic judgments a priori possible?" Eh? You probably have a
meaning for every one of those words, except perhaps 'a priori'. You might perhaps guess that she is using the title of one of Kant's works in her answer. But the statement is incomprehensible unless
you know thetechnical jargon of philosophy. You can't decode the message - and your teacher is a pretty lousy teacher for having failed to predict your inability to decode it (or for having accurately
predicted your inability and using it as an excuse to show off!).Shannon-Weaver: The ReceiverFor communication to occur, there must be somebody at the other end of the channel. This person or persons
can be called the receiver. To put it in Shannon's terms, information transmitters and receivers must be similar systems. If they are not, communication cannot occur. (Actually Shannon used the term
destination, reserving the term receiver for what we have called decoder. However, I think the terminology I have been using is more common in the broader understanding of 'communication theory' as
distinct from Shannon's information theory.)What that probably meant as far as he was concerned was that you need a telephone at one end and a telephone at the other, not a telephone connected to a
radio. In rather more obviously human terms, the receiver needs to have the equipment to receive the message. A totally blind person has the mental equipment to decode your gestures, but no system for
receiving messages in the visual channel. So, your non-verbal messages are not received and you're wasting your energy. See also the Lasswell Formula for a more detailed discussion of
'receiver'.Shannon-Weaver: FeedbackFeedback is a vital part of communication. When we are talking to someone over the phone, if they don't give us the occasional 'mmmm', 'aaah', 'yes, I see' and so
on, it can be very disconcerting. . This lack of feedback explains why most of us don't like to answer phones. In face-to-face communication, we get feedback in the visual channel as well - head nods,
smiles, frowns, changes in posture and orientation, gaze and so on. Advertisers need feedback, which they get in the form of market research from institutions like ORG MARG, IMRB and other individual
research agencies.. How else would they know if their ads are on the right track? Broadcasters need feedback, which they get from TRP ratings. Politicians need feedback, which they get from public
opinion polls and so on.Why do people often have difficulty when using computers, when they find it perfectly easy to drive a car? You'd think it should be easier to operate a computer - after all
there are only a few keys and a mouse, as against levers, pedals and a steering wheel. A computer's not likely to kill you, either. It could be due to the lack of feedback - in a car, you've the sound
of the engine, the speed of the landscape rushing past, the force of gravity. Feedback is coming at you through sight, hearing and touch -overdo it and it might come through smell as well! With a
computer, there's very little of that.However, it has to be said that the model's separation of the communication process into discrete units has proved fruitful and has formed the basis of several
other models, which provide some more insightful elaboration of the human communication process. However, in disregarding meaning it may well be downright misleading. Those researchers who take this
model and simply slap meaning on top of it are probably even more misleading. c. Weaknesses i. Not analogous to much of human communication. 1.) "Only a fraction of the
information conveyed in interpersonal encounters can be taken as remotely corresponding to the teletype action of statistically rare or redundant signals." 2.) "Though Shannon's technical
concept of information is fascinating in many respects, it ranks among the least important ways of conceiving of what we recognize as "information." " ii. Only formal-does not account for content
1.) Mortensen: "Shannon and Weaver were concerned only with technical problems associated with the selection and arrangement of discrete units of information-in short, with purely formal
matters, not content. Hence, their model does not apply to semantic or pragmatic dimensions of language. " 2.) Theodore Roszak provides a thoughtful critique of Shannon's model in The Cult of
Information. Roszak notes the unique way in which Shannon defined information: Once, when he was explaining his work to a group of prominent scientists who challenged his eccentric definition, he
replied, "I think perhaps the word 'information' is causing more trouble . . . than it is worth, except that it is difficult to find another word that is anywhere near right. It should be kept solidly
in mind that [information] is only a measure of the difficulty in transmitting the sequences produced by some information source" [emphasis added] 3.) As Roszak points out, Shannon's model has
no mechanism for distinguishing important ideas from pure non-sense: In much the same way, in its new technical sense, information has come to denote whatever can be coded for transmission through a
channel that connects a source with a receiver, regardless of semantic content. For Shannon's purposes, all the following are "information":E = mc2Jesus saves.Thou shalt not kill.I think, therefore I
am.Phillies 8, Dodgers 5'Twas brillig and the slithy roves did gyre and gimble in the wabe.And indeed, these are no more or less meaningful than any string of haphazard bits (x!9#44jGH?566MRK) I might
be willing to pay to have telexed across the continent.As the mathematician Warren Weaver once put it, explaining "the strange way in which, in this theory, the word 'information' is used .... It is
surprising but true that, from the present viewpoint, two messages, one heavily loaded with meaning and the other pure nonsense, can be equivalent as regards information" [emphasis added].iii. Static
and Linear 1.) Mortensen: "Finally, the most serious shortcoming of the Shannon-Weaver communication system is that it is relatively static and linear. It conceives of a linear and literal
transmission of information from one location to another. The notion of linearity leads to misleading ideas when transferred to human conduct; some of the problems can best be underscored by studying
several alternative models of communication." 2. Berlo's S-M-C-R, 1960
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