Communication theory is a field of information and mathematics that studies the technical process of information and the human process of human communication. According to communication theorist Robert T. Craig in his essay "Communication Theory as a Field" (1999), "despite the ancient roots and growing profusion of theories about communication", there is not a field of study that can be identified as "communication theory".
The origins of communication theory is linked to the development of information theory in the early 1920s. Limited information-theoretic ideas had been developed at Bell Labs, all implicitly assuming events of equal probability.
Harry Nyquist's 1924 paper, Certain Factors Affecting Telegraph Speed, contains a theoretical section quantifying "intelligence" and the "line speed" at which it can be transmitted by a communication system.
Ralph Hartley's 1928 paper, Transmission of Information, uses the word "information" as a measurable quantity, reflecting the receiver's ability to distinguish one sequence of symbols from any other. The natural unit of information was therefore the decimal digit, much later renamed the hartley in his honour as a unit or scale or measure of information.
The main landmark event that opened the way to the development of communication theory was the publication of an article by Claude Shannon in the Bell System Technical Journal in July and October 1948 under the title "A Mathematical Theory of Communication". Shannon focused on the problem of how best to encode the information that a sender wants to transmit. He used also tools in probability theory, developed by Norbert Wiener. They marked the nascent stages of applied communication theory at that time. Shannon developed information entropy as a measure for the uncertainty in a message while essentially inventing the field of information theory.
In 1949, in a declassified version of his wartime work on the mathematical theory of cryptography ("Communication Theory of Secrecy Systems"), he proved that all theoretically unbreakable ciphers must have the same requirements as the one-time pad. He is also credited with the introduction of sampling theory, which is concerned with representing a continuous-time signal from a (uniform) discrete set of samples. This theory was essential in enabling telecommunications to move from analog to digital transmissions systems in the 1960s and later.
In 1951, Shannon made his fundamental contribution to natural language processing and computational linguistics with his article "Prediction and Entropy of Printed English" (1951), providing a clear quantifiable link between cultural practice and probabilistic cognition.
Models of communication
The studies on information theory by Claude Elwood Shannon, Warren Weaver and others, prompted research on new models of communication from other scientific perspectives like psychology and sociology. In science, a model is a structure that represents a theory.
They developed a model of communication which was intended to assist in developing a mathematical theory of communication. Shannon and Weaver's work proved valuable for communication engineers in dealing with such issues as the capacity of various communication channels in 'bits per second'. It contributed to computer science. It led to very useful work on redundancy in language. And in making 'information' 'measurable' it gave birth to the mathematical study of 'information theory'
Harold Lasswell (1902–1978), a political scientist and communication theorist, was a member of the Chicago school of sociology. In his work "The Structure and Function of Communication in Society" (1948), he defined the communication process as "Who (says) What (to) Whom (in) What Channel (with) What Effect". The distinct model he propounded was known as Dance Model.
These first studies on communication's models promoted more researches on the topic. Wilbur Lang Schramm (1907–1987), whom communication theorist Everett Rogers called the "founder of communication study", focused his studies on the experience of the sender and receiver (listener). Communication is possible only upon a common language between sender and receiver. Everett Roger's accounts later led to the basis for development communication studies.
In 1960, David Kenneth Berlo, a disciple of Schramm, expanded on Shannon and Weaver's linear model of communication and created the Sender-Message-Channel-Receiver Model of communication (SMCR Model) exposed in his work The Process of Communication, where communication appears as a regulated process that allows the subject to negotiate with his living environment. Communication becomes, then, a value of power and influence (psychology of communication).
In 1963, Richard Whately's (1787-1863) "Elements of Rhetoric" was republished with a critical introduction by Douglas Ehninger and a foreword by David Potter. They explored what they called the "Aristotle's models of communication". James L. Kinneavy (1920–1999) also explored Aristotle's rhetoric and communication model in "A Theory of Discourse" (1971).
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"Communication Theory as a Field"
In 1999, Craig wrote a landmark article, "Communication Theory as a Field", which expanded the conversation regarding disciplinary identity in the field of communication. At that time, communication theory textbooks had little to no agreement on how to present the field or what theories to include in their textbooks. This article has since become the foundational framework for three different textbooks to introduce the field of communication. In this article, Craig "proposes a vision for communication theory that takes a huge step toward unifying this rather disparate field and addressing its complexities." To move toward this unifying vision, Craig focused on communication theory as a practical discipline and shows how "various traditions of communication theory can be engaged in dialogue on the practice of communication." In this deliberative process, theorists would engage in dialog about the "practical implications of communication theories." In the end, Craig proposes seven different traditions of communication theory and outlines how each one of them would engage the others in dialogue.
Elements of communication
Basic elements of communication made the object of study of the communication theory:
- Source: Shannon calls this element the "information source", which "produces a message or sequence of messages to be communicated to the receiving terminal."
- Sender: Shannon calls this element the "transmitter", which "operates on the message in some way to produce a signal suitable for transmission over the channel." In Aristotle, this element is the "speaker" (orator).
- Channel: For Shannon, the channel is "merely the medium used to transmit the signal from transmitter to receiver."
- Receiver: For Shannon, the receiver "performs the inverse operation of that done by the transmitter, reconstructing the message from the signal."
- Destination: For Shannon, the destination is "the person (or thing) for whom the message is intended".
- Message: from Latin mittere, "to send". The message is a concept, information, communication, or statement that is sent in a verbal, written, recorded, or visual form to the recipient.
- Entropic elements, positive and negative
- In semiotics, there are more elaborated models and theories of communication from a linguistic and philosophical point of view.
- Metacommunicative competence
- Rogerian argument
- Tetrad of media effects
- Text and conversation theory
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- Dainton, Marianne; Elain D. Zellei and others (2011). Applying Communication Theory for Professional Life. Sage Publications. p. 247. ISBN 1-4129-7691-X. Retrieved 11.04.2011. Check date values in:
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- Faulkner, Larry R. (1999). IN MEMORIAM JAMES L. KINNEAVY. The University of Texas at Austin. Retrieved 11.07.2011. Check date values in:
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- A First Look At Communication Theory by Em Griffin (Published by McGraw-Hill)
- Communication Theory: Epistemological Foundations by James A. Anderson
- Communication Theories: Origins, Methods and Uses in the Mass Media (5th Edition) by Werner J. Severin and James W. Tankard
- Theories of Human Communication (9th Edition) by Stephen W. Littlejohn and Karen A. Foss
- Communication: Theories and Applications by Mark V. Redmond
- Communication Theory: Media, Technology and Society by David Holmes
- Building Communication Theory by Dominic A. Infante, Andrew S. Rancer, and Deanna F. Womack
- The Communication Theory Reader by Paul Cobley
- Clarifying Communications Theories: A Hands-On Approach by Gerald Stone, Michael Singletary, and Virginia P. Richmond
- An Introduction to Communication Theory by Don W. Stacks, Sidney R. Hill, and Mark, III Hickson
- Introducing Communication Theory by Richard West and Lynn H. Turner
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