Communication theory

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Communication theory is a field of information theory and mathematics that studies the technical process of information[1] and the process of human communication.[2]



"The fundamental problem of communication is that of reproducing at one point either exactly or approximately a message selected at another point."[1] Claude Shannon (1916-2001)

The origins of communication theory is linked to the development of information theory in the early 1920s.[3] 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.

Alan Turing in 1940 used similar ideas as part of the statistical analysis of the breaking of the German second world war Enigma ciphers.

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".[1] 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[edit]

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.[4]

Scholars from disciplines different from mathematics and engineering began to take distance from the Shannon and Weaver models as a 'transmissible model':

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'

D. Chandler, [5]

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.[6]

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",[7] focused his studies on the experience of the sender and receiver (listener). Communication is possible only upon a common language between sender and receiver.[8] 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).[9]

In 1963, Richard Whately's (1787-1863) "Elements of Rhetoric" was republished[10] 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[11] (1920–1999) also explored Aristotle's rhetoric and communication model in "A Theory of Discourse" (1971).[12]

"Communication Theory as a Field"[edit]

"(...) Although there exist many theories of communication (...) there is no consensus on communication theory as a field."[13] (Robert T. Craig)

In 1999, Craig wrote a landmark article,[14] "Communication Theory as a Field",[13] which expanded the conversation regarding disciplinary identity in the field of communication.[15][14][16][17][18][19][20] 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.[21][22][23] This article has since become the foundational framework for four different textbooks to introduce the field of communication.[24][13][25][26][27] 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."[25] 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."[28][29] In this deliberative process, theorists would engage in dialog about the "practical implications of communication theories."[30] In the end, Craig proposes seven different traditions of communication theory and outlines how each one of them would engage the others in dialogue.[31]

Elements of communication[edit]

Basic elements of communication made the object of study of the communication theory:[32]

  • Source: Shannon calls this element the "information source", which "produces a message or sequence of messages to be communicated to the receiving terminal."[1]
  • 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."[1] In Aristotle, this element is the "speaker" (orator).[10]
  • Channel: For Shannon, the channel is "merely the medium used to transmit the signal from transmitter to receiver."[1]
  • Receiver: For Shannon, the receiver "performs the inverse operation of that done by the transmitter, reconstructing the message from the signal."[1]
  • Destination: For Shannon, the destination is "the person (or thing) for whom the message is intended".[1]
  • 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.
  • Feedback
  • Entropic elements, positive and negative

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Shannon, Claude Elwood (July and October, 1948). A Mathematical Theory of Communication (PDF). The Bell System Technical Journal. p. 55. Retrieved 11.04.2011.  Check date values in: |date=, |accessdate= (help)
  2. ^ Dainton, Marianne; Elain D. Zellei and others (2011). Applying Communication Theory for Professional Life (PDF). Sage Publications. p. 247. ISBN 1-4129-7691-X. Retrieved 11.04.2011.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  3. ^ Management Effectiveness and Communication, MBA 665, Online Resources, Communication Models. Bob Jones University. 2008. Retrieved 11.05.2011.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  4. ^ Frigg, Roman and Hartmann, Stephan (2009). Models in Science. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved 11.06.2011.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  5. ^ Chandler, Daniel (1994). The Transmission Model of Communication. University of Western Australia. Retrieved 11.06.2011.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  6. ^ Laswell, Harold Dwight (1948). The Structure and Function of Communication in Society. Lyman Bryson (New York: Institute for Religious and Social Studies, Jewish Theological Seminary of America. p. 37. 
  7. ^ Wilbur Lang Schramm (1907-1987), Forefather in the field of communication. University of Rhode Island. 2000. Retrieved 2011-11-15. 
  8. ^ Oukrop, Carol Christensen (1965). A History of the University of Iowa School of Journalism, from its founding in 1924 under C.H. Weller, through the Tenure of Wilbur Schramm as Director, June 1947. University of Iowa. 
  9. ^ Berlo, David Kenneth (1960). The process of communication. Holt, Rinehart, & Winston, New York. 
  10. ^ a b Richard Whately, Douglas Ehninger and David Potter (1963). Elements of Rhetoric: Comprising an Analysis of the Laws of Moral Evidence. Southern Illinois University Press. ISBN 978-0-8093-2974-8. Retrieved 11.07.2011.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  11. ^ Faulkner, Larry R. (1999). IN MEMORIAM JAMES L. KINNEAVY. The University of Texas at Austin. Retrieved 11.07.2011.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  12. ^ Kinneavy, James L. A Theory of Discourse. 
  13. ^ a b c Crag, Robert T. (1999). Communication Theory as a Field. International Communication Association. Retrieved 12.07.2011.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  14. ^ a b Littlejohn & Foss 2008, pp. 6.
  15. ^ Donsback, Wolfgang (September 2006). "The Identity of Communication Research" (PDF). Journal of Communication (Blackwell Publishing Ltd.; International Communication Association) 54 (4): 589–615. doi:10.1111/j.1460-2466.2006.00294.x. Retrieved January 28, 2011. 
  16. ^ Penman, Robyn (2000). Reconstructing Communicating: looking to a Future. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. Retrieved January 28, 2011. 
  17. ^ Anderson, James A.; Baym, Geoffrey (December 2004). "Philosophies and Philosophic Issues in Communication, 1995-2004". Journal of Communication (Blackwell Publishing Ltd.; International Communication Association) 55: 437–448. doi:10.1111/j.1460-2466.2004.tb02647.x. 
  18. ^ Lindlof, Thomas R.; Taylor, Bryan C. (2002). Qualitative Communication Research Methods (2 ed.). Sage Publications Ltd. Retrieved January 28, 2011. 
  19. ^ D'Angelo, Paul (December 2002). "News Framing as a Multiparadigmatic Research Program:A Response to Entman". Journal of Communication (Blackwell Publishing Ltd.; International Communication Association) 52 (4): 870–888. doi:10.1111/j.1460-2466.2002.tb02578.x. 
  20. ^ Jimenez, Leonarda; Guillem, Susana (August 2009). "Does Communication Studies Have an Identity? Setting the Bases for Contemporary Research". Catalan Journal of Communication And Cultural Studies (Intellect Ltd.) 1 (1): 15–27. doi:10.1386/cjcs.1.1.15_1. Retrieved January 28, 2011. 
  21. ^ Anderson, John Arthur (1996). Communication Theory: Epistemological Foundations. Guilford Press. ISBN 1-57230-083-3. Retrieved February 2, 2011. 
  22. ^ Anderson 1996, pp. 200-201.
  23. ^ Craig 1999, pp. 120.
  24. ^ Craig 2007, pp. 125.
  25. ^ a b Littlejohn, Stephen; Foss, Karen (2008). Theories of Human Communication (PDF) (9 ed.). Thomson and Wadsworth. Retrieved January 23, 2011. 
  26. ^ Griffin, Emory A. (2006). An First Look at Communication Theory (6 ed.). McGraw-Hill. Retrieved January 29, 2011. 
  27. ^ Miller, Katherine (2005). Communication Theories:Perspectives, Processes, and Contexts (2 ed.). McGraw-Hill. Retrieved January 29, 2011. 
  28. ^ Craig 2006, pp. 13.
  29. ^ Penman 2000, pp. 6.
  30. ^ Craig, Robert (May 2001). "Minding My Metamodel, Mending Myers". Communication Theory (Blackwell Publishing Ltd.; International Communication Association) 11 (2): 231–240. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2885.2001.tb00241.x. 
  31. ^ Craig 1999, pp. 132-146.
  32. ^ Communication process (PDF). Center for Literacy Studies of the University of Tennessee. Retrieved 2011-11-15. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Chandler, Daniel. Transmission Model of Communication (1994). Daniel Chandler, 1994. Web. 10 October 2009.
  • Goffman, Erving. The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. New York, NY: Anchor/Doubleday, 1959. 73.
  • Lanham, Richard A. Analyzing Prose' 2nd (2003): 7, 10.
  • Littlejohn, S. W.,Theories of human communication. 7th edition, Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2002.
  • Emory A Griffin, A first look at communication theory. 3rd edition, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1997. ISBN 0-07-022822-1
  • Miller, K., Communication Theories: Perspectives, processes, and contexts. 2nd edition. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2005.
  • Werner, E., "Cooperating Agents: A Unified Theory of Communication and Social Structure", Distributed Artificial Intelligence, Vol. 2, L. Gasser and M. Huhns, eds., Morgan Kaufmann and Pitman Press, 1989. Abstract
  • Werner, E., "Toward a Theory of Communication and Cooperation for Multiagent Planning", Theoretical Aspects of Reasoning About Knowledge: Proceedings of the Second Conference, Morgan Kaufmann Publishers, pp. 129–143, 1988. Abstract PDF
  • Robert, Craig T. "Communication." Encyclopedia of Rhetoric (2001): 125.
  • Rothwell, J. Dan. "In the Company of Others: an introduction to communication." 3rd Edition, New York, NY; Oxford University Press, 2010. 11-15.
  • 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 Theories: Perspectives, Processes, and Contexts by Katherine Miller
  • 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

External links[edit]