Communication (from Latin: communicare, meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with")[1][2][3] is "an apparent answer to the painful divisions between self and other, private and public, and inner thought and outer world."[4] As this definition indicates, communication is difficult to define in a consistent manner,[5][6] because in common use it refers to a very wide range of different behaviours involved in the propagation of information.[7] John Peters argues the difficulty of defining communication emerges from the fact that communication is both a universal phenomenon (because everyone communicates) and a specific discipline of institutional academic study.[8] One definitional strategy involves limiting what can be included in the category of communication (for example, requiring a "conscious intent" to persuade[9]). By this logic, one possible definition of communication is the act of developing meaning among entities or groups through the use of sufficiently mutually understood signs, symbols, and semiotic conventions.

Back cover of the Voyager Golden Record with instructional engraving for intelligent extraterrestrial life

In Claude Shannon's and Warren Weaver's influential[10][11] model, human communication was imagined to function like a telephone or telegraph.[12] Accordingly, they conceptualized communication as involving discrete steps:

  1. The formation of communicative motivation or reason.
  2. Message composition (further internal or technical elaboration on what exactly to express).
  3. Message encoding (for example, into digital data, written text, speech, pictures, gestures and so on).
  4. Transmission of the encoded message as a sequence of signals using a specific channel or medium.
  5. Noise sources such as natural forces and in some cases human activity (both intentional and accidental) begin influencing the quality of signals propagating from the sender to one or more receivers.
  6. Reception of signals and reassembling of the encoded message from a sequence of received signals.
  7. Decoding of the reassembled encoded message.
  8. Interpretation and making sense of the presumed original message.

These elements are now understood to be substantially overlapping and recursive activities rather than steps in a sequence.[13] For example, communicative actions can start before a communicator formulates a conscious attempt to do so,[14] as in the case of phatics; likewise, communicators modify their intentions and formulations of a message in response to real-time feedback (e.g., a change in facial expression).[15] Practices of decoding and interpretation are culturally enacted, not just by individuals (genre conventions, for instance, trigger anticipatory expectations for how a message is to be received), and receivers of any message operationalize their own frames of reference in interpretation.[16]

The scientific study of communication can be divided into:

  • Information theory which studies the quantification, storage, and communication of information in general;
  • Communication studies which concerns human communication;
  • Biosemiotics which examines communication in and between living organisms in general.
  • Biocommunication which exemplifies sign-mediated interactions in and between organisms of all domains of life, including viruses.

Communication can be realized visually (through images and written language), through auditory, tactile/haptic (e.g. Braille or other physical means), olfactory, electromagnetic, or biochemical means (or any combination thereof). Human communication is unique for its extensive use of abstract language.

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This article uses material from the Wikipedia article Communication, and is written by contributors. Text is available under a CC BY-SA 4.0 International License; additional terms may apply. Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.