Ira’s Communication & Information Theories
Having studied many communication theories, I decided to come up with my own (or I would like to think it’s my own. It might be that I just think it’s my own.)
In reviewing the existing theories it is easy to see that they have many similar elements.
- They all have some mention of people, as in senders and receivers.
- They all have some mention of noise.
- They all seem to have some mention of encoding and decoding messages.
- They all seem to have some mention of the messages themselves and how they are transmitted.
- There is also some mention intent and some mention of feedback.
- They all seem to have some mention perception in terms of individual and shared reality.
Clearly there are some very good theories out there. Shannon/Weaver is an oldie but a goody. Berlo model has a lot of good things to offer.
But, I’ll choose to make up my own Theories. If I could be so bold.
I actually have two theories:
- A “Linear” Theory
A base theory that applies to only a small subset of Communication and information.
It is used to understand communication at its most basic and simple
- An “Iterative” Theory
The foundation all most human communication and has the most to offer in terms of improving our communication.
Adds “Noise,” “Feedback,” and “Fractals” to the model of Communication.
Fractals provide a model of iterative stability. And Feedback is the input into the Fractal Model.
Communication = ((T+S)-N)
T = Technical Aspects of Communication
S = Semantic Aspects of Communication
e = The “Effectiveness” of the Communication
N = Noise added to the Communication
f(e) = Feedback
This formula suggest that certain conditions exist where communication would remain effective, independent of the number of iterations.
I found this on the Internet.
The Text reads,
“The object of this paper is to present a case for a new perspective on music and musical analysis. The perspective I shall presents is one in which music is to be approached in terms of “phenomenal” or “heard” characteristics. Further, this approach to music involves a few of musical works as and artifact of what I shall call an “iterational” practice or system. There may, in the view I shall present here, be many such such systems, some of which are musical, and others of which, are non-musical and include what are commonly called “languages.” The artifacts of an iterational system, I shall argue, can be semantically involved to be at least four different degrees, where semantic involvement is a matter of degree to which object functions as a sign or symbol.
I agree with this. It supports my theory that Communication can be viewed as a “Fractal,” where given the right inputs, iterative stability can be achieved.
A perfect metaphor for this is a standard Gas Engine.
This engine achieves “ITERATIVE STABILITY.” This type of engine can run indefinitely, as long as it has gas and air. It will run no matter how many “iterations” are performed.
Communication is the same thing.
The difference between a gas engine and communication is the number and variation of inputs.
A gas engine only has two simple inputs, gas and air. And these inputs are can be very static.
Whereas communication as 5 complex dynamic inputs, technical, semantic, effective, feedback, and noise.
While it is possible to achieve iterative stability in communication, because of the complex and dynamic inputs it is very difficult and takes a great deal of effort to maintain that iterative stability.
Ira Gorelick’s Linear Communication Theory
Ira Gorelick’s Iterative Communication Theory
Ira Gorelick Linear Communication Theory
Communication is the process by which people exchange information to achieve some purpose.
The three key terms in this definition are:
- Exchange Information
Communication is the process by which PEOPLE exchange information to achieve some purpose.
This piece of my Communication theory is the easiest to describe and understand.
Some call this element the “Source” and the “Destination.”
It’s sometimes also called the “Sender” and the “Receiver.”
In a simplistic or mechanistic view the “Source” would be the beginning of communication.
I’ve been in the telecommunications industry for a while. In the telecommunications industry we have a thing called “Machine to Machine” (M2M) communication.
That is like your thermostat telling your heater to go on because it’s cold.
M2M communication has all the elements of human communication; however it tends to function in a one way “linear” fashion.
With M2M it’s easy to tell where a communication event starts and stops.
Communication is the process by which people EXCHANGE INFORMATION to achieve some purpose.
There are two terms here, Exchange and Information.
Exchange as the Process
It is interesting to note that for me the word exchange is better talked about as a “process.”
The reason is, for something to be exchanged there has to be a mutually agreed upon process.
Exchange is different than “taking” or “giving.”
Exchange implies a mutually desirable process.
And it is implied that if we are going to be exchanging information, it will have a better chance to effective if it is done with a mutually agreed process.
For example, everyone agrees to use TCP/IP and HTML, as the process to send information through the Internet and World Wide Web.
The more people agree on the “Process” of the exchange, the more likely a successful exchange will occur.
There are many definitions of “Process.”
The one I’ll use here is – Process is “a series of actions or operations directed toward a specific aim” Or said another way, process is a sequence of operations or events that produce some outcome.
In terms of “The Communication Process,” the two key points are:
- Communication is a sequence of events
In terms of communication being a sequence, it’s critical to note that rarely does important communication happen in isolation.
Communication happens as part of dance between the parties. One communicator does one thing then the other communicators do other things in response. Back and forth! Like dancers. And, just like dancers, there is a lot going on besides just the dancers. There’s the music, the dance floor, and the other dancers.
- Communication should produce some outcome.
In terms of communication producing some outcome, the more people agree on the intent of the communication the more likely there will be a successful outcome. Because this is so important, I’ll discuss “Intention” in greater detail below when I talk about “purpose.”
Seeing communication as a “process” is important because you coach, coordinate, counsel, evaluate, and supervise through communication.
Communication is the “chain of interactions” that integrates the members of an organization from top to bottom, bottom to top, and side to side. Understanding how you fit into these “chains or interactions” will help you improve your communication.
Exchange is classically called transmission. This is where all the real work is done. The exchange can take many different forms and can be classified in many different ways. It can be verbal or non-verbal. It can be audio or textual. It can be electronic or face-to-face. It can be mediated or non-mediated. It can be Synchronous or Asynchronous.
Information as the Content
Information is the fundamental element of currency in communication. I’ll talk a lot more about information in the next chapter and I’ll make an important distinction between actionable and non-actionable information.
It’s critical to note, as I’ll talk about later, the value of information is determined by the receiver of the information not the sender. Just because I think a piece of information is valuable does not mean you’ll agree. A key point I’ll make numerous times and in numerous ways is the information should not be measured by what it’s, it should be measured by what it does.
Communication is the process by which people exchange information to achieve some PURPOSE
Almost all communication has – at its roots – an attempt to achieve some purpose.
When you go to a restaurant and order you are communicating in an attempt to get something to eat. When your manager asks you to do something she’s expecting you to do it.
The purpose, intent, and/or goal is the most important element of communication.
My experience is that in many cases where there is a communication problem, the problem can be directly linked to a lack of shared intent of the parties.
Ira Gorelick’s Iterative Communication Theory
Notice that there is no start or stop in this model.
In many communication models, there is a beginning and an end. I don’t see it that way.
I see communication much more like a spiral, where the communication actors participate in a back and forth dance to achieve some intent.
Of course, there are communication events that have a clear start and stop.
There are thousands of examples, here are just two:
- Ordering at a fast food drive-thru. The communication event starts when someone drives up, and ends when they get their food, pay and drive off. They will most likely never communicate with that individual again.
- Asking someone for directions. Clearly, there is a beginning and end to the communication event.
In both cases, there is the initiator of the communication event. Someone wants something (food or directions). They then construct a message that they hope will get what they want. When they get what they want they end the conversation and leave the scene.
However, most communication events of any significance are ongoing and there’s no clear beginning or end.
One interaction builds on another. Going back to a restaurant example, I may go into the restaurant on a regular basis. The waiter may know me and may build upon those past experiences when communicating. (Please refer to our discussion on “Elaborated” and “Restricted” codes.)
The key point here is that no matter if the communication event is a one time thing or lasts over many years, the focus should be the Intent.
The Intent is usually started by someone but after the communication gets going the parties both try to achieve some intent. In the case of the fast food drive-thru the intent of the person ordering is to get food. The fast food worker’s intent is to get the food to them, collect their money, and do it in such a way that they will return again.