Communication Theory

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Communication only occurs when there is a successful transfer of information from a sender to a receiver, and that information is understood. If I speak Gailic to person who only speaks French, the message could be successfully sent and received. However, due to the lack of understanding, no means for the receiver to decode or interpret the intended message, the result is no communication . 

        Communication Systems  result in information and data transfer. A desired message from a source must go through some kind of process in order for that message to be materialize or received at the desired destination in a form to be utilized for a larger intent. Sometimes, the output doesn't exactly match the input due to miscommunications of some sort or communication breakdown. How many times have we used the words; "misunderstood", "misinterpreted", or "that's not what I meant"?  As a system, the process must be monitored and controlled in a manner so that the process can be adjusted to insure the desired output is achieved. This can be achieved if the results of the monitored process can cycle feedback back into the process so that process can make the necessary adjustments. For example check out this little video on how you can assist in receiving the proper intended message:
(Sometimes the miscommunication is the result of the receiving end, that is why feedback is so important) 

 All communication systems are meant to do at least one of the following:

  • Inform - as in news papers, radio and television.
  • Educate- through communication via teachers, documentaries, medical articles and so on people can gain education
  • Entertain- music, movies, sitcoms etc.
  • Persuade - advertising and lobbyist are examples of this means of communication purpose. 
  • Control - CNC/CAM, thermostats and timers are just a couple of examples of such controlling communication devices.

Communication systems fall under either living or nonliving (machine) communication. Living communication happens between animals, animal to animal. Machines can communicate with other machines, and obviously, as you are using a computer to do this  lesson, people (animals) can also communicate with machines. So there are really 3 sets of communication systems, animal to animal, animal and machine, or machine to machine.

 Living or animal communication may be verbal or nonverbal. 

  • Animal communication Humans are animals as well. We communicate with animals (including ourselves) through emotional sounds (whimpers and groans) along with gestures (which may be through facial or body language). We have also developed sophisticated language, whether verbal speech or non verbal written language, sign language, or symbols found on labels and signs . Unlike other animals, we utilize technologies to extend the capabilities of our bodies to communicate with one another over distances and to vast numbers in an instant that no other animal could comprehend. Through the use of news papers, magazines, radio, television and internet, mass communication is accomplished .

Intro to Animal communication.

animal sound communication


body language

If we were follow the evolution of communication technology throughout  history, 
we would see that communication has evolved at an exponential rate, just as other technology systems. 
Each era marked was marked by radical social change as a result of technological  intervention, whether it be production, transportation or communication etc;  Each category of technical systems radically shifted direction at approximately the same time in history largely due to the interdependence they have for one another. Don't forget that although production tech systems, communication systems and transportation systems are separate categories, they are connected. For example; today's communication technology (CNC, robots, lasers) play a large role in  production systems, as due transportation systems that move the product. Transportation systems rely on production systems to produce the vehicles and communication systems to schedule and monitor things as well.

The significant characteristics that identify the change for communication systems for each 
era are as follows:

  • Hunting/agricultural Eras saw very limited literacy amongst the population 
    which meant it was primarily an oral society that relied on song, nursery rime, and story
    telling for the majority population to pass on information. Otherwise, there was little means of documenting information for further the generations except through paintings and artifacts that remain as clues for researchers who are still trying to unfold the mysteries of the past. Long distant communication capability as well as mass communication was extremely slow and practically non existent. Basically mass communication was to as many that could hear you hauler, or as effective as the rumor mill. Long distant communication had to rely on such things as smoke signals, drums, letters carried by foot, horseback and sailing ships. It was mainly people with money that could afford to be educated and to have scribes and hand written books, as well as to hire artists and so-on, to record and document "his-story". Communication was primitive and slow to say the least.
  • Industrial Era was a time, through different mediums, that instant long distance and mass communication became possible. In the beginning, printing presses pumped out news papers and books, then point to point long distant communication through through a wire using Morris code, later Bell's telephone gave society an immediate communication ability that began eroding the segregated world.  Marconi's wireless radio, and later the television; not only bridged long distances, but greatly accelerated the potential to reach (communicate) to whole nations. Mass communication is the immediate communication to vast numbers of people. People of Industrialized countries could now afford education and to buy the new inventions such as telephones, radios, television and so-on, vehicles of communication.

     (The beginng of the next 2 videos aludes to these developments and explains how they work.)
    electronic communication

    long distance communication

  • << This video somewhat explains how, through natural selection, evolution has made us prone to magnetize towards, and potentially be preyed upon, by those who  who control the communication,... essentially "the message". 
  • Information Era born  by the development of the computer and digitalization is the instantaneous interactive reality that has turned this world into a global society.Communication through the simultaneous use of different media forms such as sound, graphics and text is called Multimedia, another product of the information era. A 2nd product of the information era  blossoming today is artificial intelligence. Computers and automated machinery and equipment do more than simply store data. As a result, they are growing closer towards being knowledge based systems. After all, they are made to react to certain types of information because it knows what to do, in a sense, due to pre-programming to information received from sensors, timing and so-on. 
  • The terms for these eras and so on are not just for this resource, they are used pretty much universally ( sometimes there are slightly different terms used by specific resources for the same thing). For example the following article discusses the the learning affect to the information era we are reeling from at present.

  •   The tools of communication: 
  Hunting>>Agricultural Eras  Industrial Era  Information Era
Communication Systems -began with the development of verbal language.  Hieroglyphics-300BC,Written language-3200BC,and everything leading up to the printing press of the mid 1400's(a precursor to industrial tech. Edison's phonagraph-1877,Marconi's trans Atlantic transmission fr. Nfld -1901,Bell's telephone, radio, television. All of which are electronic devices that are independent mediums and do not provide much interaction. Computers-1960's, Internet- 19 Computer and digital capability based technology that permits multi medium and interactivity. For example; to be able to watch TV, listen to the radio and write an e-mail all at once on the same machine.


This model illustrates the basic components that make up all communication systems.

  • The following is an example of living communication system between animals:
  • Animal & machine communication People can also communicate with machines not just though using machines. When you set a thermostat, you tell it what temperature to keep the room. the thermostat communicates to the furnace when to turn off and on to maintain that temperature. When you want your computer to perform a task, you have to make that communication with your computer through the use of your mouse, keyboard, etc.
  • Machine to machine People have developed machines ability to communicate as well.  Again, a thermostat monitors the temperature of the room by a spring that reacts to changes in temperature, and tells (informs) your furnace when it's time to turn on or off to control the environment inside your house . You are also causing different computer components to communicate as you navigate through this website.

The process component of any communication system model can be broken into 5 parts :

  • Encoder- any message (such as a thought, a sound or an image) that is converted for the purpose of transmitting. Encoding devices may be a microphone, cameras, computers, or
     even your brain as you encode your thought to be expressed through voice or on paper. 
  • transmitter- the device or means of sending the decoded message from sender to receiver
    such as electronic transmitters, sometimes with antennas for TV and radio, recoding heads,
     modems, people's use of writing utensils and keyboards, as well as recording devices, 
    cameras etc, for the purpose of conveying a message.
  • Channel- is the carrier or the pathway that transports the transmitted encoded message 
    (sometime referred to as the signal). Examples include air, wires, fiber-optic cables, film, 
    video and audio tape, as well as paper.
  • Receiver- accepts the transmitted encoded message over the particular channel. Receivers consist of  electronic receivers (with antennas for wireless), modems, VCR, DVD & MP  
    players, film negatives, your ear, your eyes and so on.
  • Decoder- translates the the coded message, that has been received from the incoming transmission, into an understandable format. Speakers decode electric signals into sound, monitors and projectors decode electric messages into light images, your brain decodes 
    electric signals into thoughts, imagery etc. 

Expanded process Communication System template


 Sample Expanded Process of a Radio Communication System

So, we can see that people and animals can communicate through sound/language and sign or body language, and people can communicate to machines just as machines can communicate to other machines.

1.)a) Using  a basic model and the situation where you are trying to communicate to a deaf person that there is something hanging from their nose. You obviously don't want to touch it. So in this person to person non verbal communication system, illustrate how you might get your output to match your input.

     b.) In an expanded model, identify the components of the process that would occur when your mother calls you in for dinner.

2.) What evolutionary characteristics of communication technology were so important that they became some of the identifying factors that clearly separated history into different eras? In other words, what communication capabilities changed the world so dramatically that things were never the same again?

3.) Give 4 different examples how communication systems play a big role in other technology systems.

4.) Complete the following crossword puzzle by inserting the terms used so far pertaining to communication systems.

Communication Puzzle


2. Immediate communication to vast numbers of people.
4. The device or means of sending the decoded message from sender to receiver. 
6. Electronic media was born during this era. 
8. News papers, radio and television are meant to do what? 
9. A received message only becomes communication if it is __________________. 
10. Loud speakers or your monitor are examples of which part of the process of communication systems.
What type of system results in information and data transfer. 


1. Carrier or the pathway that transports the transmitted encoded message. 
3. Thermostats and timers are examples of what purpose for communication. 
5. Simultaneous use of different media forms such as sound, graphics and text. 
7. Any collection of data. 
11. Music, movies, sitcoms etc are forms of communication designed to do what?



Many games test our communication skills. Games like charades, pictionary, gestures, crainium and so-on, require you to communicate a message/answer within different restrictions.

  • For this activity; 
    • we will divide into groups of 4-5.
    • each group will be given a chance to communicate through 4 different means
    • one player from each group will have to take a turn
    • each turn will last one minute
  • Point allotment: 
    • your team will receive 2pts every time another team guesses you answer.
    • your team will receive 1pt for every correct answer guessed.
    • the team will loose 3pts if the answer is not communicated successfully (no one gets it) within the time allotted. 
    • the team will loose 3pts if they do not play by the rules or use other means not outlined by the that particular turn's medium of communication.
  • Communication categories:
    • A) Gestures only- no verbal communication, no props, no written communication
    • B) Sketching only- no gestures, no verbal communication, no letters, symbols or numbers
    • C) Modeling clay- make the item out of clay and not to use any other means of    communication as mentioned above.
    • D) Hum that tune- simply hum the tune indicated without any gestures, props, etc.

Communication systems can do a lot more than simply store information. Information is any collection of data, static data in storage or to be distributed. Knowledge on the other hand, is the application of that information where it is to be processed or put to use. For example; let's say someone's four wheeler broke down. The manual that contains parts lists, instructive material and so-on,  is nothing more than a collection of data, information. The four-wheeler will never get fixed just because it came with a book. But the person with the help of the book may be able to fix it if they pool that information with their experience and understanding of mechanics and so-on.