Interrelations between time, place and channel of communication

In reality, time and place influence all other parameters of a commu- nication situation. If these concepts are combined, an arrangement like Table 4.2 can be created and some different situations of communication defined. From the table with its comments it is possible to see how environmental factors and needs determine choice of and design features of the communication channel. Note that the use of solely natural channels severely restricts the general communication concept.

Synchronous close communication must be considered the most fundamental and also the least problematic. All available channels can be used simultaneously to a more or less extent although the acoustic and optic dominate (note the use of perfume in the chemical channel). An example of optic close communication is the use of sign language.

The dominating acoustic and optic channels are normally handled quite consciously while the others are used subconsciously. In human communication between individuals the process is fine-tuned by use of body language. Four components of interpersonal communication is discerned by Tajfel and Fraser (1978) according to the following:

  1. The verbal Expletives and phonemes, composing the speech.
  2. The Systematic use of different pitches, stresses and junctures like ‘help?’ and ‘help!’.
  3. These are additional vocalizations, shared and used communicatively by members of a cultural group. Examples are ‘ah’, ‘um’, etc. Pauses, tone of voice, extremes of intensity, pitch, drawl, laughing, crying also belongs to this category.
  4. Body and facial movement grouped as body language and including eyebrow position, eye contact, body shift to punctuate discussion, nods etc.

A closer investigation of non-vocal communcation gives the following means:

The process of human communication is often summed up in two transformations, consisting of the following four phases:

  1. The sender must make clear for himself, exactely what to communicate.
  2. He must chose symbols which externalize the internal content (sound, gestures, body motions, words, intonation etc.). The first transformation.
  3. The receiver must assimilate these symbols despite distrurbances. That is, hear the transmission, know the used language, interpret non-verbal information.
  4. He must thereafter integrate all received symbols and transform them into an internal content, the second transformation.

Different kinds of uncertainties inherent in the use of natural language must, however, be considered. According to Colin Cherry (1966) they are as follows:

  1. Uncertainties of acoustic pattern (accents, tones, loudness)
  2. Uncertainties of language and syntax (construction of sentences, use of synonyms)
  3. Uncertainties of environment (disturbances by noise, background interference, etc.)
  4. Uncertainties of recognition (past experience of the receiver, familiarity with the transmitter, etc.)

Synchronous remote communication are used by animals  primarily in acoustic channels. Finbacks send their messages in the deep-sea hydro- acoustic channel, on a frequency of about 20 Hz. Indications have been noted of a global communication network ranging up to 15000 km some generations ago (Payne 1971).

The communication network of the African elephant exemplifies infrasound land communication in the mechanical-acoustic channel. This channel is used by pawing the ground, causing propagating vibrations below 16 kHz. A 100 mile range in the African savanna has been estimated by some biologists (Moss 1988).

Human synchronous remote communication is dependent on artificial augmentation of the used natural channels, today mainly done in electronic ways. In the acoustic channel, all imaginable methods has been tried since the dawn of human civilization. Some mechanical solutions using air, solid material or water interactively are the following:

  • Signal drums, signal pipes, signal trumpets, gunshots
  • Alp horns, yodelling (Swiss alps), whistling (Canarian Islands)
  • Voice pipes, pneumatic sirens, church bells, gongs

Among the electronic augmentations of the channel the following are the most important:

  • The telegraph, the telephone
  • The radio telegraph, the radio telephone
  • The hydro-acoustic telephone (submarine)

Examples of devices for navigation and detection in this channel defined as passive are:

  • Radio direction finder
  • Sonar (passive)
  • Hydro-acoustic bell (underwater bell)

An example of an active device is the transmitting Sonar system. In the optic channel there are several well-known mechanical solutions. These solutions are normally used together with a further augmentation of the vision by use of field glasses. Examples are:

  • Mechanical semaphore
  • Flag semaphore
  • Signal lamps
  • Signal rockets
  • Heliographs
  • Signal mirrors
  • Signal fires

Electronic augmentation of the optic channel include:

  • The teletype, the telefax
  • The picturephone
  • The television

Single-directed use of the optic observing channel is exemplified by RADAR while passive use includes several sophisticated electronic devices. Examples are given according to the following:

  • GPS navigational system
  • Visual radio direction-finder
  • lighthouses

In asynchronous close communication no distance has to be bridged, at least on principle. The distance between two employees on each side of the same wall in a company office thus can be neglected. On the other hand, the message has to be stored in some kind of memory for later retrieval, unintended what channel is used. In the acoustic channel such a memory may consist of a human being memorizing the message and releasing it on demand. A tape recorder may also be used or a computerized voice mail-box function.

In the optic channel the memory function may be a left behind written message, some photographs or a video-tape recording. Even the chemical channel is conceivable to convey a memorized message, like a lingering scent or perfume.

Asynchronous remote communication implies the most demanding situation as both time and space has to be integrated. The message must had both to be stored in a memory and forwarded into a remote channel. In the optic channel the following represents classic ‘mechanic’ solutions:

  • mail
  • fiery cross
  • message sent in a bottle
  • carrier pigeon

These alternatives   illustrate   a   technique   involving   the   necessary transmission of both material (e.g. the writing paper) and information (e.g. the written content) and represent travelling memories. In the course of time, different kinds of travelling memories have been used. The fiery cross and the carrier pigeon are examples where the wood and the paper serve as memory media.

In modern electronic solutions the content of the message has to be conveyed over space by the transmitter and stored in a distant memory for later retrieval by the receiver. Alternatively it has to be stored in a local memory by the transmitter for later retrieval by the receiver. The electronic solutions eliminate the need for transmission of material, for instance a letter. Even the need for a material exposition of the message has been reduced when it is presented on an electronic screen. The telefax is such a solution which represents a stationary memory. It can both be polled for a message and store an incoming bulletin. In the acoustic channel a dispatch rider embodies a kind of travelling memory while a telephone answering machine exemplifies the stationary memory.

Finally, an illustration of the use of the mechanical/tactile channel in the asynchronous remote category can be given. It conveys messages composed by the Braille system and are read by the fingertips. Normally this channel is used in a single-directed and passive way.

In the examples given here, a man to man communication implies the use of natural channels with their augmentations while in a man to machine situation it may be discussed if the channel can be termed as natural. A machine to machine situation includes entirely artificial channels and excludes the involvement of acoustic, optic or other natural channels.

Source: Skyttner Lars (2006), General Systems Theory: Problems, Perspectives, Practice, Wspc, 2nd Edition.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *