Monday, 14 October 2013

Seminar: Communication Theory

The Shannon-Weaver Mathematical Model is one of the most successful models of communication theory. It breaks the communication process of sender -- receiver, into five smaller and more specific stages. These stages are: 

The information source // Encoding // Channel // Decoding // Destination

This is is also supported by Laxwell's Maxim: Who says what in what channel to whom with what effect

This communication theory can be applied to a design process:
-The information source is the idea/client
-The Designer then encodes the information through their own interpretation.
-The ideas are then factored and generated for the appropriate audience/ context.
-These ideas are received and sent to the final destination (solution).

Once discussing this as a group, we then went on to discuss the potential problems which could occur at each stage of communication, followed by ways to avoid/improve this:

Information Source: Unclear. Ambiguous. Wrong information through bad communication. Missing key information.
Encoding: Misinterpretation of information. Bad concept. Rushed - bad time planning. Consideration of the audience beforehand. Encoding needs to empathise with manner in which decoding occurs later in the design process. Wrong location choice for context. Wrong choice of format - creating limitations.
Decoding: Misunderstanding (e.g creating offence). Taking destination into consideration so its appropriate (e.g correct language).
Destination: Lack of feedback. Decoding taken the wrong direction from encoding ideas.

How to improve this: 
Thorough explanation at stage 1. Experimentation/feedback and refinement at stage 2. Stage 3 needs thorough planning and consideration of possible limitations of channel (e.g back up plans). Stage 4 - ensure language and communication is appropriate for the audience/destination. Finally, learn from mistakes with feedback at stage 5.

Communication Problems
Level A: Technical Problems
How accurately can the message be transmitted?
-Production. Accuracy. Format. Function. Time (rushed). Bad printing. Broken equipment. Lack of skills/knowledge. 

Level B: Semantic Problems
Language and meaning. How precisely is the message conveyed?
Language choice. Ambiguity. Design intentions. Tone of voice. Colour scheme.

Level C: Effectiveness Problems
How effectively does the received meaning affect behaviour?
Confusion. Offence. Misinterpretation. Is the audience appropriate? Location. Lack of feedback.


Redundancy is something that provides no resistance and therefore allows for smooth communication without faults. 
-Society depends on redundancy to function efficiently.
-Its really successful due to the low quantity of information.
-Quality of information is is generally specific, strategic, conventional, readable and predictable.
-Clearly presented information.
-High predictability/ low information.
-Unspoken rules of efficient trade. 
-Pre-agreed communication processes used in society. 
-Highly conventional.
-Designers tend to maximise redundant 

Entopy challenges rudundant processes.
-Maximum unpredictability.
-Unconventional circumstances.
-Raises questions and limitations.
-Not immediately understood.
-Designers tend to minimise entropic communication methods however these can sometimes be used intentionally to raise more questions, attention and awareness of a product.
-More risk.


For next week:
1. Apply Shannon & Weaver's model to an example of communication. How widely is this applicable? How useful do you find this sort of exercise. 

2. What are the main communicative functions of redundancy? What do we mean by saying the English Language is 50% redundant? 

3. Discuss the ways in which convention can be said to facilitate understanding . Think of visual communication that breaks or extends specific conventions. How does this affect the desire to communicate or the audience they reach?

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