The Structure of Communication

The Structure of Communication

Temporal Structure

Synchronous (real time)

Synchronous Communication transpires in real time. In other words, it transpires when two parties are present in relation to each other in such a manner that that enables them to initiate a communicative act that is apprehended essentially instantaneously by the other party(ies) involved in the communicative act.

Examples of this is include face to face conversations, telephone conversations and instant messaging.

Asynchronous

Asynchronous Communication, in contrast to synchronous communication transpires when two parties are not present in relation to each other in such a manner that enables them to initiative a communicative act that is apprehended essentially instantaneously by the other party(ies) involved in the communicative act.

Examples of this include letters and email.

Distributive Structure

One-to-One

One-to–One communication when one individual initiates a communicative act intended for another individual.

Examples of this include letters, emails from one person to another person (not a group!), instant messenger, telephone calls between two parties (not conference calls!), video conferencing

One-to-Many

One-to-many communication when one individual initiates a communicative act intended for more than one other individual.

Examples of this include group email distribution, mail drops (letters sent to a whole postal code, form example), voice messages sent from a single source to a large number of mobile recipients.

Many-to-Many

Many-to-Many communication transpires when many people are in the presence of each other and therefore a communicative act can be initiated by a number of different individuals in such a manner that enables the communication to be received by a number of different individuals.

Examples of this include face to face group interaction (meetings), conference calls and video conferences.

Intentional Structure

Private

Private communication transpires when the intention of the communicator is such that what is communicated is intended for a precisely defined recipient or recipients.

Examples of private communications are letters, emails and telephone calls.

Public

Public communication transpires when the intention of the communicator is such that what is communicated is not intended only for a precisely defined recipient or recipients. In other words, it is the intention of the communicator that what is communicated might be received/apprehended by anyone.

Examples of public communication include advertising, magazine and newspaper publication and postings in public forums (internet discussion threads etc.).

It should be noted that what makes a communicative act public is the fact that a representation of what is communicated and archived.

Presence Structure

Unmediated

Unmediated communication transpires when the parties to the communication are present in space in relation to each other in a manner that enables them to apprehend each other through the use of all of their senses.

Examples of unmediated communication include face-to-face conversations, meetings (in a room, not online…)

It is important to note that associated with unmediated communication is the consciousness those that are party to the communication have of their spatial proximity to each other. This consciousness has evolved due to the obvious fact that, to date, it is not been possible to interact in an unmediated fashion in the absence of temporal proximity. However, there is no theoretical impediment to the possibility that unmediated communication might be non-spatially proximal. At this point this might be science fiction, but we might be able to imagine the possibility of technology advancing to the point where we can experience others through all of our senses in a precisely analogous manner to how we currently experience those that are in our immediate presence, yet where it is such that the other person is in a physically different location.

Mediated

Mediated communication transpires when the parties to the communication are not present in space in relation to each other in a manner that enables them to apprehend each other through the use of their senses.

Examples of mediated communication include letters, telephone calls and emails.

The nature of how communications are mediated needs to be analyzed in terms of the modes of sensory stimulation that are activated in the interaction. Hence, we can extend our taxonomy as follows;

Textual Mediation:  it is the written word that provides the essential mode of communication.

An example of this is the letter.

Auditory Mediation: it is the auditory sensory process that is essential to the mode of communication.

An example of this is the telephone.

Visual and Auditory Mediation: Both the visual and auditory sensory process are essential to this form of communication.

An example of this is a video conference.

Persistence Structure

Persistent: A persistent form of communication is one where the idea that constitutes the communication persists in time. In other words there is a record of the communication that can be viewed at a later time.

Impersistent: In contrast an impersistent form of communication is one where the idea that constitutes the communication does not persist in time. There is no record of the communication other than what resides in the mind of those that are party to the communication.

Implicit Potential

Reflects the extent to which a particular form of communication makes possible implicit communication.

Communications Taxonomy

Empirical Types Temporal Structure Distributive Structure Intentional Structure Presence Structure Persistence Implicit Potential
Face-to-face Conversations Synchronous One-to-One Private Unmediated Impersistent Very Strong
One-to-One telephone ccnversations Synchronous One-to-One Private Auditory Mediation Impersistent Moderate
Conference Calls Synchronous Many-to-Many Private Auditory Mediation Impersistent Moderate
Instant Messaging Synchronous One-to-One Private Textual Mediation Impersistent Weak/Moderate
Chat Rooms Synchronous Many-to-Many Public Textual Mediation Impersistent Wea/Moderate
Discussion Boards Asynchronous Many-to-Many Public Textual Mediation Persistent Weak
Letters Asynchronous One-to-One Private Textual Mediation Persistent Weak

‘Mail Drops’

Asynchronous One-to-Many Public Textual Mediation Persistent Weak
One-to-One Email Asynchronous One-to-One Private Textual Mediation Persistent Weak/Low
One-to-One video conferencing/web camera Synchronous One-to-One Private Visual and Auditory Mediation Impersistent Strong
Many-to-Many video conferencing Synchronous Many-to-Many Private Visual and Auditory Mediation Impersistent Strong
Group Emails Asynchronous One-to-Many Public Textual Mediation Persistent Weak

Next Generation Communication

We are most interested in forms of communication that satisfy the following conditions: are synchronous, many-to-many, public, visual and auditorily mediated, and persistent.

Transitions In The Possibility For Communication: summary[b1]

Transitions in the possibility of communication in respect to time, and its relationship to group formation can be briefly summarized as follows:

Basic Verbal Communication (limited communication form): Talking and shouting represent this form of communication. The ability to communicate is limited to the number of people who can hear you when you shout!

Basic Written Communication (limited communication form): Writing represents this communication form. The ability to communicate is limited in the sense that the pace of distribution of information is a function of how quickly one can distribute written material – books, flyers etc.

First Generation Electronic Communication (one to one communication): This form of communication is represented by the telegraph, telephone etc. These methods can be considered linear communication forms in that they represent communication from one party to another. With the exception of recent advancements that are not used widely (conference calls, for example), most electronic communication easily supports only one to one communication. Second Generation Electronic Communication (one to many communication): This form of communication is represented by email, the use of which is growing at an explosive pace. Email allows for the easy management of lists and groups, as well as control over how one communicates. It allows for easy communication to groups, and represents a recent evolution in group communication process

Third Generation Electronic Communication (real time many to many communication): This form of communication is represented by Instant Messaging: As a result of bandwith increases, and the proliferation of the internet as a medium for communication, we are seeing an explosion the use of Instant Messaging, which allows for real time communication between many participants simultaneously.

The Next Generation in Communication: (organized and mediated [SF2] real time many to many communication): The next generation of communication and interaction will include the ability to effectively organize, collaborate and work in real time dynamic groups on the Internet. Key components of this will be:

  • Organizational systems that facilitate the coordination of virtual teams and virtual projects; integrated collaborative tool systems.
  • Your ability to have your relationship with the internet mediated by Intelligent Agents that provide the capability to customize the nature of your interaction with the exponentially increasing volumes of data that are out there.
  • Your ability to interact in real time with members of your group if you wish.

Group Communication

Communication needs to be understood in four different ways:

Intentional: the act of communicating something where there is an intention to communicate. In other words a person means to communicate something to someone specific, or to some specific group.

Non-Intentional: the act of communicating something when there is no intention to communicate anything specific to anyone in particular. Note that you can communicate non-intentionally by creating the conditions that make communication possible.

Explicit: the act of communicating something that is crystallized in some way – written, verbal, a picture etc.

Implicit: the act of communicating something that is not crystallized – best understood, for example, as body language, tone, inflection etc.

The distinction between non-intentional and implicit communication is subtle and rests on the fact that implicit communication is part of an intentional communicative act. As per the example above, in the case of a someone that is having a conversation with someone else, we note that a component of what is intentionally communicated in this communicative act will be implicit – it will be the grounds for the sorts of inferences that are made by the other party in the conversation in relation to one of voice, inflection, gesture etc. We note, however, that this must be distinguished from non intentional communication since it is part of a communicative act that is fundamentally explicit.


[b1]Needs to be reworked

[SF2] Need to expand on nature an implications of mediation

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3 thoughts on “The Structure of Communication

  1. Meri Walker

    What a terrific gift this posting is to the worldwide community of us who are seeking to understand the changes we’re experiencing in interpersonal communication, “meetings,” publishing, and collaboration! Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts online!

    Reply
  2. sureshf Post author

    Hi Meri,

    Thanks for the kind words. I’m working on some projects related to these ideas and would certainly be interested in learning about anything that you are working on the relates to virtual collaboration!

    Suresh

    Reply

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