online: 31 janruary 2005
modified: 5 february 2005

31 january 2005 what is communication?

later i hope to relate this to web design...

Again and again i feel that the prevailing idea of communication is mistaken!

... it's not a question of people sending messages which are interpreted by other people who receive them - it's a 'reversal' of that... (i'm using the word reversal in a special sense which i hope will become clear as i continue)...

...i think of communication as one person embodying thought in a medium which is accessible to another person who is reading or interpreting it from some other place or time... the first person is not sending anything - she or he is doing something which, because of the presence of the medium, is visible at a distance or at a later time...

...i feel i'm not making this clear to myself... shall i say that the second person (P2) is enabled by the presence of the medium (M) to perceive what the first person (P1) is doing or did.

In the case of television (for instance), the electrical equipment is indeed transmitting pictures and sounds to other places and times, but P2 is not 'receiving' it, passively, in the way that the tv antenna receives the carrier wave and the signal that it carries. P2 is actively using the technical equipment, or channel, as a spy hole or window, through which he or she can perceive what P1 is doing in the studio (or before a mobile camera and microphone in some other place)... the presence of P2 is being transmitted to P1 (that is why a broadcasting camera or microphone can cause people to be fearful, or unable to say anything, for they know that they are 'in public').

...a news reader, speaking directly into the camera, can give the (false) impression that he or she, P1, is sending the news to the viewer P2... but, in my idea of communication, P2 is not just listening to what P1 says but is also noticing the clothing, the mannerisms, the body language as we say, and the tone of voice, and perhaps is thinking such thoughts as 'is she aware of that wrinkle in her dress?' 'is this true or is it propaganda?' 'what a seductive voice'... thoughts that are outside the ken of the so-called news reader concentrating on playing the role of a 'broadcaster'...

...of course a professional news reader tries to appear as if he or she is looking into our eyes and is speaking actual thoughts (not what is written on a script or tv screen) but we see through this convention and yet pretend to ignore it, unfortunately... (when we nevertheless accept these official voices and messages as more true than our own impressions of what is happening)...

But now, as i struggle to remember this thought or theory (that first came to me in early life), i am almost forgetting why it still seems to me to be quite momentous!... for, if it were acted upon generally, i think that most of the professional 'communicators' could become redundant and most of us could emerge from the passivity of being only 'viewers', 'listeners', 'consumers', 'customers' (or similar roles) and become instead active people in a vastly extended public life (in which 'communication media' are not channels through which to project messages outwards, from the few to the many, but windows through which the many can watch, and see through, what the officially approved ones are up to... )

(I have much more to say about this reversed view of communication but that is all i can write for the moment... later i hope to relate this to web design )

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