1.0 INTRODUCTION

This unit exposes students to the variety of ways through which communication could be conceptualized and examined. The models mentioned in this unit are named after their originators. In this unit, students shall see how the models could be used to understand the concept of communication better. Specifically, the models are categorized under the following:

  1. Aristotle and Lasswell Models 
  2. Shannon and Weaver’s Model 
  3. Schramm 
  4. HUB Model 

2.0 OBJECTIVES

At the end of this unit, you should be able to:

  1. explain the various models used in understanding or interpreting the concept and process of communication 
  2. apply such models to particular situations and issues surrounding the field of communication. 

3.0 MAIN CONTENT

A model is a symbolic representation that shows how elements of a structure or system relate for analysis and discussion purposes. Communication models help to explain the process of communication.

3.1 Aristotle’s Model

Aristotle, writing 300 years before the birth of Christ, provided an explanation of oral communication that is still worthy of attention. He called the study of communication “rhetoric” and spoke of three elements within the process. He provided us with this insight: Rhetoric falls into three divisions, determined by the three classes of listeners to speeches. Of the three elements in speech-making — speaker, subject, and person addressed — it is the last one, the hearer, that determines the speech’s end and object. Here, Aristotle speaks of a communication process composed of a speaker, a message and a listener. Note, he points out that the person at the end of the communication process holds the key to whether or not communication takes place.

LASSWELL’S MODEL

Harold Lasswell (1948), in proposing a convenient way to describe communication, came out with the model which was expressed in terms of the basic elements of the communication process. According to Lasswell, communication occurs when:

  1. a source sends a message 
  2. through a medium
  3. to a receiver
  4. producing some effect

Lasswell proposed a verbal model to describe the process through which communication works. The model requires answer to the following questions:

  • Who 
  • Says what 
  • In which channel 
  • To whom 
  • With what effect? 

The point in Lasswell’s comment is that there must be an “effect” if communication takes place. If we have communicated, we’ve “motivated” or produced an effect. It is also interesting to note that Lasswell’s version of the communication process mentions four parts — who, what, channel, whom. Three of the four parallel parts mentioned by Aristotle — speaker (who), subject (what), person addressed (whom). Only channel has been added.

SELF ASSESSMENT EXERCISE 1

Identify and discuss the major difference between Aristotle and Lasswell’s Model?

3.2Shannon and Weaver’s Model

Claude Shannon developed this model while trying to know what happens to “information bits” as they travel from the source to the receiver in telephone communication. In the process, he isolated the key elements of the Communication process, but missed out feedback which was later added by his colleague, Warren Weaver.

Figure 1: SHANNON AND WEAVER’S MODEL

The elements include:

  1. The Communication: All communication are composed of chains or systems; and a system or chain is no stronger than its weakest link. 
  2. The information and communication source: The entity (individual, group or organisation) that originates the message. 
  3. The Message: The information itself, which may be verbal or non-verbal, visual, auditory, or tactile. 
  4. The Transmitter: The person, establishment (or equipment) that encodes and transmits the message on behalf of the source; the transmitter may be the source. 
  5. The Channel: The avenue through which the message is transmitted to the receiver. 
  6. The Destination: the central nervous system (e.g. the human brain) where the message is processed for final use.
  7. Noise: This is anything added to the information signal but not intended by the information source, and therefore causing distortion in the message. Shannon and Weaver attempted to do two things:
  8. reduce the communication process to a set of mathematical formulas and 

2) discuss problems that could be handled with the model. Shannon and Weaver were not particularly interested in the sociological or psychological aspects of communication. Instead, they wanted to devise a communication system with as close to 100 percent efficiency as possible.

The “noise” concept introduced by Shannon and Weaver can be used to illustrate “semantic noise” that interferes with communication. You will note that the Shannon and Weaver diagram has essentially the same parts as the one formulated by Aristotle. It’s true the parts have different names, and a fourth component — in this case the transmitter — is included.

SELF ASSESSMENT EXERCISE 2

How complementary is the efforts of Warren Weaver to the initial efforts of Claude Shannon in their bid to know what happens to “information bits” as they travel from the source to the receiver in telephone communication.

3.3 Schramm’s Model

This model made a clear case for delayed feedbacks in mass communication.

Fig. 2 SCHRAMM’S MODEL OF MASS COMMUNICATION

Wilbur Schramm, a well-known communications theorist, developed a straightforward communications model. In Schramm’s model he notes, as did Aristotle, that communication always requires three elements — the source, the message and the destination. Ideally, the source encodes a message and transmits it to its destination via some channel, where the message is received and decoded.

However, taking the sociological aspects involved in communication into consideration, Schramm points out that for understanding to take place between the source and the destination, they must have something in common. If the source’s and destination’s fields of experience overlap, communication can take place. If there is no overlap, or only a small area in common, communication is difficult, if not impossible.

Schramm also formulated a model that explains the process involved in mass communication.

Fig. 3 SCHRAMM’S MODEL OF MASS COMMUNICATION 2
The figure above depicts in graphical manner the particular aspects of the mass communication process. This model is different from other models of mass communication in that while the original model has ‘message’, the mass communication model offers ‘many identical messages.’ Besides, the model specifies ‘feedback’. The feedback is represented by a dotted line labeled delayed inferential feedback. (Baran 2002)

SELF ASSESSMENT EXERCISE 3

Schramm’s model of communication posits that communication is interactive and interpretive. Discuss

3.4 The Hub Model

Hiebert, Ungurait and Bohn designed the model. It shows mass communication process as circular, dynamic and ongoing. It pictures communication as a process similar to the series of actions that take place when one drops a pebble into a pool. The pebble causes a ripple which expands outward until it reaches the shore and then bounces backward to the centre. The content of communication {an idea or event} is like a pebble dropped into the pool of human affairs. So, many factors affect the message as it ripples out to its audience and bounces back.

The model pictures communication, codes, gatekeepers, media, regulators, filters and audiences as concentric circles through which the content {or message} must pass. Feedback is the echo that bounces back to communication while noise and amplification can both affect the message and the feedback as they travel these steps in the process

SELF ASSESSMENT EXERCISE 4

Give a detailed explanation of the concentric analogy used in the HBU model

4.0 CONCLUSION

Communication models are designed to better explain communication theories and concepts. Models are communication tools that illustrate communication behaviour. They range from the very simple to the very complex. The underlying ideas represented by theses models are not anything new or hard to understand. They are simply the common sense realities of communication revealed in a diagram (Black, Bryant & Thompson 1998:22)

5.0 SUMMARY

This unit has examined some models of communication and established the fact that these models are used to better understand the process of communication. Models examined include: Aristotle model, Lasswell model, Shannon and Weaver’s Model, Schramm model and the HUB model. The unit equally examined the weaknesses and strength of each of the models and attempted to use them to better explain the process of communication.

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MODELS OF COMMUNICATION

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