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Communication theory is a field of information and mathematics that studies the technical process of information[1] and the human process of human communication.[2] According to communication theorist Robert T. Craig in his 1999's essay 'Communication Theory as a Field', "despite the ancient roots and growing profusion of theories about communication," there is not a field of study that can be identified as 'communication theory'.[3]


Main article: A Mathematical Theory of Communication


File:Claude Elwood Shannon (1916-2001).jpg

The fundamental problem of communication is that of reproducing at one point either exactly or approximately a message selected at another point.[1] Claude Elwood Shannon (1916-2001)

The origins of communication theory is linked to the development of information theory.[4] Limited information-theoretic ideas had been developed at Bell Labs, all implicitly assuming events of equal probability.

Harry Nyquist's 1924 paper, Certain Factors Affecting Telegraph Speed, contains a theoretical section quantifying "intelligence" and the "line speed" at which it can be transmitted by a communication system.

Ralph Hartley's 1928 paper, Transmission of Information, uses the word information as a measurable quantity, reflecting the receiver's ability to distinguish one sequence of symbols from any other. The natural unit of information was therefore the decimal digit, much later renamed the hartley in his honour as a unit or scale or measure of information.

Alan Turing in 1940 used similar ideas as part of the statistical analysis of the breaking of the German second world war Enigma ciphers.

The main landmark event that opened the way to the development of communication theory was the publication of an article by Claude E. Shannon in the Bell System Technical Journal in July and October 1948 under the title 'A Mathematical Theory of Communication.'[1]​ Shannon focused on the problem of how best to encode the information that a sender wants to transmit. He used also tools in probability theory, developed by Norbert Wiener. This book laid the groundwork for the first model of communications, the Shannon–Weaver model. Shannon later developed information entropy as a measure for the uncertainty in a message while essentially inventing the field of information theory.

In 1951, Shannon made his fundamental contribution to natural language processing and computational linguistics with his article 'Prediction and Entropy of Printed English' (1951), providing a clear quantifiable link between cultural practice and probabilistic cognition.

Models of Communication

Main article: Models of communication

The studies on information theory by Claude Elwood Shannon, Warren Weaver and others, prompted research on new models of communication from other scientific perspectives like psychology and sociology. In science, a model is a structure that represents a theory.[5]

Scholars from disciplines different to mathematics and engineer began to take distance from the Shannon and Weaver models as a 'transmissible model':

They developed a model of communication which was intended to assist in developing a mathematical theory of communication. Shannon and Weaver's work proved valuable for communication engineers in dealing with such issues as the capacity of various communication channels in 'bits per second'. It contributed to computer science. It led to very useful work on redundancy in language. And in making 'information' 'measurable' it gave birth to the mathematical study of 'information theory'

D. Chandler, [6]

Harold Lasswell (1902 - 1978), a political scientist and communication theorist, was a member of the Chicago school of sociology. In his work 'The Structure and Function of Communication in Society' (1948) he defined the communication process as Who (says) What (to) Whom (in) What Channel (with) What Effect.[7]

An article of Richard Whately (1787 - 1863), 'Rhetoric (1825), that appears as a contribution for Encyclopaedia Metropolitana, was adapted into a book in 1828 as 'Elements of Rhetoric'. In 1963 it was published by the Southern Illinois University under the title 'Elements of Rhetoric: Comprising an Analysis of the Laws of Moral Evidence',[8] with a critical introduction of Douglas Ehninger and a foreword by David Potter. They explored what they called the 'Aristotle's models of communication'. James L. Kinneavy (1920 - 1999) studied also the Aristotle's rhetoric and then his communication model.[9][10]

These first studies on communication's models promoted more researches on the topic. Wilbur Lang Schramm (1907 – 1987), called by communication theorist Everett Rogers as the founder of communication study,[11] focused his studies on the experience of the sender and receiver (listener). Communication is possible only upon a common language between sender and receiver.[12]

In 1960, David Kenneth Berlo, a Schramm's disciple, expanded on Shannon and Weaver’s linear model of communication and created the Sender-Message-Channel-Receiver Model of communication (SMCR Model) exposed in his work The Process of Communication, where communication appears as a regulated process that allows the subject to negotiate with his living environment. Communication becomes, then, a value of power and influence (psychology of communication.)[13]

Communication Theory as a Field

File:Bob craig.jpg

"(...) Although there exist many theories of communication (...) there is no consensus on communication theory as a field."[3] (R.T. Craig)

Main article: Communication Theory as a Field

In 1999 Craig wrote a landmark article[14] "Communication Theory as a Field"[3] which expanded the conversation regarding disciplinary identity in the field of communication.[15][14][16][17][18][19][20] At that time, communication theory textbooks had little to no agreement on how to present the field or what theories to include in their textbooks.[21][22][23] This article has since become the foundational framework for four different textbooks to introduce the field of communication.[24][3][25][26][27] In this article Craig "proposes a vision for communication theory that takes a huge step toward unifying this rather disparate field and addressing its complexities."[25] To move toward this unifying vision Craig focused on communication theory as a practical discipline and shows how "various traditions of communication theory can be engaged in dialogue on the practice of communication."[28][29] In this deliberative process theorists would engage in dialog about the "practical implications of communication theories."[30] In the end Craig proposes seven different traditions of Communication Theory and outlines how each one of them would engage the others in dialogue.[31]

Elements of communication

Basic elements of communication made the object of study of the communication theory:[32]

  • Source: Shannon calls it information source, which "produces a message or sequence of messages to be communicated to the receiving terminal."[1]
  • Sender: Shannon calls it transmitter, which "operates on the message in some way to produce a signal suitable for transmission over the channel.[1] In Aristotle it is the speaker (orator).[8]
  • Channel: For Shannon it is "merely the medium used to transmit the signal from transmitter to receiver.[1]
  • Receiver: For Shannon the receiver "performs the inverse operation of that done by the transmitter, reconstructing the message from the signal."[1]
  • Destination: For Shannon destination is "the person (or thing) for whom the message is intended".[1]
  • Message: from Latin mittere, "to send". A concept, information, communication or statement that is sent in a verbal, written or recorded form to the recipient.
  • Feedback

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 Shannon, Claude Elwood (July and October, 1948). A Mathematical Theory of Communication, 55, The Bell System Technical Journal. URL accessed 11.04.2011.
  2. Dainton, Marianne; Elain D. Zellei and others (2011). Applying Communication Theory for Professional Life, 247, Sage Publications. URL accessed 11.04.2011.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Crag, Robert T. (1999). Communication Theory as a Field, International Communication Association. URL accessed 12.07.2011.
  4. (2008) Management Effectiveness and Communication, MBA 665, Online Resources, Communication Models, Bob Jones University. URL accessed 11.05.2011.
  5. Frigg, Roman and Hartmann, Stephan (2009). Models in Science, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. URL accessed 11.06.2011.
  6. Chandler, Daniel (1994). The Transmission Model of Communication, University of Western Australia. URL accessed 11.06.2011.
  7. Laswell, Harold Dwight (1948). The Structure and Function of Communication in Society, Lyman Bryson (New York: Institute for Religious and Social Studies, Jewish Theological Seminary of America.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Richard Whately, Douglas Ehninger and David Potter (1963). Elements of Rhetoric: Comprising an Analysis of the Laws of Moral Evidence, Southern Illinois University Press. URL accessed 11.07.2011.
  9. Faulkner, Larry R. (1999). IN MEMORIAM JAMES L. KINNEAVY, The University of Texas at Austin. URL accessed 11.07.2011.
  10. Honeycutt, Lee (2000). Aristotle's Rhetoric, Bibliography, Rhetoric & Composition. URL accessed 11.07.2011.
  11. (2000) Wilbur Lang Schramm (1907-1987), Forefather in the field of communication, University of Rhode Island. URL accessed 11.15.2011.
  12. Oukrop, Carol Christensen (1965). A History of the University of Iowa School of Journalism, from Its Founding in 1924 under C.H. Weller, through the Tenure of Wilbur Schramm as Director, June 1947, University of Iowa. URL accessed 11.15.2011.
  13. Berlo, David Kenneth (1960). The process of communicatio, Holt, Rinehart, & Winston, New York. URL accessed 11.15.2011.
  14. 14.0 14.1 Littlejohn & Foss 2008, pp. 6.
  15. Donsback, Wolfgang (September 2006). The Identity of Communication Research. Journal of Communication 54 (4): 589–615.
  16. Penman, Robyn (2000). Reconstructing Communicating: looking to a Future, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. URL accessed Jan. 28, 2011.
  17. (December 2004). Philosophies and Philosophic Issues in Communication, 1995-2004. Journal of Communication 55: 437–448.
  18. (2002) Qualitative Communication Research Methods, 2, Sage Publications Ltd.. URL accessed Jan. 28, 2011.
  19. D'Angelo, Paul (December 2002). News Framing as a Multiparadigmatic Research Program:A Response to Entman. Journal of Communication 52 (4): 870–888.
  20. (August 2009). Does Communication Studies Have an Identity? Setting the Bases for Contemporary Research. Catalan Journal of Communication And Cultural Studies 1 (1): 15–27.
  21. (1996) Communication Theory: Epistemological Foundations, Guilford Press. URL accessed Feb. 2, 2011.
  22. Anderson 1996, pp. 200-201.
  23. Craig 1999, pp. 120.
  24. Craig 2007, pp. 125.
  25. 25.0 25.1 (2008) Theories of Human Communication, 9, Thomson and Wadsworth. URL accessed Jan. 23, 2011.
  26. Griffin, Emory A. (2006). An First Look at Communication Theory, 6, McGraw-Hill. URL accessed Jan. 29, 2011.
  27. Miller, Katherine (2005). Communication Theories:Perspectives, Processes, and Contexts, 2, McGraw-Hill. URL accessed Jan. 29, 2011.
  28. Craig 2006, pp. 13.
  29. Penman 2000, pp. 6.
  30. Craig, Robert (May 2001). Minding My Metamodel, Mending Myers. Communication Theory 11 (2): 231–240.
  31. Craig 1999, pp. 132-146.
  32. Communication process, Center for Literacy Studies of the University of Tennessee. URL accessed 11.15.2011.

Further reading

  • Chandler, Daniel. Transmission Model of Communication (1994). Daniel Chandler, 1994. Web. 10 Oct. 2009.
  • Goffman, Erving. The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. New York, NY: Anchor/Doubleday, 1959. 73.
  • Lanham, Richard A. Analyzing Prose' 2nd (2003): 7, 10.
  • Littlejohn, S. W.,Theories of human communication. 7th edition, Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2002.
  • Emory A Griffin, A first look at communication theory. 3rd edition, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1997. ISBN 0-07-022822-1
  • Miller, K., Communication Theories: Perspectives, processes, and contexts. 2nd edition. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2005.
  • Werner, E., "Cooperating Agents: A Unified Theory of Communication and Social Structure", Distributed Artificial Intelligence, Vol. 2, L. Gasser and M. Huhns, eds., Morgan Kaufmann and Pitman Press, 1989. Abstract
  • Werner, E., "Toward a Theory of Communication and Cooperation for Multiagent Planning", Theoretical Aspects of Reasoning About Knowledge: Proceedings of the Second Conference, Morgan Kaufmann Publishers, pp. 129–143, 1988. Abstract PDF
  • Robert , Craig T. "Communication." Encyclopedia of Rhetoric (2001): 125.
  • Rothwell, J. Dan. "In the Company of Others: an introduction to communication." 3rd Edition, New York, NY; Oxford University Press, 2010. 11-15.
  • A First Look At Communication Theory by Em Griffin (Published by McGraw-Hill)
  • Communication Theory: Epistemological Foundations by James A. Anderson
  • Communication Theories: Origins, Methods and Uses in the Mass Media (5th Edition) by Werner J. Severin and James W. Tankard
  • Theories of Human Communication (9th Edition) by Stephen W. Littlejohn and Karen A. Foss
  • Communication: Theories and Applications by Mark V. Redmond
  • Communication Theories: Perspectives, Processes, and Contexts by Katherine Miller
  • Communication Theory: Media, Technology and Society by David Holmes
  • Building Communication Theory by Dominic A. Infante, Andrew S. Rancer, and Deanna F. Womack
  • The Communication Theory Reader by Paul Cobley
  • Clarifying Communications Theories: A Hands-On Approach by Gerald Stone, Michael Singletary, and Virginia P. Richmond
  • An Introduction to Communication Theory by Don W. Stacks, Sidney R. Hill, and Mark, III Hickson
  • Introducing Communication Theory by Richard West and Lynn H. Turner

External links

See also

Communication Theory may have more about this subject.

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