Time continues and communication evolves, but human communication never ceases to exist. The Shannon-Weaver model shows how communication takes place but what is missing? The Erica Stevens Theory of Human Communication digs deeper into the Shannon-Weaver model, but also adds more components to it. As the world continues to change, so does human communication.
What is human communication? How do we define a topic that seems so broad? Communication is one of these everyday activities intertwined with all human life so completely that we sometimes over its pervasiveness, importance, and complexity. (Littlejohn, 2011, pg. 3) Human communication will not be defined in this, but it will be theorized.
Theory is systematic thinking. (Gillette, 2016) This simply means that we will look at a systematic approach to human communication. There are already models that define the system of communicating, but they do not include all of the necessary components. My theory takes the time to include the missing components, and fill in what models, like the Shannon-Weaver model, got wrong.
History of Communication
Merriam-Webster defines communication as: the act of process of using words, sounds, signs, or behaviors to express or exchange information or to express your ideas, thoughts, feelings, etc., to someone else. (Merriam-Webster, 2016) This definition fits in with the notion that, throughout history, communication has evolved. Different forms of communication have been seen over time. Cave men used sticks and mud, ancient Egyptians painted pictures, and Native Americans used smoke signals.
As time continued, the Ancient Greeks developed an alphabet leading to the language spoken today. Mediums in which communication was sent have also expanded to allow us to communicate with someone next door, or even half-way around the world. A great professor once said’ “history gives depth to meaning”. (Gillette 2016)
Components of the Erica Stevens Theory
The Erica Stevens Theory is based on the Shannon-Weaver model, which we will compare later. The Erica Stevens Theory asks three simple questions: where, who, and how. Along with these questions, there are some characteristics of the sender or receiver that should be addressed.
To start, let’s answer the first question: where? Human communication can take place over any distance, if you have the right medium. Distance is a component of noise in figure 1. How far the communication has to travel can affect the reception of the message. It is also necessary to state that the environment can affect the communication. For example, tying to send an email to someone in Africa may not be beneficial because of the lack of internet access.
Figure 1: erica-stevens-theory
Next, we will look at who. Humans have a natural desire to communicate. It is obvious to state the majority of human communicate with each other. They may not all uses their voices or their writing, but also by listening. To communicate not only refers to expressing our thoughts, but also to clearly express and receive other people’s thoughts as well. (Macias, 2016) Listening means also people paying attention to those in other functions battering down the time-honored, action-slowing functional boundaries at every opportunity. (Peters, 1987, pg. 367)
Now that we have covered the where and who, let’s take a look at how communication takes place. If you take a look at the Shannon-Weave model (figure 2), you will see there are clear steps as to how a message is communicated. (Shannon-Weaver) You start with the sent, who has the message. The message is encoded and goes through the channel. The channel is where noise takes place that can interfere with the message. Once the message gets through the channel, it is decoded and hits its destination: the receiver. The receiver will then send feedback, whether verbal or non-verbal.
Figure 2: Shannon-Weaver Model
The most important aspect of the Erica Stevens Theory are characteristics of the sender or receiver. Certain characteristics of either person could affect the message being sent. If the person is in a bad mood, they could make even the best news negative in some way. The same can be said for non-verbal cues. Someone’s body language or gestures can change how their message is sent or received.
How the Shannon-Weaver Model Compares
As you take a look at both figure 1 and 2, you can see how the Erica Stevens Theory starts with the Shannon-Weave model. As it is the most well-known model, you would be a fool not to include it in any theory. Both the Shannon-Weaver model and the Erica Stevens Theory have the component of how a message is communicated. It is what the Shannon-Weaver model is missing that makes it not complete for a theory of human communication.
The Erica Stevens Theory fills in the missing points. The characteristics of a person are not mentioned in the Shannon-Weaver model, but as mention earlier, can affect the message. It should also be noted that the model doesn’t discuss the most important factor of communication: a human’s natural desire to communication. Communication is always going to happen, in some form or another, because it is a human’s natural reaction to communication with each other.
“Conversations are a natural, unavoidable part of human life with important consequences. Indeed, our conversations shape our individual and collective identities. Critical theories show us how the use of language in conversations creates social division and holds out a vision for egalitarian forms of communication that empower all groups.” (Littlejohn, 2011, pg. 216)
Although there are many theories out there, there will never be one set definition for human communication. Varying types of communication studies are not solely influenced by definition. (Lytle, 2016) As communication evolves, theories will need to evolve as well. Just like the Shannon-Weaver model, years from now, there will need to be more components added to the Erica Stevens Theory. Time will continue and communication will evolve, but human communication will never cease to exist.
Gillette, Jay E. Class Quote. 2016
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Macías, Cuauhtémoc. Personal Interview. 1 Nov. 2016.
(n.d). Retrieved November 1, 2016, from http://www.merriamwebster.com/dictionary/communication
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