Human Communication – The What, How, and Why

As part of our coursework for ICS 602  (Human Communication: Process and Theory), we were tasked with developing a comprehensive written exam on our analysis of the practice of human communication as part of our synthesis of theory of human communication. Below is my discourse on the topic, including the original abstract and headings. 

A More Perfect Union: Praxis of Human Communication In an Evolving World

Samaria Chicas,  Ball State University

ICS 602 – Human Communication: Process and Theory, Dr. Jay E. Gillette


Human Communication, in practice, creates an evolution in practitioners through medium and context. To effectively communicate, the reflection and re-engagement in communication must be a continuous process.


Communication occurs in our world at even the atomic level. Beings, cells, energy, and other organisms transmit information intentionally or accidentally. But it seems humans, given the consciousness to think outside of the current circumstance, are alone in theorizing about how they communicate.

As a student of communication and information science, I will explain in this paper my analysis of human communication as an evolving practice, changed and manipulated by context and available mediums. This will be done through explanation of my theory of human communication, its practice, and how it comes together.

Theory, systematic thinking, and practice (doing) create a feedback loop that moves forward as it unites (praxis) and gets reanalyzed (theory) and re-applied (practice). This union of theory and practice, as an ongoing process is illustrated in figure 1 (Gillette, Oct 2016).

Figure 1 - Relationship Between Theory and Practice


To begin my analysis of the practice of human communication, I will define the term and then provide explanation of the components. The definition does not seek to confine discourse but simply provide a framework for development. As suggested, “definitions…are tools that should be used flexibly” (Littlejohn, 2011, 5). Human Communication is the sending and receiving of data through a medium within a context.

The sending and receiving are neither symbiotic nor dependent; while there are two or more parties involved, reception of a message is not required for communication to occur. As an example, our evolving and culturally differing body language provides a means for non-verbal communication that is sometimes not received. Since “non-verbal communication may not be voluntary or successful”, a practitioner may work to improve its reception (Anderson, 2016). In Western cultures, business women are coached in ways to display more dominating body language so as to improve this non-verbal conveyance of power.

Data refers to the message or messages being sent. This can be in the form of “sounds, media, or actions” (Bishop, 2016).

The medium is the channel that the data is sent and received through. This can be verbal, non-verbal, visual mediums; we have found an increase in the mediums available to us as technology advances.

The context is the situation in which this happens. To me, this is where the “human” comes in; our culture, language, and position provide a frame for the sender and receiver in the communication process, illustrated in figure 2.

Figure 2 - Communication Process


Human Communication in action formed the basis for our civilization today. Through our ability to agree on what things meant, we evolved a way to create and combine data into “information [to be] understood, selected, filtered and used to make a decision” (Gillette, 2000, 7).

In practice of human communication, context becomes key. The identity of the participants, environment, language (including grammar or slang), and values frame the data and medium. For example, hand gestures mean different things in different cultures; a ‘peace’ sign in the United States has a more vulgar interpretation in the United Kingdom.

Technology has found ways to create common understandings through use of visual communications. The modern emoji or emoticon keyboard provides a set of human-like facial expressions that have an increasingly common meaning for social media users.

The mediums through which we practice human communication also expand as technology innovates to improve human interaction. Previously restricted by distance, people are now able to have face-to-face meetings from long distances. This adds a non-verbal component to what was once only auditory.

The medium and context are at a constant battle for the sender and receiver; the many “tyrannies of architecture”, such as noise, physical arrangements, and socially applied positions of power (titles, for example) create distortions of data (Gillette, Aug 2016). The practicing human communicator is tasked with interpreting the received message despite these limitations, since “elements of human communication are learned [and] obtained through direct experiences” (Littlejohn, 2011, 4).

This interaction of elements come together to make a loop of learning. We ‘do’ communication, ‘learn’ and ‘assess’ the feedback, and ‘do’ once again.


As humans practice communication, we create an evolving practice that is altered continuously by our available mediums and changing contexts.

If “knowledge is ultimately what we understand” and what we understand changes as we communicate and learn, then that same knowledge re-expressed can have a completely different meaning depending on the context and medium (Gillette, 2000, 3).

The understanding of this cycle becomes increasingly important as we work to improve technology and the way we do business in a global context. We are bringing the world together despite cultural barriers but without ignoring them. As Tom Peters repeatedly describes in his book Thriving on Chaos, listening is what makes the difference between success and failure. This practice of taking in communication “systematically – and unsystematically…for facts – and for perceptions” allows us to put the knowledge gained into motion (Peters, 1988, 176).

The value of undistorted feedback, which we are able to perceive through the practice and reflection (theory post-practice) of communication, becomes a determinant for the longevity of any organization (Peters, 1988, 185).

To effectively communicate is to allow change to be changed continuously.


Anderson, Justin. “Definition of Human Communication.” ICS602 Human Communication: Process and Theory. Dr. Jay Gillette. 2016. Print.

Bishop, Victoria. “Definition of Human Communication.” ICS602 Human Communication: Process and Theory. Dr. Jay Gillette. 2016. Print.

Gillette, Jay. “ICS602 Human Communication: Process and Theory.” Letterman Building 269, Ball State University, Muncie. 24 Aug. 2016. Lecture.

Gillette, Jay. “ICS602 Human Communication: Process and Theory.” Letterman Building 269, Ball State University, Muncie. 12 Oct. 2016. Lecture.

Gillette, Jay Edwin. (2000). ““Information is Knowledge in Motion”: A Practical Framework for Understanding Knowledge Management.” Print.

Littlejohn, Stephen W., and Karen A. Foss. Theories of Human Communication. 10th ed. Long Grove, IL: Waveland, 2011. Print.

Peters, Thomas J. Thriving on Chaos: Handbook for a Management Revolution. New York: Harper & Row, 1988. Print.

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