Communication Theory and Semiotics

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Introduction. information theory - Shannon and Weaverapplication to visual communication; process theorynoise: redundancy, entropylimitations of process theoryconclusion - process theory and semiotics .. Warren Weaver. American scientist and mathematiciandirector of the Division of Natural Scie

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Communication Theory and Semiotics

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1. Communication Theory and Semiotics Graphics 1

2. Introduction information theory - Shannon and Weaver application to visual communication; process theory noise: redundancy, entropy limitations of process theory conclusion - process theory and semiotics .

3. Warren Weaver American scientist and mathematician director of the Division of Natural Sciences at the Rockefeller Foundation, 1932 - 1955 influential in the application of science; genetics, agriculture, medicine and molecular engineering and many other fields early work on machine translation and mass communication - ‘tower block analogy’ co-author with Shannon of The Mathematical Theory of Communication, published 1949 .

4. Claude Elwood Shannon American mathematician and electronics engineer 1937, aged 21, his Master’s thesis established mathematical basis of digital circuit design and hence the modern computer had varied interests created a mechanical mouse that could learn a maze invented a motorised pogo stick beat blackjack and roulette at casinos using game theory and computation applied his theories to the stock market and was very successful! .

5. Shannon and Weaver, 1949 during WW2 Shannon joined Bell Telephone Labs worked on fire-control systems (anti-missile targeting) and cryptography met and worked with many great scientists; people involved with earliest satellites, signal theory, first digital computers, the inventors of the transistor became friends with Alan Turin, discussed cryptography with him treated the problems he encountered as the need to distinguish ‘signal’ from ‘noise’ by considering the role of ‘data’ in contrast to ‘signal processing’ he founded the field of ‘information theory’ hence laid the foundations of all modern communication .

6. Shannon and Weaver, 1949 ‘The Mathematical Theory of Communication’ based largely on the work Shannon had published previously Weaver added a philosophical context to the work, showing its wider applications, and used his influence to popularise it theory focuses on the best way for the sender to encode information before sending it realised that all communication, including human language, could be measured in the form of a rate of ‘bits per second’… …and that all ‘channels of communication’ had their own maximum capacity, also measured in bits per second considered the role of ‘noise’ in disrupting integrity of information limited channel capacity and noise lead to uncertainty… …developed the concept of ‘information entropy’ as a measure of uncertainty in a message .

7. Shannon and Weaver, 1949 what limits the capacity of the ‘channel’? where might noise be introduced between sender and receiver?

8. process theory Shannon and Weaver’s contribution has been applied to many areas communications systems computer science linguistics cognitive science sociology media studies critical theory marketing and advertising if graphic design is concerned with ‘effective visual communication’ then information theory may help us analyse and discuss our work; ‘process theory’…

10. process theory all communication can be considered as a process in which message follows path from sender to receiver

11. communication problem levels Shannon and Weaver discuss three ‘levels’ of communication problem: technical, semantic, effectiveness technical level how accurately can we communicate the message? which system to use to encode the message? can the receiver use that system? semantic level which ‘language’ to use? how accurately does our ‘language’ convey the meaning we intend? how much can be lost whilst still preserving the meaning? effectiveness level does the message have the effect we want to achieve? what can we do if it doesn’t? .

12. communication problem levels - graphics addressing the technical level; ‘scope’; which information, how much, and its extent medium; eg newspaper adverts, direct mail, tv and radio demographics, identifying the audience, cultural norms addressing the effectiveness level often considered as an ongoing aspect of the technical level: previous lessons learned demographic information market research, focus groups relationship between technical level and effectiveness level can be described as ‘feedback’ specification adjusted and fed back to designer Shannon and Weaver did not include this in their original work…

13. communication problem levels - graphics

14. noise: redundancy and entropy noise - anything ‘added’ between sender and receiver obvious source of noise is reproduction; eg newspaper print; technical noise at effectiveness level comes from things like audience distractions, product placement, dimensions of signage, etc redundancy - repeating all or part of the message newspaper headlines contain little redundancy; ‘Child Killer Held’ redundancy can clarify the message; providing pictogram and text entropy - measure of uncertainty contained in message an ambiguous message has a high entropy noise dilutes a message and hence increases entropy a ‘long’ message does not necessarily contain a lot of information redundancy makes the message longer, but usually reduces ambiguity, so can reduce entropy .

15. the semantic level Shannon and Weaver’s model was based in mathematics and communication engineering; grounded in a field where the semantic level is largely predetermined choice of language depends on application, eg; a human language, an electronics communication protocol accuracy of language informs choice - you wouldn’t chose a human language for a fire-control system or vice versa! ‘robustness’ of the language (and hence how much information can be lost without losing the message) are engineering constraints; so the process model tends to treat the message as something to be encoded, transmitted and received does not have much to say about the message itself…

16. limitations of process models models like Shannon and Weaver’s treat communication as a linear process; a message needs to be passed from A to B encode the message in a suitable format anticipate problems such as noise and compatibility build in robustness with redundancy analyse the result with measures such as entropy as a result the meaning of the message is determined before it leaves the sender process models consider minimum and maximum factors required to maintain integrity of the meaning such as; the minimum redundancy required the maximum information that can be carried by a channel etc .

17. process theory and semiotic theory as we’ve seen, semiotics considers the role of the ‘reader’ when interpreting the ‘text’, eg; red can be associated with evil or with good luck depending on culture red can mean danger and stop, or can mean romance and passion depending on context, within the same culture in semiotic approaches, the meaning of the message is fixed by the receiver, not by the sender! this takes into account noise introduced between sender and receiver also takes into account differences in culture also takes into account different associations in the same culture when combined, process theory and semiotics provide a complete framework for analysing effective visual communication…

18. Sources Noble, I. & Bestley, R., 2007. Visual Research: An Introduction to Research Methodologies in Graphic Design, AVA Publishing.   Crow, D., 2003. Visible Signs: An Introduction to Semiotics, AVA Publishing. Baldwin, J. & Roberts, L., 2006. Visual Communication: From Theory to Practice, AVA Publishing. Chandler, D., Semiotics for Beginners, - biography of Shannon with links to his papers

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