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WORDLESS COMMUNICATION FOR SAFETY

Contd from last edition 

By and large, it seems easier to decode an analogic meaning than a digital one. Let us illustrate with  drawing a nonverbal representation of a thing. The drawing of a tortoise tells what it is quicker than its name tortoise without the drawing. Why? While the drawing (analogic communication) resembles what it represents, there is nothing in the word tortoise which resembles the creature.

Hence the explanation that analogic codes (nonverbal) indicate meaning by being similar to what they refer to while in digital codes (verbal communication) what is referred to is known only through a generally agreed upon symbol. In time telling, with the use of  the analogue wristwatch, 9p.m , for instance, is known by the long hand of the clock pointing to the number 12 and the short hand to 9. In digital time telling, there is no such demonstration; the number 9 just appears on the wristwatch either in local time format or in Greenwich Mean Time format. Thus, it is easier to tell time with the former than  with the latter method.

 

TYPES OF COMMUNICATION

Communication can be classified according to the number of participants in the communication exchange. In this respect, the three basic types of communication are intrapersonal, interpersonal and mass communication. While intrapersonal and interpersonal forms of communication are personal, mass communication is impersonal.  Intrapersonal communication is the form of communication that takes place within the individual. This type of communication that involves the exchange of messages between the brain and sense organs of the body. Thinking or assigning meaning  to all the messages and events that surround our lives (Ehrlich, 2000) is an example of intrapersonal communication. Intrapersonal communication ranges from the simple act of smiling in response to the aroma of some favourite food coming from the kitchen to the complex reaction one might make to an unexpected proposal of marriage (Hanson, 2005, p.3).

Intrapersonal communication can be physiological. How?  Let me explain: The  food passage or canal called oesophagus or gullet  runs from the buccal cavity to the stomach.  In the buccal cavity, which is the region into which the mouth opens, the food ingested(eaten) is masticated (chewed) and mechanically broken down by the teeth. Besides other functions, the saliva softens the food substance, thus facilitating swallowing. Swallowing is an intricate process. When food goes down to the pharynx or throat, the opening (glottis) of the trachea (windpipe) is closed by a flap of tissue called epiglottis  so that food  particles do not  get into the trachea (Samuel,  Fasuyi & Njoku, 1989). Sometimes, when out of  hurried eating or any other reason, food particles get into the trachea, there is a forceful movement called anti-peristalsis(anti-peristaltic movement)which causes the one eating to feel like throwing up or coughing. This movement which is opposed to peristalsis (the involuntary movement of the stomach caused by  a contraction behind the food as the canal in front of the food relaxes) is communicative as it triggers off that inconvenient response by the person eating. This is a form of intrapersonal communication.

Interpersonal communication takes place when two or more individuals are involved, and it is a  communication that goes on mostly in a face-to-face situation. This type of communication makes   feedback  immediate . The most basic type of interpersonal communication is dyadic communication  that is, communication between two persons only. Communication can also be classified as mircro-group or macro-group communication. An example of a micro-group (or small group) communication is a board meeting while  an example of a macro-group (or large group) communication is an evangelical crusade or political rally.

The third basic type of communication which is mass communication is the transmission of messages to a sizeable (large), heterogeneous, amorphous audience simultaneously by means of channels (or machines) called the mass media. Mass communication, being impersonal, cannot take place in a face-to-face situation because the audience is scattered.

 

AN ANALYSIS OF DYAD AND GROUP COMMUNICATION

 

The Dyad

The dyad being the basic unit of interpersonal communication includes most of the everyday communication exchanges that we engage in from the time we get up in the morning until we go to bed in the night. Adler and Rodman (1997) support the argument that the dyad is the commonest communication setting. This is because, according to them, “Even communication within larger groups (think of classrooms, parties and families as examples) consists of multiple, often shifting dyadic encounters.” It is within dyads that the most informal and superficial communication and the most intimate relationships we ever experience, occur.

Small Group Communication

Otherwise called micro-group, small group communication is defined by Beebe and Masterson (1985:5) as “a face-to-face communication among a small group of people who share a common purpose or goal, feel a sense of belonging to the group and exert influence upon one another.”

Some authors argue that small groups range in size from 3  15 members. Others like Tubbs and Moss (1987) simply state that a small group involves three or more persons. Since a  small group involves three or more persons, the degree of intimacy, participation and satisfaction tends to be lower than in a two-person (i.e. dyadic) communication. Yet, one author believes that a small group operates best when it is limited to 5 & 7 persons. Besides the example already given of small group communication, small group communication occurs in families, social situations, organizations and therapeutic (curative) settings (like a hospital). In a small group communication, the flow of messages is not necessarily from one person to the rest of the group or from others  to one person. It typically involves a variety of interactions within and among members of the group.

Large (Macro) Group Communication

The macro-group or large group communication is what is usually called public communication. This includes the “one-to-many” communication (e.g. public speaking) and the occasional “many-to-one” communication settings (like a group of undergraduate agitators or demonstrators attacking a security man for blocking an entrance to the campus).

Generally, this is often referred to as public speaking. It occurs in public rather than private places  like in auditoriums, classrooms and ballrooms. Public communication occurs when a group becomes too large for all members to contribute to the communication. This type of communication is formal, as opposed to the informal, unstructured communication. Usually, the event is planned in advance. In it, as hinted earlier, one person or several persons deliver messages to the rest of the audience. This leads to a second characteristic of public communication which is, limited verbal feedback. Audience members are unable to talk back in a two-way conversation the way participants in a dyad or small group could. Although the larger a group the lower the  degree of interaction. Public speakers usually have a greater chance to man and structure their remarks than do communicators in smaller settings.  In  commencing a formal gathering,  say a seminar, there may be an introduction of a speaker or several speakers who will deliver remarks to the rest of the group.

Intercultural Communication

This is the most abstract form of communication and yet the most pervasive. It is the “communication between members of different cultures (whether defined in terms of racial, ethnic or socio-economic differences, or a combination of these differences) ” (Tubbs and Moss, 1978,p.17).

That is, it involves the interaction of different cultures. Culture is a way of life developed and shared by a group of people and passed down from one generation to another. According to Tyler (1891), quoted in Ndolo (2001), “culture is that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, law, morals, customs, and all other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society” (p. 109). It is viewed by Porter and Samovar (1988), also cited in Ndolo (2001), as “the deposit of knowledge, experiences, beliefs, values, attitudes, meanings, hierarchies, religion, timing, roles, spatial relations, concepts of the universe, and material objects and possessions acquired by a large group of people in the course of generations through individual and group striving” (p. 109).

 

Culture conditions such things as the food we eat, the kind of shelter we choose, the clothes we wear and the language we use. “Whenever the parties (to) a communication act bring with them different experiential backgrounds that reflect a longstanding deposit of group experience, knowledge, and values, we have intercultural communications” (Samovar and Porter, 1972,p.21).

This dimension of experience cuts across all communication contexts: it may occur in a two-person, small group or any other type of communication which we have discussed above. Hence, the observation that it is most pervasive. As for its description as being abstract, it is so (i.e. abstract) because the communicator could be exchanging cultural values (based on his background and experience) with another communicator without either of them knowing.

 

Cybernetics

Cybernetics is the study of the various forms of machine communication.

Machine communication includes a variety of communication sub-types. We have man-to-machine interface and machine-to-machine communication.

The processing of information by man using the calculator or actual computer, and the computer-to-computer (as in e-mail) or fax machine-to-fax machine interface, are examples of these machine-based forms of communication. Cybernetics focuses primarily on the use of computers in communication  either to help man process information or to compose new information and transmit to men or to other machines. ####

 

Barigbon  Nsereka

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