Communication Components in the Ancient World

Explaining the Elements of Communication via Communication Models

The three most important components of communication are those which exist between the sender, the message which has been sent and/or received, and the receiver.

The message itself can be communicated in different ways, for example it may be expressed by the sender either in a verbal manner or by means of pictorial presentation. The message then needs to be transmitted into an encoded version, which could take the form of either verbal communication, such as language, or non-verbal, such as pictorial, written or symbolic communication, before being sent on to the receiver.

Sender and Receiver

Both the sender and the receiver need to understand what the message is meant to convey. The system which is used to convey the message is made up of symbols or codes, such as language, which is verbal in nature, or dance, art and music, which are all non-verbal. Because a receiver will always interpret a message according to his own frame of reference, the meaning of the message is not always understood exactly as the sender intended it to be.

Different Cultures, Different Understandings

Diverse cultural backgrounds, for example, will understand various concepts differently, as will people from assorted parts of the world. From this we must infer that mixed cultures in the Ancient Near East led a varied existence, and cultural values differed for each type or group of people and thus cannot randomly be understood by the Western world. To aid in their quest for understanding, scholars have devised various communication models in an attempt to interpret other cultures as accurately as possible.

Communication Models – Three Types

Three structural models can be used to explain communication in the Ancient world, all of which can be broken up and understood by means of the components discussed above, namely sender, message, and receiver. The types of communication models are:

Shannon and Weaver Model

The main focus of the Shannon and Weaver model was to discover the most efficient way of sending the most information along a given outlet, for example an information resource (sender/communicator) will encode a message, which will then be converted by a transmitter, interpreted and sent to a receiver.

The signal is received, converted back into a message, which is then heard by the recipient, i.e. its destination. This depiction of the communication model is in a linear form. The main problem with this model is that only one channel is provided for the transmission of a message, thus implying that the communication process is one way, from sender to receiver, or that the sender is the sole active contributor.

Osgood and Schramm Model

The difference between Shannon and Weaver and the Osgood and Schramm model is that unlike Shannon and Weaver, Osgood and Schramm’s model represents communication as a dynamic in which messages are interchanged by two active participants. Sender and receiver are both involved in encoding, transmitting, receiving, decoding and interpreting the messages. This model represents a circular depiction of communication.

Because the importance of feedback is emphasized, the process is no longer linear, as with Shannon and Weaver, but circular. Emphasis is no longer on the channel through which the messages are transmitted, but the people concerned and their interpretation of the significance regarding the message. The problem with this model is the implication that the sender and receiver take turns to communicate and understand the message.

Transactional Model

This is similar in principle to the Osgood and Schramm model, but is somewhat more complex. It overcomes the Osgood and Schramm limitation of the sender and receiver conveying and understanding the message in turns by portraying simultaneous participation of the parties involved in the negotiation of what the message is meant to convey. The differences between the sender and receiver, which cause the inconsistency of meaning to be essential, are thus emphasized.

All of the models mentioned above simply shed light on the topic of communication in the Ancient World, specifically that of the Ancient Near East, and at best depict only a small part of the history known to modern day scholars regarding this topic.

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