About this sample
About this sample
Words: 1823 |
10 min read
Published: Aug 31, 2023
Words: 1823|Pages: 4|10 min read
Since the creation of the first social media, Six Degrees, in 1997, the way human beings communicate has evolved significantly. Face-to-face conversations have been so hastily replaced with words on a screen and social media has allowed people to present themselves online in an almost entirely pretentious manner. The recent rise of social media has birthed a variety of ways of advertising, manipulating and communicating to an audience. This essay will use the communication theory to explore and investigate the question: How does social media communicate influence? The beginning of this essay will explore and research into the history of social media. It will then examine the original Shannon-Weaver model of communication and the significant pioneers who have expanded on it. The final part will use factors of the several communication theories to try and answer the question and lead to a conclusion.
The phenomenon of social medias’ popularity has included a dramatic increase over the recent years. Its conception began in 1996 with social media platform, Six Degrees, it was founded by American entrepreneur, Andrew Weinreich. The site featured profiles and included the aspect of friend lists, connecting those people in one place. At its peak, six degrees contained around 3.5 million registered users. Its failure to grow further led to its eventual termination in 2000. This was due to the deficit of people connected to the internet at the time, It was construed as being ahead of its time. In 2002, computer programmer, Johnathan Abrams launched Friendster, they created the site with the aim of helping people to make friends on the internet and to keep in contact with existing friends. At the time of its launch, the idea of social media was still novel, but quickly gained popularity, gaining 3 million users in the first three months, though it wasn’t until the launch of myspace in 2003 that social media gained national attraction. By 2006, Myspace was the number 1 website on the internet, displaying the power of social media in even the early years of the internet. By 2008, Facebook, which was launched 4 years earlier, had taken over as the top social media, a title which to this day has never faltered. The age of Facebook has conceived several other social networking sites such as Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and Snapchat, all of which offer various connective services. For example, the purpose of Instagram is solely to take photographs and post them to your followers’ feeds, in turn gaining you more followers, likes and comments about regarding said photographs. Whereas with Snapchat, the most recent of the bunch, offers a way of sending temporary photographs to friends which are deleted after a maximum of 10 seconds.
The modern communication theory has been researched and developed by many scholars and theorists throughout history beginning in 1948 with mathematician Claude Shannon and scientist Warren Weaver when they wrote an article in the Bell System Technical Journal, named ‘A Mathematical Theory of Communication’. This was later referred to as the Shannon-Weaver Model. This theory consisted of 5 components: Sender, Encoder, Decoder, Receiver and Noise (fig. 1). The diagram demonstrates how this works: The ‘sender’ sends a message using an ‘encoder’, for example the senders mobile phone, the message is then sent through a ‘channel’ to the ‘decoder’, for example the recipients mobile phone, where it is decoded and subsequently received by the ‘receiver’. At the point where the message is being sent through the channel, signalling issues may occur, preventing the recipient from receiving the correct or entire message, the signalling issues would be known as the ‘noise’ in this example. This theory was created to help find a solution to the noise aspect of digital communication by eradicating what causes the noise. Also in 1948, shortly after the publication of the Shannon-Weaver model, Harold D. Lasswell, political scientist and communication theorist elaborated on the theory, writing his own, consisting of five elements: sender, message, medium(channel), receiver and effect (fig. 2). His theory is not dissimilar to its predecessor, it features the same first four components, but the addition of ‘effect’ allows an assessment of the consequences of the message. Lasswells theory was intended to aid the study of mass communication specifically, but it is known for being applicable to almost all methods of communication.
Twelve years after the Shannon-Weaver Model was published, in 1960, communication theorist David Berlo expanded on their theory and created the SMCR (Sender, Message, Channel, and Reciever) Model of Communication. Berlo’s model also considers verbal and non-verbal communication, therefore expanding upon Shannon and Weavers digital-only direction and details how each of these for components are themselves affected by several factors, rather than just the Channel and Noise components of the previous model. He describes how the Sender could be influenced by communication skills, attitude, knowledge, social systems and culture, the message could be influenced by content, elements, treatment, structure and code, the channel could be influenced by the five senses (Sight, sound, smell, touch and taste) and the receiver could be influenced by a disrupted communication process, loss or synchronisation. Berlo essentially simplified the original communication theory to its simplest form and concluded that for a message to be accurately received, the sender and the receiver must share some commutuality. In the late 1940s, another model of communication was proposed by Wilbur Schramm, and is known as the most commonly known communication theory. The Schramm model (fig. 3) is a derivation of the Shannon-Weaver model. Where the latter theory is more of a mathematical one, Schramm includes the study of human behaviour. It details communication as a process takes place between a sender (transmitter) and a receiver: there will be also a message, and a medium through which the message can be transmitted (Schramm, 1948).
Schramm included the concept of feedback in his theory, which transformed the process into a continual loop which allows the process of communication to flow continually between two parties. He also added the field of experience to his theory, which consists of the beliefs, values and experiences of an individual. He suggests that these experiences could impact and add a different meaning to a message. In 1970, Dean Barnlund suggested another communication theory, known as the ‘Transactional Model of Communication (fig. 4). His proposal was that the sender and receiver are reciprocally associated. He focused on how the individual communicates being the determining factor of how the message will be received and interpreted. Gender, culture and traditions may influence how the intended meaning of the message is received. Canadian media scholar Harold Innis had the theory that people use different types of media to communicate and which one they choose to use will offer different possibilities for the shape and durability of society (Wark, McKenzie 1997). This explains that using different communication methods can create different outcomes of the same message, for example in this era, using news outlets to convey information, could potentially thwart the idea of the original message, but using a more direct method, like posting it on social media allows the user to be in control of how they’d like the message to be perceived by an audience.
The incidence of ‘followers’ on social media, is a strange, unique concept, even the word itself, ‘follower’ suggests that of a cult, following the actions of their leader. The desire for followers has allowed for a specific type of celebrity, now commonly known as an influencer, a title which has promoted brands and companies alike to form a new, distinct form of advertising and communicating to the general public. Once influencers generate a bond between them and their audience, companies capitalise on this and communicate their brand through said influencer. One example of this would be Kim Kardashian. She is one of the most famous names on the planet and is what many females would consider to be the embodiment of beauty and perfection. She currently holds 138 million followers in the palm of her hand. Her large quantity of followers is very attractive to companies looking to grow their audience. So much so that their willing to pay up to 1 million dollars for her to act like she uses their product so her cult-like following will follow in her footsteps. Using the Shannon-Weaver model of communication theory in this scenario, we can establish Kim Kardashian as the ‘Sender’, her digital device used to post the advertisement as the ‘Encoder’ and air waves as the ‘Channel. The audiences mobile phones would be considered the ‘Decoder(s)’ and noise could be interpreted as signalling/wifi issues or app/website glitches, anything that would digitally effect the outcome of the intended advertisement. This theory correlates to this situation to an extent but it is not a common occurrence for digital problems to affect messages in this era, as the theory described was made to combat these issues. Lasswells theory allows us to evaluate what the effect of the message has had on the audience, with his ‘effect’ component. David Berlo’s 1960 SMCR Model of Communicated takes into consideration that every stage of communication can be disrupted by ‘Noise’, not just the ‘Channel’ component. Using his idea, Kim Kardashian as the ‘Sender’ could be affected by her communication skills, her attitude towards the action, knowledge, social systems and culture.
As these factors of her life are very likely to be worlds apart from the audience that she is speaking to, the message is likely to have different meanings according to different people. Berlo’s theory was alike the Shannon weaver predecessor in that he also accounted for ‘Noise’ in the form of disrupted communication process, loss or synchronisation but he regarded these factors towards the receiver rather than the channel. The Schramm Models’ addition of feedback allows a communicational loop in the process. Using this theory, Kim Kardashian, again as the sender would be able to receive feedback from the audience thus improving or changing the way future communication is upheld. Lastly, Barnlunds theorem, much like Berlo’s, explains that factors such as gender, culture and traditions can influence how a message is received. For example, it’s unlikely that the male gender will receive a beauty advertisement from Kim Kardashians Instagram, the same way as a female would.
Shannon, C. E., & Weaver, W. (1949). The Mathematical Theory of Communication. University of Illinois Press.
Lasswell, H. D. (1948). The Structure and Function of Communication in Society. In L. Bryson (Ed.), The Communication of Ideas (pp. 37-51). Harper & Row.
Berlo, D. K. (1960). The Process of Communication: An Introduction to Theory and Practice. Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
Schramm, W. (1948). The Beginnings of Communication Study in America. Quarterly Journal of Speech, 34(3), 251-267.
Barnlund, D. C. (1970). A Transactional Model of Communication. In K. K. Sereno & C. D. Mortensen (Eds.), Foundations of Communication Theory (pp. 83-96). Harper & Row.
Wark, M., & McKenzie, M. (1997). Harold Innis in the New Century: Reflections and Refractions. McGill-Queen's Press.
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