Friday, 26 November 2010
Thoughts on Communication Theory
Frame from the film: High on Hope
The interesting thing about communication is that it is a process by which we assign and convey meaning in an attempt to create a shared understanding. It requires both intrapersonal and interpersonal skills and it is through communication that we can develop collaboration and cooperation. As an old fashioned Socialist I strongly believe in communication as being at the core of all political activity and a lack of communication is usually at the core of organisational dysfunctionality and poor politics.
As Graphic Students you specialise in Visual communication or communication using visual aids. We presume that a visual message with text has a greater power to inform, educate or persuade a person than the written language on its own. I.e. it is a synchronistic concept, whereby two forms of communication come together in order to achieve a more powerful effect. In The Mind in the Cave by Lewis Williams (essential reading) it is pointed out that sound, vision, dance and touch were all used to convey shamanistic messages to the tribe. Perhaps the rave is the clearest modern format for this. The film/music documentary ‘High On Hope’ which commemorates the 20th anniversary of acid house, telling the story of the infamous ‘Hardcore Uproar’ warehouse parties in Blackburn in the late nineteen eighties is a good illustration of this. Over 10,000 people dancing in cavernous warehouses across the north-west every week was the nearest to a Shamanistic experience I think we could get.
You could say that one implication of communication theory is that evaluation of a good visual design/communication can be done by measuring the comprehension by its audience, not by aesthetic or artistic preference. In this case the problem in terms of communication theory is that if the people evaluating the design are themselves design professionals they are too 'attuned' to design to be aware of how a non designer would receive the communication.
However it is the old history of rhetoric that really interests me. It is strange and wonderful and as it covers memory training, body language, voice projection as well as the well known 'rhetoric tropes'. It is indeed a deep river to fish. (To use the rhetoric trope 'metaphor'.)
A key book is the 'Art of Memory' by Yates. For designers this book can be an entry into a way of thinking of design as a memory tool or navigation theory for web design.
An image from Digital “Computers” 1450-1750: Memory and Calculating on the Fingers and Hands