Every time you send a text, yawn during a conversation, order a coffee, or write a story, you’re communicating. Communication is the exchange of information, and you’re always doing it, whether you notice it or not. You might consciously communicate by speaking or writing a note to pass along a message. However, you are also always unconsciously communicating: your clothing, facial expressions, body language, and so much else about you is constantly sending messages out into the world. In fact, you cannot not communicate!
How it works
Communication starts off with the sender — the person who is about to communicate something. Then, there’s the process of encoding, which is when the sender takes what they want to say and turns it into a message that can be sent. For example, someone might have an idea they want to communicate, and writing it in a text message is their way of encoding it, and their chosen channel is the cell network. The receiver then has to decode it. In this case, it would mean reading and interpreting the text message. However, often noise is present. Noise is any barrier to effective communication, like not being able to understand what the sender exactly meant with all their emojis. This process occurs in conscious communication as well as unconscious communication — you just don’t notice it’s even happening.
Communication can be verbal, meaning that it is coded into symbols of some sort, like a language — even non-spoken languages like Morse code. Non-verbal communication isn’t coded in any way but still transmits a message, like crossing your arms to show that you’re mad.
Why it matters
Humans have a unique ability to communicate, and no other animal is able to communicate with language the way we can. Our ability to form an infinite number of meanings from a small code — 26 letters in English and French — allows us to form complex ideas, share meaning, and communicate problems efficiently.
In the twenty-first century, effective communication is just as important as ever. Every organization and every relationship is completely dependent on how well its members communicate. Good communication is the basis of making connections, sharing experiences, building understanding, and strengthening communities. Without it, people cannot make friends, teams cannot accomplish goals, and relationships cannot be built. Barriers to communication — including use of ambiguous language, use of unfamiliar slang, and lack of attention — cause problems in every workplace, school, and relationship. By practicing your communication skills, you can avoid these barriers and communicate effectively.
A Canadian connection
The radio revolutionized the world of communication forever. When Canadian inventor Donald Hings thought about the applications it could have, his most famous invention was born: the walkie-talkie. The walkie-talkie is a two-way radio that allows two users to communicate with each other using radio waves. This invention was instrumental in the success of the Canadian army in the Second World War, and is still used today in law enforcement, rescue operations, and for recreational purposes — our staff even use them in the museum!
How many different communication technologies can you find at the Canada Science and technology Museum? The Smartphone display in Artifact Alley might be a good place to start!
Try This Out! – Polybius Square
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