Communicating is an essential part of the human experience. Studying, analyzing, and categorizing the different types of human communication is necessary for developing models of communication. Scholars have used models of communication to uncover how people create meaning as well as how meaning affects relationships and culture. Even though one model does not exist for every type of communication, multiple models explain different types of communication, which further contributes meaning to the relationships and culture found within the human experience.
Models of Communication and Culture
The two types of communication models, linear and non-linear as well as a stage of development including action, interaction, transaction, and convergence (Narula, 2006) are basic models for understanding communication behavior. Scholars have used these models and stages to identify and decode the communication process, which creates a more complex understanding of cultural behavior. Communication scholars Beebe, Beebe, and Ivy (2009) assert, “Culture is a learned system of knowledge, behavior, attitudes, beliefs, values, rules, and norms that is shared by a group of people and shaped from one generation to the next” (p. 77). Viewing culture through the different models of communication provides an opportunity to analyze the types of meaning found in human behavior.
The linear model of communication is the idea that information moves from a sender to a receiver with no flow of information sent from receiver to sender (West & Turner, 2004). Linear model of communication contributes to the creation of meaning within culture by reinforcing learned behaviors but the linear model has significant limitations because this model limits a person’s ability to participate in the communication process. However, the linear model is useful for understanding how the public used information sent from single sources such radio and television stations. Interacting with a sender such as a television or radio station was not an instant process. Receivers such as television viewers could write letters to television stations using the postal service and radio listeners could call the radio station on a landline telephone. These methods were time consuming, required planning and consideration from the receivers, and no guarantee of feedback from the sender was available.
Evolution of Communication
Scholars recognized that communication was a mutually participatory activity so the non-linear model of communication evolved from the linear model of communication. An important component to consider when analyzing human behavior in the context of non-linear forms of communication is that unlike linear forms of communication, non-linear forms create complex meanings (Narula, 2006). Humans establish culture through the simultaneous sending and receiving of messages, creation of meaning, and development of a social reality, which is are the fundamental concept in the Coordinated Management of Meaning (West & Turner, 2004). Relationships are affected and altered continuously as culture evolves through social interactions.
The co-creation of a social reality contributes to more complex communication models. Defining relationships and culture through non-linear models is necessary for scholars to refine communication models. By refining models of communication, scholars can analyze patterns of behaviors through the various stage of communication. Action, interaction, transaction, and convergence are important communication devices because these models provide a range of definitions for the different types of communication. In the non-linear model, meaning is created through interpretation (Beebe, Beebe, & Ivy, 2009) of action, interaction, transaction, and convergence.
Stages of Communication Create Meaning
An examination of each stage; action, interaction, transaction, and convergence demonstrates the importance of developing a shared meaning in communicating. Narula (2006) describes action as sender-oriented, interaction as the relationship between sender and receiver, transaction as emerging communicative patterns, and convergence as the point at which sender and receiver mutually agree upon meaning. Beebe, Beebe, & Redmond (2011) state, “Meaning is created based on a concurrent sharing of ideas and feelings” (p. 12). This process is both reciprocal and integral in the creation of cultural meanings.
Models of communication affect relationships and culture in observational ways including the examples of ethnography of communication and symbolic significance. Communication scholars Martin and Nakayama (2010) describe ethnography of communication as the examination of, “verbal and nonverbal activities that have symbolic significance for members of cultural groups to understand the rules and patterns followed by the groups” (p. 87). Respectively, symbolic significance is the application of meaning to an activity in which a culture collectively participates (Martin and Nakayama, 2010). The recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance is symbolically significant and specific to American culture. This act of patriotism reinforces expected group behavior and ideas from the people reciting the symbolic oath.
Human communication is a multifaceted field that continues to expand through academic observation and analysis. Conducting research and evaluating information to explain the communication processes is essential for understanding the models of communication. Using linear and non-linear models as well as the stages of action, interaction, transaction, and convergence both the student and the scholar can develop a better understanding of how culture is created and how meaning is applied to human relationships. The ability to critically examine culture and relationships is essential for developing competency in communications.
Beebe, S. A., Beebe, S. J., & Ivy, D. K. (2009). Communication: Principles for a Lifetime. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon Pearson Education, Inc.
Beebe, S. A., Beebe, S. J., & Redmond, M. V. (2011). Interpersonal Communication: Relating to Others (6th ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
Martin, J. N., & Nakayama, T. K. (2010). Intercultural communication in contexts (5th ed.). Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill.
Narula, U. (2006). Communication models. New Delhi, India: Atlantic Publishers & Distributors. Retrieved from https://books.google.com/books?id=nDRn9PAlSBwC&printsec=frontcover&dq=communication+models+narula+2006&hl=en&sa=X&ei=ZfjYVIPqIMbngwSCnYKgAg&ved=0CB8Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=communication%20models%20narula%202006&f=false
West, R., & Turner, L. (2004). Introducing Communication Theory: Analysis and Application. Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill.