Visual communications : research point communication theory (Conundrum)

Reading the article by Whitney Davis called Communication Theory I was surprised and curious about the difference between information and communication and that something or some object could be information bearing and not necessarily transmitting (accurate) communication. The example given of the hat, if taken further, I can see that somebody wearing the green, gold, red and black colours on a Rastafarian hat ( called a tam or rastacap) would need to be seen by a person who knew what the colours represented before they could identify the wearer as possibly a Rastafarian.


Even then some social circles would have limited understanding of the Rastafarian tradition and might associate it solely with cannabis use . Then again, the wearer of the hat might not be a Rastafarian but a worker who wanted to keep long hair or dreadlocks out of the way and under a hat. It could also be worn by someone who simply enjoyed the colours and the hat could be perceived both by the wearer and by a viewer as a colourful piece of headgear in its own right . As the article says, the context and communication has to be established in each case.
This is a reminder of subjectivity on the part of the creator of art as well as the one who exhibits or shows it in some way, and then the subjectivity of those viewing . Each may have an unconscious as well as conscious agenda and carry different cultural , educational and social conditioning.


In Jakobson’s analysis the interdependence of the six functions : addresser, addressee, message , code, context and contact is a helpful way of looking at communication and particularly looking at codes . If a code is culturally and socially understood it is likely to communicate clearly , particularly if other factors are in place . Jakobson does indicate that the variables are huge, given the different emphasis in each situation.


Brice says that meaningful communication depends on the background of mutual common knowledge and on abiding by various maxims of clarity, propriety and relevance . This is clear when I consider that the thumbs up gesture in Britain is taken to mean a sign of approval but in places such as Latin America , West Africa and Iran, it is an offensive gesture meaning something quite different.

It seems that communication requires many factors to be in place before an accurate and smooth message can be conveyed . Thinking of the statement that the media is the message I wonder how accurate that is. The subtleties seem to rest on so many individual factors.
For me, this is part of the excitement of art. That a piece of art could represent many different things, and that each person relates to it slightly differently , or hugely differently, feels more interesting than a narrow channel of expected response. However, in terms of the need for more accurate communication using mass media, I can see that another more targeted approach would be needed.


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