The Shannon-Weaver Model

The Shannon-Weaver Model, also known as the Linear Communication Model and the Mathematical Theory of Communication, demonstrates the process of communicating. It also helps you realize why the most effortless acts of communication can result in complete misinterpretation or misunderstanding.

It was in 1947 that Claude E. Shannon created this theory with the intention for it to be used in facilitating information transmission over telephone lines. Not surprisingly, it took on an entirely new role of being one of the most largely used inter-personal communication models to this day.

The model contains 8 key components: Source, Encoder, Message, Channel, Noise, Decoder, Receiver and Feedback.

Source: The source of communication is an individual creator or group of individuals who have a message they wish to be received by another individual or group. The source, or origin of the message, must also have a definite purpose of initiating the communication model.

Encoder: The encoder, also referred to as the sender or transmitter, puts the message into specific signals that will later be interpreted. The encoder must choose distinct forms of signals to represent the meaning of the message clearly.

A gesture of a handshake can be encoded as an image, but it would not work as effectively if it were put into a text format.

Message: The message is the content that is being communicated from one end of the model to the other. Naturally you will send multiple messages that are precise, rather than a single message which has too many meanings.

Channel: The channel is the path on which the message travels. The encoder, while deciding how to best transmit the message, must also consider the best path on which the transmitted message will travel. This channel can be any medium such as magazine, radio, film, internet, etc,.

Noise: Inevitably the channel is already filled with noise; anything that interferes with the transmission of the message. This can be the radio playing too loudly in the background or the encoder’s own inability to enunciate correctly.

Decoder: The decoder simply does the opposite of what the encoder does. The decoder interprets the original message in a way that the receiver will understand. Additionally, the decoder will act as a filter in the sense that the message will have as much noise removed as possible.

Receiver: The receiver is the individual or audience whom the sender had the intention to deliver the message to.

Originally the linear model of communication had stopped there. It wasn’t until Warren
Weaver worked on the fundamentals of the model and added a necessary component. Weaver made the effect of the model orbicular in the sense that he had attached feedback to the model. *See image above.

Feedback: Feedback is the receivers response to the message. The feedback’s intent is to let the encoder know exactly how accurately the message was interpreted as well as simply reporting whether the message was received or not.

Feedback allows the once linear model to become cyclical so that each party – the individual or group at each end of the model – can continue communication.

As an example, we will stick to the model’s origin by using the telephone.

You, the source, wish to convey the message that you have completed the report early to your boss. The message is then encoded as a voice message into the phone, with the phone, or the phones cable being the channel on which the message is traveling. The noise present is simply your daughter screaming in the background as you were working from home this evening. The decoder will present the message as a voice message for the receiver, your boss, to listen to. Your boss will than reciprocate the process and present you with feedback, whether that is simply telling you that you did a good job or hinting at a promotion in the future.

Garth Beyer

Garth Beyer is a Madison-based writer and Public Relations Strategist focused on telling stories, running through trend-making PR strategies and trying new things in life.

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