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This photo of the Al Jazeera English Newsdesk is in the Doha headquarters. Credit: Wittylama.

"Communication is the activity of conveying information. ... Communication requires a sender, a message, and an intended recipient, although the receiver need not be present or aware of the sender's intent to communicate at the time of communication; thus communication can occur across vast distances in time and space. Communication requires that the communicating parties share an area of communicative commonality. The communication process is complete once the receiver has understood the message of the sender. Feedback is critical to effective communication between parties."[1]

The goal of this page is to prompt students to think about how the media of communication limit the nature of what people can and cannot communicate to each other.

Theoretical communication[edit]

Def. a "concept or state of exchanging data or information between entities"[2] is called communication.

Communication media[edit]

Def. "[a] conceptual barrier to effective communication, that occurs when people who speak different languages attempt to communicate with each other"[3] is called a language barrier.

Def. an "electronic communication medium that allows the transmission of real-time visual images, and often sound"[4] is called television.

Def. a "technology that allows for the transmission of sound or other signals by modulation of electromagnetic waves"[5] is called radio.

Def. a "publication, usually published daily or weekly and usually printed on cheap, low-quality paper, containing news and other articles"[6] is called a newpaper.

Def. any "set of computer networks that communicate using the Internet Protocol"[7] is called an internet.

Communication in software[edit]

A second goal is to prompt students to think about the way that communication technology (and software in particular) is playing an increasingly important role in providing the mediums of communication and to ask students to ponder the impact of technological decisions on communication.

Explorations and Activities[edit]

This section may be well served by the Software Freedom/Controlling Communication Activity.

Alternatively, the following related activities or explorations might help the students explore and discover the key concepts in this section. Each is framed in terms of the key questions it raises.

Activity: Designing Communication[edit]

An activity or discussion around an actual communications technology that has been intentionally designed to prevent a certain type of use.

Some good examples include Digital Rights Management technologies that prevent copying or types of copying. Questions to raise in discussion might include:

  • Was the design of the system fair or unfair? Why?
  • Whose interests were being served by the design in question? Whose interests were not being served?
  • If students could redesign the system, how would they do so?

This might also involve an experiment that prompts the users to modify an existing communication program on their computer (e.g., through the creation of "filters"). This might be as simple as an email filter that hid, redirected, or changed incoming messages. It might also be a filter for the IM client that made a superficial or meaningful change. It could be something more complex as well.

Students would then be asked to share their projects with each other and reflect on issues that each one raised:

  • What is the purpose of the filter? What is the effect? Are these different?
  • Would these systems make it easier or more difficult for people to communicate with you?
  • How might these filters affect the way you understand messages?
  • In what ways might your understanding of a message be different than the intention? Is this a problem? Why or why not?
  • Would you use this filter? Why or why not?

Exploration: Communication Control and Censorship[edit]

An activity that prompts students to compare any previous background or reading they have done in the area of censorship with the idea of network filtering or more "innocent" changes to communication technology that alter the terms on which students communicate.

Key concepts[edit]

Student could walk away from this section with:

  • An understanding of the way that medium can effect messages being communicated.
  • Knowledge of the power of communication technology (and computer software in particular) to control and limit the spread and the message of information.
  • A feeling for the way the interests of individuals and organizations -- for better or for worse -- can be reflected in the technologies and have a meaningful effect on what is and is not communicated and how.
  • An understanding of the student's role in relation to this technology and a feeling that they are not completely passive observers
  • The various methods of communication that affect civic discourse and how media can be leveraged to influence political decisions.



  1. Successful communication prevents destructive conflict.

Control groups[edit]

This is an image of a Lewis rat. Credit: Charles River Laboratories.

The findings demonstrate a statistically systematic change from the status quo or the control group.

“In the design of experiments, treatments [or special properties or characteristics] are applied to [or observed in] experimental units in the treatment group(s).[8] In comparative experiments, members of the complementary group, the control group, receive either no treatment or a standard treatment.[9]"[10]

Proof of concept[edit]

Def. a “short and/or incomplete realization of a certain method or idea to demonstrate its feasibility"[11] is called a proof of concept.

Def. evidence that demonstrates that a concept is possible is called proof of concept.

The proof-of-concept structure consists of

  1. background,
  2. procedures,
  3. findings, and
  4. interpretation.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. "Communication, In: Wikipedia". San Francisco, California: Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. October 21, 2012. Retrieved 2012-10-21. 
  2. "communication, In: Wiktionary". San Francisco, California: Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 3 June 2015. Retrieved 2015-07-01. 
  3. "language barrier, In: Wiktionary". San Francisco, California: Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. May 30, 2013. Retrieved 2013-06-11. 
  4. Ortonmc (3 December 2003). "television, In: Wiktionary". San Francisco, California: Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. Retrieved 2015-07-01. 
  5. Youssefsan (22 February 2003). "radio, In: Wiktionary". San Francisco, California: Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. Retrieved 2015-07-01. 
  6. Paul G (9 January 2004). "newspaper, In: Wiktionary". San Francisco, California: Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. Retrieved 2015-07-01. 
  7. "internet, In: Wiktionary". San Francisco, California: Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 3 april 2015. Retrieved 2015-07-01. 
  8. Klaus Hinkelmann, Oscar Kempthorne (2008). Design and Analysis of Experiments, Volume I: Introduction to Experimental Design (2nd ed.). Wiley. ISBN 978-0-471-72756-9. 
  9. R. A. Bailey (2008). Design of comparative experiments. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-68357-9. 
  10. "Treatment and control groups, In: Wikipedia". San Francisco, California: Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. May 18, 2012. Retrieved 2012-05-31. 
  11. "proof of concept, In: Wiktionary". San Francisco, California: Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. November 10, 2012. Retrieved 2013-01-13. 
  12. Ginger Lehrman and Ian B Hogue, Sarah Palmer, Cheryl Jennings, Celsa A Spina, Ann Wiegand, Alan L Landay, Robert W Coombs, Douglas D Richman, John W Mellors, John M Coffin, Ronald J Bosch, David M Margolis (August 13, 2005). "Depletion of latent HIV-1 infection in vivo: a proof-of-concept study". Lancet 366 (9485): 549-55. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(05)67098-5. Retrieved 2012-05-09. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Nuvola apps edu science.svg Development status: this resource is experimental in nature.
Nuvola apps edu science.svg Educational level: this is a research resource.
GilgameshTablet.png Subject classification: this is a communication resource.