Outline

Abstract
The Man Behind the Theory
     "Four Fathers" Influence
     Schrammís Accomplishments
The Evolution of Schrammís Communication Theories
     From Aristotle to Shannon-Weaver
Communicating the Meaning of "Communication"
Schrammís Transliteration of the Shannon-Weaver Model
     Impact of the Field of Experience
     Perpetual Communication
The Osgood-Schramm Circular Model
     Feedback
     Osgood-Schramm Versus Shannon-Weaver
     "Communication" as Defined by Osgood and Shannon
Bullet Theory of Communication
Interpersonal Communication to Mass Communication
     Mass Communication Defined
     Brief Historical Overview
     The Schramm Model of Mass Communication
Individual Response to the Influx of Information
     Fraction of Selection
From Mass Communication to Society Communication
In conclusion
     Accomplishments and Criticisms
References

 

Abstract

This paper will present the evolution of communication models advanced by Wilbur Lang Schramm, from linear to circular processes, and from interpersonal communication to circumstances involving mass audiences. First, the Shannon-Weaver linear model will be introduced followed by Schrammís transliteration of this technical model to one that addresses interpersonal communication. Next, the Osgood-Schramm circular model will be presented, followed by Schrammís application of this circular approach to mass communication. By synthesizing the communication research performed by scholars in a variety of disciplines and introducing pivotal theories of his own, Schramm defined the field of communication.

 

The Man Behind the Theory

In order to fully comprehend the theories contributed by Schramm, one must first understand Schrammís role in the field as well as the individuals/disciplines that influenced his work. The establishment of the field of communication study as an academic discipline is widely attributed to Wilbur Lang Schramm (1907-1987). As the "founding father" of communication research, Schramm applied an interdisciplinary approach that integrated the ideologies of many fields to the context of new communication theory. Schramm contended that communication was an operating force at all societal levels ranging from individual to person-to-person relations, and extending to institutional and international exchanges. Thus, he sought to explicate such processes as persuasion, the circulation of information, and the impact of social pressure (Chu, 1989). Schrammís zest to comprehend the rudimentary act of communication spurred a scientifically based examination of the subject area (Tankard, 1988).

"Four Fathers" Influence

As stated previously, Schrammís communication theory has its foundations in research compiled from other fields. Specifically, Schramm ascribes four individuals as the main contributors to the creation of communication research; the following pictures were taken from Schramm (1997), and the attendant descriptions were taken from Schramm (1983).


ē Carl Hovland, "experimental-turned-social psychologist"



ē Harold Lasswell, political scientist



ē Paul Lazarsfeld, "mathematician-turned-sociologist"



ē Kurt Lewin, "social psychologist and student of group processes"

 

However, Tankard (1988), among many others, believes Schramm himself deserves the highest accolades. Schramm likened communication research to an oasis "...where many have passed, but few have tarried." According to Tankard, unlike the aforementioned individuals, Schramm was the first to live his life in the undefined territory of the oasis that he would eventually come to concretize (Tankard, 1988).

Schrammís Accomplishments

This paper will attempt to elucidate the inner workings of Schrammís models of communication. Thus, in an effort to maximize the depth of this analysis, this section will conclude with a brief overview of Schrammís accomplishments many consider most noteworthy. One must recognize, however, that Schramm is not above criticism. Accomplishment number three to follow acknowledges Schrammís role as the forerunner of research on the impact of television in developing nations. Whether one accepts that Schrammís efforts to advance education in third world countries, through the utilization of television as an instructional device, produced significant results is a point of contention to critics as well as Schramm himself. (Keever, 1991).

In her article, "On Windwagons and Sky Bursters: Final Regrets of a Mass Communications Pioneer," Keever highlights just three of Schrammís numerous contributions:

(1) Schramm founded the first mass communication doctoral program in the country. In addition, he established three research institutes at the University of Illinois, Stanford University, and the East-West Center in Honolulu, Hawaii from 1948 to 1973, thereby legitimizing communication and communication research as bona fide areas of academic study (Keever, 1991, Mc Anany, 1988).

As defined by Schramm, communication research is the study of how the expression of ideas conveys comprehensible messages, how the mass media is utilized in general and as a benefit to society, and how communication can foster international understanding (Schramm, 1963).

(2) Schramm was instrumental in the initial publication of Claude E. Shannonís The Mathematical Theory of Communication, the later translation (1949) of which was authored by Shannon and Warren Weaver (a mathematician who explained the theory in laymanís terms). Keever notes that Krippendorff (1989) considers this work monumental to the field of communication research in that it "...marked the transition from an industrial to an information society" (Keever, 1991). By definition, information theory reflects a mathematically based method of quantifying information, the existence of which minimizes uncertainty (Tankard, 1988).

This behavior exemplifies Schrammís decisive role in furthering the field by bringing to the forefront meaningful discoveries of others (Tankard, 1988). Further, his transliteration of the Shannon-Weaver transmission model became a permanent fixture in the landscape of research and mass communication. Schrammís model reflected a process termed "source-encoder-signal-decoder-destination" (Keever, 1991).

(3) Schramm was the first to examine televisionís potential as an educational tool. Further, he explored the effects of television on national development (Keever, 1991).

 

The Evolution of Schrammís Communication Theories

From Aristotle to Shannon-Weaver

David K. Berlo (1960) notes that Aristotle in the Rhetoric reduced communication to three fundamental elements: "speaker," "speech" and "audience." The theories to follow are complex representations of these foundations.

As noted previously, the mathematician Claude Shannon is recognized for his role in developing the significant "mathematical paradigm" (Berlo, 1960). In actuality, Shannon erected this model during his tenure at Bell Telephone Laboratory to answer such electronic communication questions as "how much of transmitted signal will be destroyed by noise under way from transmitter to receiver" (McQuail and Windahl, 1981)? In fact, this Information Theory model reflected prior studies in statistical mechanics and electronic communication from Bell Labs in the 1920ís, as well as Wienerís cybernetics. Despite Shannonís intended technological purpose, behavioral scientists valued its applicability to the process of human communication (Schramm and Porter, 1982). In making this leap, one must be cognizant that the transition from technical to human communication requires a different mind-set; theories of signal transmission emphasize the accuracy of the relayed signal, as opposed to the human communication focus on the signalís impact (Schramm and Porter, 1982). The Shannon-Weaver model delineates five communication elements: the source, transmitter, signal, receiver and destination. Interestingly, the Aristotelian model forms the backbone of Shannonís theory; the source represents the "speaker," the signal, the "speech," and the destination, the "listener." The model is extended, however, to include a transmitter to relay the message, and a receiver to collect it for the destination (Berlo, 1960).

In addition, Shannon introduced the concept of feedback, or a message sent back to the source (Schramm, 1973b). Further, the idea of "noise" is introduced. Noise refers to those elements not intentionally introduced by the sender that impede the communication channel (Schramm, 1971). This interference can potentially disrupt the process by altering the message signal transmitted to the receiver (McQuail and Windahl, 1989). This disruption could result in a different meaning. Consequently, McQuail and Windahl (1981) refer to noise as a "dysfunctional factor." Thus, it is not surprising that, in both electronic and human communication, a high signal-to-noise ratio is preferable (Schramm, 1971).

The following is a representation of the Shannon-Weaver model as depicted in McQuail and Windahl (1981):

 

A key characteristic of this model is the fact that the communication is linear. This one-way process can be summarized by the following steps:

(1) The information source develops a message or message chain.

(2) A transmitter transforms the message into signals.

(3) These signals are "...adapted to the channel leading to the receiver."

(4) "The receiver [then] reconstructs the message from the signal."

(5) Finally, the "...received message...reaches the destination" (McQuail and Windahl, 1981).

McQuail (1981) comments that failed communication is often indicative of a dissimilar received message than the intended one; the information source is typically unaware of this development (McQuail and Windahl, 1981).

 

Communicating the Meaning of "Communication"

What is the derivation of the word "communication?" It originated from the Latin term, communis, meaning common. Very simply, communication represents the effort on the part of the individual to connect with someoneís ideas or attitudes. In so doing, the participants attempt to achieve some measure of commonality through this sharing of information (Schramm, 1965). Schramm (1982) cautions in Men, Women, Messages, and Media Understanding Human Communication that no truth accompanies this exchange of information, as the individualsí subjective viewpoint is always at play. The communication exchange is riddled with not only the feelings of the individuals themselves, but also how each views the image of the other. Schramm notes that Plato in The Republic likens this occurrence to a person positioned between a cave wall and a fire who perpetually faces the wall. As a consequence, only the shadows of the individuals she periodically communicates with are visible, thereby demonstrating the fact that no one can know another to the extent the individual knows herself. Likewise, no individual can see herself through the eyes of another (Schramm and Porter, 1982).

 

Schrammís Transliteration of the Shannon-Weaver Model

Up to this point, this paper has attempted to provide an understanding of the angle, in this case angles, from which Schramm advanced and defined the field of communication. In so doing, we arrived at Shannonís pivotal mathematical model discovered and later translated by Schramm. As stated previously, Schramm renamed the functions to reflect the terms: source, encoder, signal, decoder and destination. Further, he advanced his model to students of mass communication (Keever 1991).

The following is a representation of Schrammís adaptation of Shannonís electronic communication model to human communication as depicted in Schramm (1965):

 

 

Interestingly, Schramm notes this diagram can easily be converted to a radio or television circuit by replacing encoder with "microphone" and decoder with "earphone." In contrast, human communication is reflected when the "source" and "encoder" represent one individual. Likewise, the "decoder" and "destination" represent another individual and the "signal" denotes the language. According to Schramm, the completion of every step, coupled with the capacities of each successive link in the chain, will determine the level of efficiency achieved. Furthermore, each and every unit must fulfill its basic obligation if the entire function is to be successful. For example:

(1) The source must possess intelligible information.

(2) The encoder must represent the message in signs that can be clearly transmittable.

(3) The signal must be relayed quickly and precisely in light of potential interference and competing messages.

(4) The message must be decoded in accordance with the encoding.

(5) The destination must manage the decoded message to effect the sought after response (Schramm, 1965).

Impact of the Field of Experience

Paramount to Schrammís model of human communication is that, just as the electronic transmitters and receivers must be in sync, all engaged in the process of communication must be capable of understanding one another. A representation of this critical aspect of the communication process as depicted in Schramm (1965) follows:

Schramm defines the firsthand knowledge attained in the course of oneís lifetime as the field of experience. When applied to his model, the field of experience can in varying degrees facilitate communication, or work to its detriment. For instance, if the message encoded by the source is in French, and the destination is not conversant with this language, decoding will not be possible and communication will be completely ineffectual. If, however, the communication is in English, but the message contains highly technical language, an English-speaking receiver will successfully comprehend the desired message only to the degree her respective field of experience affords knowledge of this specialized terminology. In summary, the source and destination can encode and decode respectively only to the extent their experience permits.

As a consequence, in order to increase the likelihood that the communication will be successful, the source attempts, whenever possible, to encode the message in a manner that capitalizes on those experiences most familiar to both parties. The area formed by the overlapping of the field of experience circles in the above diagram represents this desirable area of "common ground" (Schramm, 1965). Schramm states that, "if two people are going to communicate effectively, their stored experiences...against which they interpret the signals that come to them and decide how to respond to them...have to intersect over some topic of common interest" (Schramm and Porter, 1982).

The source utilizes signs, or signals that represent experiences, to formulate the message. However, a sign will elicit different reactions than the actual object it represents. For example, the word "cat" evokes a different response than the presence of the cat itself. Further, Schramm cautions that language is simply an abbreviated sign system that people must be able to write and read. However, the system is not universally consistent; what one person codes as "cat" may differ markedly from the decoderís perception of that same sign (Schramm, 1965). Finally, the message is a separate entity in the communication process that attains its meaning only through the potential application of individual experience (Schramm, 1963).

Perpetual Communication

The human communication system proceeds ad infinitum as individuals perpetually engage in decoding and interpreting signs, and then encoding information in response. Thus, the sender and receiver must each possess the ability to record and decipher shorthand. As one receives a signal in sign format, the response is influenced by both learned experience with the specific sign, and oneís present emotional/physical state; this is termed the mediatory response. This reaction will, in turn, precipitate encoding that reflects this personal meaning derived from the message, the particular situation surrounding it, and the presence of any obstacles (Schramm, 1965).

 

The Osgood-Schramm Circular Model

The prior discussion reflects the circular process of communication inherent to the Osgood-Schramm model, originated with U.S. psychologist, Charles Egerton Osgood, and presented by Schramm in 1954. Osgoodís accomplishments include writings on meaning and language behavior, work at the Institute of Communications Research and the Center for Advanced Study at the University of Illinois, and pioneering efforts as a psycholinguist, to name a few. In an effort to explain the intricacies of human language behavior, Osgood divided human information processing into 4 categories:

(1) "Sensory Recoding" or "Perceiving"

(2) "Decoding" or "Interpreting"

(3) "Encoding" or "Intending to Act"

(4) "Motor Recoding" or "Responding" (Tanaka, 1989)

The following is a representation of the Osgood-Schramm model as depicted in McQuail and Windahl (1981):

 

 

Feedback

In this model, the return message might take the form of feedback or a formal reply (Schramm, 1973b). According to Schramm, feedback is an invaluable tool to the communicator since it serves as a window to the receiverís thoughts and reactions. Feedback to the communicatorís message exists in a variety of forms: verbal responses, applause, body movements, tone of voice, facial expressions, written responses, etc. If the sender is sensitive to these cues, she can adjust the message accordingly. On a personal level, we continually provide ourselves with feedback when we evaluate such things as our verbal and written language. This feedback can precipitate corresponding changes in self-expression and behavior.

Finally, messages are not typically sent utilizing only one channel. For instance, in a conversation between two individuals, perhaps the voice sound waves form the primary message. However, the attendant expressions and gestures, for example, constitute a multiple channel situation. Likewise, multiple channels occur in mass communication. For example, a newspaper not only contains words, but also imparts meaning through different fonts, headline sizes, photographs, etc. Thus, the channel of communication consists of many parallel signals emitted from the source to the destination. The communicator can summarily introduce fewer or additional channels, or a channel that is not parallel, to emphasize her desired message (Schramm, 1965). Despite the adjustments made to clearly convey the desired message, the credibility and trustworthiness of the messageís originator contributes substantially to the way the message is received (Schramm, 1963).

Central to Osgoodís basis for the model is the above-mentioned concept of the mediated response, where psychologically-based internal responses to specific signs define the meaning to the individual, and consequently, dictate the action she takes (Tanaka, 1989). Schrammís powerful book, The Process and Effects of Mass Communication, featured Osgoodís stimulus-response approach to communication (Lyle, 1974). In addition, Schramm drew on Osgoodís discussion of "encoding" and "decoding," and the resultant "meaning." Recognition of these concepts segued the development of interpersonal communication models to those of mass communication (McQuail and Windahl, 1989).

Osgood-Schramm Versus Shannon-Weaver

A major distinction between the Osgood-Schramm model and the Shannon-Weaver model is their respective circular and linear structures. Further, Shannon-Weaverís approach is "channel-centric," whereas Osgood-Schramm concern themselves with senders and receivers. In addition, Shannon-Weaver depict the information source and transmitter, receiver and destination as separate entities performing unique roles. Despite no mention of transmitters, etc., the Osgood-Schramm model essentially performs similar functions to Shannon-Weaverís. However, the actors are considered equal and fulfill like roles: encoding, interpreting and decoding. Overall, though, Shannon-Weaverís transmitting, source/destination and receiving resemble Osgood-Schrammís encoding, interpreting and decoding, respectively (McQuail and Windahl, 1981).

McQuail (1981) states that the Osgood-Schramm model represents a radical departure from the traditional one-way approach promoted by Shannon-Weaver. He praises its merits with respect to interpersonal communication, but questions the modelís application to mass communication situations characterized by little, if any, feedback. Interestingly, he takes exception to the Osgood-Schramm assumption of equality, claiming the communication process is typically not equitable; one participant usually maintains the upper hand with regard to time, power and resources (McQuail and Windahl, 1981).

"Communication" as Defined by Osgood and Shannon

Schramm (1973) comments on the similar way Shannon and Osgood state the meaning of communication. Shannon and Weaver defined human communication in The Mathematical Theory of Communication as "all the procedures by which one mind may affect another." Likewise, Osgood states "we have communication whenever one system, a source, influences another, the destination, by manipulation of alternative signals which can be transmitted over the channel connecting them" (Schramm, 1973b).

 

Bullet Theory of Communication

Thus far, we have explored the paradigms that form the foundations of the field of communication study. However, one cannot truly appreciate the sophistication of Osgood and Shannonís revolutionary definitions and the attendant Schramm models without a firm grasp of the historical happenings that framed beliefs about communication during that time. In the early 1950ís, people were plagued by Nazi propaganda, following German propaganda disseminated during World War I. Their insecurities were exacerbated by the infiltration of a new and far-reaching mass media. Propaganda was viewed in the pejorative as terrified individuals assumed mere exposure to it would practically reduce one to a hypnotic state at the mercy of the all-powerful media, hence the term Bullet Theory. "Irresistible" communication was likened to a magic bullet shooting through peopleís minds and simultaneously altering their beliefs. Thus, at that point in time, communication was believed to be a thought transfer as opposed to a message transfer between the sender and receiver. Furthermore, the audience was portrayed as submissive and unable to fend against the hateful media (Schramm, 1971).

The release of Raymond Bauerís article, "The Obstinate Audience" in 1964 rendered the Bullet Theory obsolete; he claimed the unyielding audience was immune to the barrage of media bullets (Schramm and Porter, 1982). In fact, enough research had been compiled by the end of the 1930ís to prove the theory unfounded. Scholars called the theory into question when, contrary to its premise, individuals were not all succumbing to the deceptive forces of communication. In fact, some people were exhibiting the very behaviors the communication sought to inhibit. Hence, instead of "one doing unto another," communication began to be regarded as a shared activity in which the audience commanded a discerning and active role (Schramm, 1971). Senders release signs in various forms such as images or sounds, and receivers reserve the right to ignore, choose or disregard them (Schramm, 1973a). The realization that people react to messages differently spurred considerable research by sociologists as well as psychologists on the human qualities of communication in an effort to discover the impact of social and psychological factors on the increasingly complex process (Schramm, 1971).

 

Interpersonal Communication to Mass Communication

Mass Communication Defined

McQuail and Windahl (1981) note Janowitz (1968) defines mass communications as "...the institutions and techniques by which specialized groups employ technological devices (press, radio, films, etc.) to disseminate symbolic content to large, heterogeneous and widely dispersed audiences." Essentially, the source in mass communication is a communication organization such as a newspaper, book publishing company, broadcasting station, etc. Likewise, an institutionalized person, such as a newspaper editor, serves as a source. This individual is backed by the power of her respective institution. Like interpersonal communication, the organization performs the functions of decoding, interpreting and encoding. However, a group as opposed to one person executes these three actions. Contrary to the individual communicator, the communication organization has the capacity to encode vast numbers of the same message at one time. To do so, these institutions have developed channels that are both complex and effective (Schramm, 1965).

Brief Historical Overview

The birth of these mass media industries was bolstered by the industrial revolution of the 1800ís and the persisting technological revolution that commenced in the 1900ís (Chaffee, 1977). In the 1830ís, the United States mass press addressed a growing contingent of businessmen. The 1890ís followed with expressions of opposition by magazines and newspapers targeting "big business." Next, film and radio emerged in the hedonistic period of commercialism after World War I, and television came on the scene in the 1950ís (Chaffee, 1977).

These establishments of mass communication spurred a concern for accountability, especially with regard to broadcast media. This heightened sense of media responsibility resulted from a variety of factors. First, radio and television were already subject to some form of public regulation in terms of frequency and channel assignments. Second, there existed a pervasive feeling of negativism directed at Americaís mass institutions following the Depression of the 1930ís. Third, social scientists began to research the social effects of mass communication in response to inquisitive public agencies and the media itself; both institutions sought to disseminate information in the most effective manner. As the scientists revealed the results of their study to these interested parties, they found themselves instrumental in transforming the mass communication process itself (Chaffee, 1977).

The Schramm Model of Mass Communication

According to Schramm, the mass media was both the impetus for the Industrial revolution and a consequence of its occurrence as new forms of media were added to pre-existing channels. Gutenberg is generally credited with the fifteenth century invention of the printing press. This ability to produce an inordinate number of copies by printing with movable metal type, in conjunction with the technological capacity to transport the information, has had a monumental impact on our society (Schramm, 1973a). In light of the dictates of this new mass-mediated society, it is understandable that Schramm devised a new version of the Osgood-Schramm model to reflect "the collective nature of the sender," and "the social organization of the audience" (McQuail and Windahl, 1981).

The following is a representation of the Schramm Model of Mass Communication as depicted in McQuail and Windahl (1981):

 

 

McQuail and Windahl (1981) comment that although the Osgood-Schramm model reflects "two-way" communication, there exist varying degrees of circularity. In the case of mass communication, the process is less circular. The reason for the less than optimal flow relates to feedback. Unlike the Osgood-Schramm model where interpersonal communication was characterized by a direct response from the receiver, the Schramm Model of Mass Communication reflects inferential feedback (McQuail and Windahl, 1981). Individuals represent the destinations of the mass communication process. Further, these very individuals around the globe might be changing the television channel, perusing a magazine, or reading the newspaper, activities that allow for less feedback than a face-to-face interaction (Schramm, 1965). As a consequence, the media organization must evaluate whether the reaction is positive or negative by observing the receiversí collective behavior. For instance, the receivers do not inform the sender about their dislike of a new magazine, they simply stop purchasing it (McQuail and Windahl, 1981).

To account for the feedback available in interpersonal communication and lacking in mass communication, considerable audience research is conducted (Schramm, 1965). This research is aimed at "big picture" rather than individual results. In personal communication, the message can be adapted as the communicator observes the individualís response. The mass communicator, on the other hand, constructs the message so that it will appeal to the largest body of receivers. In so doing, the mass communicator does not possess the individual communicatorís ability to continually reform and adapt the message. An error cannot be corrected immediately. As a result, such experimentation can have serious ramifications and is typically not pursued by the organization (Schramm, 1965).

Central to the Schramm Model of Mass Communication is the media organization that, like the Osgood-Schramm model, engages in decoding, interpreting, and encoding. In terms of a newspaper business, these three processes are exhibited as employees evaluate news items for release to the public. They read the incoming information, assess its value, and decide which information will be released and whether editing is warranted. Thus, these "gatekeepers" determine the fate of every potential message. According to Schramm, a possible occurrence associated with his model is the dissemination of the media messages from the individual receiver herself to persons in surrounding groups (McQuail and Windahl, 1981). In fact, Schramm states that a notable difference between mass and personal communication is that in mass communication, the individuals involved experience minimal direct contact. However, they do associate with various groups of people such as family, friends and professional affiliations. Schramm suggests that this "secondary influence" in which the mass media message is conveyed from the individual to her personal network of consultants is one of the most, if not the most powerful force in mass communication (Schramm, 1965). We live according to the norms and beliefs that the groups we respect and associate with perscribe. As a result, the opinions of our peers exact a tremendous influence on how we respond to communication (Schramm, 1971).

In response to this model, McQuail and Windahl (1981) note that, in actuality, the process is more complex. The decoding-interpreting-encoding process is enriched by a series of sub-processes which repeat many of the same functions. Further, they comment that Schrammís reference to the interaction that occurs when the receiver evaluates the mass media messages with other groups of people might reflect an attempt to counter perception of an impersonal and detached mass society, where defenseless individuals are methodically targeted and controlled by the looming mass media (McQuail and Windahl, 1981).

 

Individual Response to the Influx of Information

The birth of the mass media afforded the individual access to information in astounding quantity. Schramm states that it is impossible for one to consider every piece of information available; as a consequence, the individual must first select the message. Upon passing this first test, the message will then be subjected to the individualís interpretation of it based on their field of experience, as discussed previously (Schramm, 1963).

Fraction of Selection

Schramm asserts that two factors are influential in determining which particular mass information the individual will select: the expectation of reward and the effort required. He expresses their relationship in the following equation:

                                                 Expectation of Reward

Fraction of Selection     =     ____________________

                                                      Effort Required

Essentially, the chances that one will select an offering of mass communication over comparable communications intensify as the reward increases, or the corresponding effort one must exert to obtain the information decreases. For example, in a situation where an individual would like to purchase a magazine, but is not concerned about any one in particular, the nearest newsstand is a likely, convenient option since little effort will be expended. This person will not be amenable to traveling a great distance since the type of magazine acquired is of low importance; the reward will not be great. However, if an individual is contemplating the purchase of new golf clubs, and the nearest newsstand does not carry specialty magazines on golf, the additional effort will be perceived as worthwhile since the information will aid in the buying decision. Thus, a host of decisions such as these are made everyday in which people evaluate their communication options. Consequently, the mass communication audience depends upon all of these individuals and their respective assessments of the benefits derived relative to the effort expended for a certain communication (Schramm, 1965). Schramm cautions, however, that situations do arise in which communication is selected on the basis of chance alone (Schramm, 1971).

From Mass Communication to Society Communication

Schramm contends that the process of mass communication has far reaching implications. In fact, these mass messages have come to reflect the voice of society. As a communication unit, society decodes or examines the opportunities and dangers existing in our environment. It then interprets these positives and/or negatives to enact policies that reflect the general opinion and benefit society as a whole. Finally, messages are encoded to promote international relationships and understanding. Further, these messages, representing the attitudes and beliefs that form the fabric of our society, are conveyed to new members (Schramm, 1965).

 

In conclusion

Communication is an indispensable element of society. It is the means by which relationships between people, groups and countries are propagated. Without communication, society cannot effect change or attempt to achieve a harmonious existence. On the individual level, communication affords people the tools to deal with one another in an effective manner and, thus, maintain quality of life (Schramm, 1963).

This paper has attempted to highlight Wilbur Lang Schrammís role in defining this most fundamental process. Through Schramm, one learns key prerequisites to successful communication. To name a few, in a society inundated with information, first and foremost, the message must attract the interest of the desired destination. Also, in order to convey the intended meaning, the message must be in the form of signs that draw on the field of experience shared by both the source and destination (Schramm, 1965). In addition, Schramm mentions that to be effectual, the message must appeal to the destination's personality needs such as the desires for love and understanding. Finally, these needs must be met in a manner appropriate to the group one identifies with. Therefore, for the message to achieve its intended response, one must consider the implications of all of these factors (Schramm, 1971).

Accomplishments and Criticisms

Many of the sources utilized in this paper are authored by Schramm and comprise the required body of texts that delineate the field of mass communication. Tankard (1988) states that representative of the integrated nature of the field, Schrammís Mass Communication (1949) became the first standard text and contained essays by sociologists and psychologists. Schrammís major contributions to the field consist of his models, fraction of selection equation, the Bullet Theory, and his role in synthesizing and discovering the work of others to formulate a solid theoretical foundation to the field of mass communication (Tankard, 1988).

Although his initial models reflected a linear approach to communication, Tankard points out his later models revealed a circular process. Critics of Schramm have trivialized the Bullet Theory, claiming it discredited a belief in an all-powerful mass media that never truly existed. However, Tankard defends Schramm on the grounds that the Institute for Propaganda Analysis would have never materialized in the 1930ís had there not existed genuine fears of the mass media (Tankard, 1988).

Finally, the provocative comments of Timothy Glander (1996) are worthy of mention. Glander notes that Christopher Simpson in his 1994 book, Science of Coercion Communication Research and Psychological Warfare 1945-1960, raises some valid points about the origins of communications research. According to Simpson, it was World War II which originally fostered studies into communications, but for the purpose of swaying public opinion during the war effort. These "propaganda" studies involved large agencies, which were further utilized during the Cold War. However, the term "propaganda" had taken on a negative connotation, and thus the field of "mass communications" was born. While much of this research remains classified, Simpson argues that we should be cognizant of the origins of mass communications research, which in effect began as studies of mass persuasion. Schramm was an integral part of these efforts, receiving the majority of his funding from federal sources during his tenure at the Institute of Communications Research, where many of his theories were born (Glander, 1996).

Despite these questions, Wilbur Schramm remains the founding father of communication studies, one of the fastest growing academic fields in the U.S. for several decades. His approach to the study of mass communications remains a cornerstone of communications research; his multidisciplinary approach has retained both relevance and impact since its inception over 50 years ago (Glander, 1996).

 

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