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Effective Communication on the Intenet

By Charles Hopkins Published 05/26/2007 | Marketing

What is communication? In simple terms it can be defined as the process whereby person A sends a message to person B, on whom it has an effect. H. D. Lasswell in 'The Structure and Function of Communication in Society' (1948) suggested this model of communication: " Who says what by what means to whom and with what effect." In practice it is more complicated than that as there is an interaction among all parties involved in the communication, involving negotiation and exchange of meaning. This interaction takes place in a cultural setting that will also have a direct bearing on the communication process.

Structuralists take a different approach, focusing on the relationship of the actual elements that are necessary for meaning to occur. These are first the text (the actual message that has a physical existence of its own, independent of either the originator, sender, or receiver) this may be the written word or could equally be a photograph or video! The text would be made up of signs or codes, thus gestures and expressions are an important part of the process. Secondly are the 'readers' the people who take the text and within their cultural and social setting form meaning from the text, signs and codes. Finally there is an awareness of an 'external reality' to which both text and people refer. The interaction among these three elements is how meaning is produced.

Communication theory takes all these issues and tries to find a rational explanation of the processes involved and thus the success or failure (or degrees in between) of any message. Some fifty plus years since the early attempts at understanding the communication process, the Internet has opened up a completely new communication medium that is evolving at almost a daily rate. From originally a text based medium it has evolved to have pictures (graphics) sound and audio, animation, video streaming and video instant messaging. It is so very much part of our lives that it is taken for granted, just like all the communication messages that bombard us, day in, day out as we go about our everyday lives. What must not be forgotten is that the messages that are sent and received are constructed to achieve meaning, a result.

When communicating on the Web, it is important to remember the basics of communication, that a message is being exchanged for meaning and understanding to occur. The sender encodes a message, transmits it (publishes on the Web, sends an email etc.) where upon it is received, decoded at its destination causing an effect. The problem is that because the Web is Worldwide, cultural and social factors (leaving out technological factors) can cause the message to be received in a way not intended by the sender. The solution to creating effective communication on the Internet is to resist in blanket coverage, trying to create a message that will have the same effect everywhere but rather use targeted communication. This involves the sender in researching the audience, understanding who is receiving the message, and thus when the communication is constructed the text and all its signs and codes relate to the recipient ensuring that the message is received and understood as the sender expected. The use of video can help with this targeted communication delivery as it can be edited and refined for delivery to many divergent audiences across the Web. The added bonus is that each version helps deliver the visual, specific clues that cultures and societies use to enhance communication.