Shannon and Weaver Model

The Shannon and Weaver model

Shannon and Weaver model Figure 1
Shannon and Weaver model.

Back in 1949 Claude Shannon, an electrical engineer with Bell Telephone, and Warren Weaver, of the Rockefeller Foundation, (Figure 1) published their book, The Mathematical Theory of Communication 3.

Shannon and Weaver attempted to do two things:

  • Reduce the communication process to a set of mathematical formulas
  • Discuss problems that could be handled with the model.

Shannon and Weaver were not particularly interested in the sociological or psychological aspects of communication. Instead, they wanted to devise a communications system with as close to 100 percent efficiency as possible.

You’ll note that the Shannon and Weaver diagram has essentially the same parts as the one formulated by Aristotle. It’s true the parts have different names, and a fourth component — in this case the transmitter — is included.

However, this model has an interesting additional element. Shannon and Weaver were concerned with noise in the communications process. Noise, Weaver said, “may be distortions of sound (in telephony, for example) or static (in radio), or distortions in shape or shading of picture (television), or errors in transmission (telegraph or facsimile), etc.”

The “noise” concept introduced by Shannon and Weaver can be used to illustrate “semantic noise” that interferes with communication. Semantic noise is the problem connected with differences in meaning that people assign to words, to voice inflections in speech, to gestures and expressions and to other similar “noise” in writing.

Semantic noise is a more serious problem or barrier to developing effective communications than most realize. It is hard to detect that semantic noise has interfered with communication. Too often the person sending a message chooses to use words and phrases that have a certain meaning to him or her. However, they may have an altogether different meaning to individuals receiving the message. In the interest of good communication, we need to work to hold semantic noise to the lowest level possible.

We should be aware that there is a semantic noise in face-to-face verbal communication just as there is static noise, for example, in radio communication.

There are other kinds of noises involved in communication as well. Keep the noise concept in mind.


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