To live is to communicate. To communicate is to live
A. The expression “To live is to communicate” does not pretend to indicate that the life that is communicated is in itself a life of “value”. The expression itself does not say anything about the meaning of the life you want to communicate, nor does it represent an index of the positivity of this meaning.
The value of the experience to which it refers cannot be deduced logically, consequently from any content communicated.
In order to understand adequately the value of an experience, the recipient of the message must be involved in the experience offered by the issuer, assuming its values. This depends solely on the inner predisposition of the recipient, which can be more or less favored by the attractive force of the message and of the transmitter itself.
The objections that can be posed at this point are two:
a) the sharing of a common experience can also lead to not knowing how to identify the solutions to adequately resolve its contradictions, to the point that in order to understand a certain experience well it is necessary to share it another of higher value;
b) if you already share a certain experience, what is the use of communicating its values?
The answer to this second objection is easy: there is no experience that can be shared to the point of not needing to be used as an object of communication. This is the fundamental premise from which to start any analysis on language. If we want to consider silence as the most suitable expression to communicate a certain type of experience, it must also be added that communication is something that does not only concern the word and that the term language means human expressive capacity in a broad sense. Furthermore, human experience is not so perfect that it does not need communication in order to remain consistent with its fundamental values, that is, to be able to reproduce itself indefinitely. It is constantly subject to phases of varying intensity.
The answer to the first objection would require a separate treaty instead. In fact, today we cannot ignore the fact that any treatment of the subject in question is historically located in a socio-cultural context characterized by the logic of antagonism. We are not only interested in analyzing the characteristics of human language, but: 1. analyzing these characteristics considering that we are experiencing a particular social formation; 2. verify how useful analysis can be drawn from this analysis to get out of this antagonistic formation.
B. Now let’s proceed. If the expression “To live is to communicate” says nothing about the meaning of the existence to which we refer, the opposite expression: “To communicate is to live” offers even less indications.
In fact, this second expression is either considered to be completely simplistic, in the sense that anyone who communicates something, in any way and by any means, must necessarily be an existing subject, alive, since the dead do not communicate (even if someone thinks that through paranormal phenomena they can do it); or it must be considered in a cautious way, in the sense that anyone who claims to demonstrate something just for the fact that he communicates it, must be looked at with suspicion.
The expression “Communicating is living” may be subject to an illusion which in our time, based on a massive use of media, is quite typical. In fact, many believe that the quality of an existence is proportional to the quantity of messages that it transmits or that are transmitted on it. The more you “communicate” the more “you believe” (or want to be believed) to live a meaningful existence, endowed with a certain prestige.
Certainly the ownership of the means of communication guarantees a high political power (persuasive), but it in itself does not guarantee at all that this power is used for democratic and humanitarian purposes, precisely because it is not the ability to transmit news and information that can in itself demonstrate a positive value of an existence. Normally, indeed, where the media belong to a few people, their use is necessarily, inevitably, anti-democratic. Paradoxically, where a lot of monopolistic, unidirectional, non-interactive information is used, it certainly proves to be completely useless, indeed harmful, for the development of democracy. In fact, nothing is more useless than information that does not allow us to contribute in any way to solving the problem that arises.
2. Every communication takes place by means of signs
It is communicated through signs (phonic, gestural, graphic, tactile …), but while in animals this process is instinctive (what is learned from scratch is very little, or in any case it is the result of a very long period), in beings humans, on the other hand, the best way to communicate is that which is learned and which belongs to each individual.
Humans are predisposed by nature to communicate, but if they lived alongside their animals throughout their lives, they would express themselves like animals.
Learning to use signs is a slow and gradual process, but it allows incredibly complex communication, which not even all the animals of the earth put together could reach.
Therefore, everything that is instinctive in humans is not very different from animal characteristics, and what is cultural (i.e. learned) is almost completely unknown to animals.
Let’s take an example. When an animal is hungry and cannot find food, it can become very aggressive. Even a human being can become one, but in front of him he has various possibilities:
a) the first path, the most instinctive one, the closest to the animal world, is that of individual search for food, which leads to considering all the other humans (with the exception of loved ones, but sometimes not even this exception holds) as enemies to fight strenuously;
b) the second way already represents a mental evolution: suicide, which is practically unknown to animals. In order to choose such an option, one must be resigned to the idea of being able to get food. It often happens that in such situations, the individual, before committing suicide, kills his children or leaves them;
c) the third way implies the overcoming of the individualistic conception of existence. Those who suffer from hunger join together, try to understand the causes of their malaise and find common solutions, more or less radical.
This third way is completely unknown to animals. Of course, there may be a species that at a certain point realizes that it is better to look for game by hunting in a group. But this process will never lead one species to “collaborate” with another analogous species. When forms of “mutual help” take place in the animal world, these are always between very different species, which do not feel in the least in antagonism or competition.
The balance of nature lies precisely in the fact that there is a relative compensation between rival species. Natural selection is basically based on the “mors tua vita mea” principle.
Human intelligence is capable of going beyond this simplistic compensation.
In fact, human beings are not superior to animals only because they have been able to develop much more sophisticated signs (messages), which cover enormous spatial distances and which persist over time. Superiority depends above all on the fact that, if desired, humans can organize their life without feeling antagonistic to each other for survival.
Any attempt to reduce human potential to animal characteristics, denounces a merely individualistic concept of life, which is certainly convenient for those who hold the levers of power, who obviously, with the means at their disposal, cannot fear an isolated opposition .
3. The signs are perceived through the senses
As is known, the signs can be distinguished according to our senses, which also belong to the animal world: acoustic, visual, tactile, olfactory and gustatory. The first two groups are the most important.
However, the same sign can communicate different messages: for example, the sound of the bell of the last hour of lessons, although having the same sound as that of the first hour, undoubtedly produces a different effect in those who listen to it. The smell of a perfume can make a certain person come to mind, the taste of a dish can remind us of a certain situation.
In order to be properly interpreted, these multiple voices (and they are practically infinite) must be contextualized.
However, unlike the animal world, our senses can pick up on the signs of messages which in a certain sense go far beyond their specific content. So much so that we often attribute certain messages of unknown meanings to even those who sent them to us.
Being infinitely more complex than animals, humans always tend to go “beyond” the simple content received from a message.
Sometimes, out of stupidity, we do not know how to grasp the symbolic or allegorical nuances of certain messages; at other times instead we exaggerate precisely in this direction, distorting the simplicity, realism and concreteness of certain contents.
All these processes, which are dictated by personal interests or attitudes or mental predispositions, are absolutely foreign to animals, accustomed to a rather standardized language.
It is practically impossible for a human being to formulate a concept, to transmit content in such a way that it cannot be completely misunderstood. Unless you decide to voluntarily use animal-like language.
The complexity of human language lies precisely in its intrinsic ambiguity, which can increase in proportion to the physical, spatial distance of the two communicating subjects.
The less there is the possibility of directly verifying the reliability of certain contents, the more there is the temptation to use language in an ambiguous way, that is to deceive others – which then means, the last resort, to deceive oneself.
4. The signifier and the meaning
The sign can connect in various ways a signifier (physical-material element) with a meaning (conceptual-abstract element).
Obviously the most important meaning is the human being, because it is the most complete, while the most important meaning is the one that allows you to live an authentically human existence.
All other means that man gives himself are partial or reductive. Therefore, all the meanings transmitted by these means, not strictly coinciding with the human being, are no less partial and reductive. There is no means that can convey an authentically human meaning better than the “human relationship” itself. Any claim to find an equivalent substitute in this medium is bound to prove illusory (in more or less dangerous forms).
In fact, if it is true that each sign is the result of a convention, the only sign at the basis of all the conventions and which cannot be considered in a conventional way, is precisely the “human relationship”, which exists or does not exist, in the sense which is either “human” or it is not. Here the relationship between signifier and meaning is fundamentally of an ontological type. Only through a human relationship can an adequately human meaning of existence be transmitted.
When a person “x” loves a person “y”, he does not need to wait for the person “y” to explain in advance what he means by the word “love”. If the person “y” does not feel attracted by the love of the person “x”, he will look for a person “z”, but also with this person he will not be able to make a love relationship only after having decided, in a conventional way, what should be done that the two mean by the word “love”. These intellectualistic processes presuppose a completely individualistic type of life.
A preventive code cannot be established to create a relationship based on love, trust, friendship, honesty etc. Relationships of this kind can give themselves rules, laws, codes only when they fail, that is when their intensity is attenuated and traumatic rupture risks. But the rules, laws and codes have a simple instrumental and temporary value: none of them will ever be able, on their own, to save a compromised relationship. Human free will is always needed.
5. Artificial signs and natural signs
If artificial signs are conventional, natural ones are necessary. For example, the footprint of an animal left on the sand is a natural sign, as it is independent of any communicative will.
Normally humans attribute true meaning only to artificial signs, that is, to those signs that they give themselves. But it would be a mistake to think that natural signs have no meaning for man. Breathing deeply the brackish sea air during the holidays can transmit a more pleasant sensation than receiving an email from a sender thousands of km away.
Human beings, communicative par excellence, cannot do without natural signs, mute par excellence, whose meaning can be subject to somewhat subjective interpretations. Humans cannot do without the silent messages that nature transmits to them.
Obviously humans also give importance to all the natural signs that they themselves produce without knowing it or without wanting it. All these signs have been classified into three categories: traces, symptoms and indications. Traces and clues are the preferred signs eg by investigators. The symptoms, on the other hand, are of great interest to doctors and psychologists.
These signs can allow you to make findings, conjectures, deductions, hypotheses, etc. One of the great illusions of Western civilization is that of believing that we can solve the causes of problems by knowing their effects (symptoms). “Knowledge” is often regarded as a sufficient element to solve the problems of “life”.
Finally, there are many artificial signs (caused by culture) that over time become, for a certain population, completely natural, such as the way of eating or dressing or celebrating an anniversary, celebrating a ritual, etc.
These signs change very slowly, practically imperceptibly. The sign changes because culture changes, the value that sustains it and therefore the experience that lives that particular cultural value.
Sometimes changes are prevented by the social classes that hold power, but only until strong popular claims take place.
The actual artificial signs are divided into three categories: signs, symbols and icons.
a) The signs should have a rather evident meaning; simplicity and efficacy are the attributes that characterize these direct, immediate messages, which must strike the senses, the instinct (think, for example, of road signs). The Morse alphabet, eg, although it is a set of symbolic signs, with its well-known SOS certainly transmitted a warning sign.
b) symbols are conventional signs that are in place of something else (eg linguistic signs, numbers, musical notes …). The symbolic signs must be understood in their entirety, otherwise the use becomes falsified.
c) icons are signs with a strong expressive content, which makes one think of a demanding meaning (eg a painting, a drawing, a photo …). Icons can have such a layered message that sometimes only a few people are able to grasp it in its entirety. However, the fact of being able to understand only a part of its meaning does not in itself entail its incorrect interpretation. The logo (or distinctive brand) is a symbolic icon whose meaning is not particularly profound, but is in any case stylized in such a way as to be easily identifiable or memorable.
The science that studies the meaning of signs is semiotics or semiology or semiotics, from the Greek semiion , sign and logos, study. No study of signs is possible without a preliminary approach to the conceptions of life, the cultural values of the experience that produces certain signs.
6. The communication process
The general model of communication is based on the interaction of six fundamental elements:
I) issuer, the one who sends the message;
II) recipient, he who receives it;
III) message, the content that is communicated;
IV) referent, the object of the communication;
V) code, the signs with which the message is formulated;
VI) channel, the medium through which the message passes.
To be communication there must be all these elements, none excluded. Often two other elements are added to them, which are considered secondary, but which in western civilization have a primary function: noise and redundancy.
Obviously, the fact that all these elements must be present does not mean that in a communicative context one has perfect awareness of them. Often, in fact, the recipient does not know that he is or only notices it after a certain time; or the broadcaster believes it is in one way and instead becomes it in another, completely involuntary.
The communicative process is one of the most complex things that exist and the contemporary presence of the six aforementioned elements does not guarantee that it takes place on a regular, orthodox basis … Misunderstandings are commonplace on all six elements. On the other hand, the possibility of misunderstanding is one of the factors that distinguishes human communication from animal communication.
The seventh element in fact, the absolutely most important one, which gives meaning to all the other elements, is also the one that is not seen, since it represents a mental or spiritual or internal process: it is the adequate understanding of the message when you receive it . This understanding provokes a particular psychological reaction in the human soul, not only by whoever receives the message, but, consequently, also by whoever sent it.
If we limited ourselves to discussing the six aforementioned elements, we would have specified the technical methods of communication, but we would have said nothing about its effective success, which cannot depend solely on those elements.
I) Issuer and receiver
Issuer comes from the Latin “e-mittere”, that is to send out, to send. In Italian it is also called sender, transmitter (i.e. the one who transmits a message), coder (i.e. the one who transforms the meaning of what he wants to transmit into signs).
Receiver comes from the Latin “recipere”, that is, to receive. In Italian it is also called the recipient (the one for whom a message is intended) or decoder (that is, the one who transforms the signs into concepts).
In a real communication process the two roles are continuously interchangeable. If there is no interaction, communication is in fact called unidirectional, unilateral … A teacher who prepares aloud the lesson he will give his students the next day, can be more communicative, when he speaks alone, than that ‘teacher who talks to their kids without ever asking them if they understood, if they have questions to ask and above all without having the patience to wait for their reaction (or feedback or feedback or feedback).
The effectiveness of any communication message is directly proportional to the degree of interactivity it allows. Mind you: the fact that interactivity must exist does not mean that it can be considered as a limit to bear. Interactivity is the fundamental precondition that allows a message to be not only shared, but, precisely for this reason, also modified.
Obviously here it is taken for granted that communication is an active process, involving transmitter and receiver … Some argue that communication exists even between two people who in a train compartment do not say a single word. However, this form of communication is negative and does not lead to any result worthy of consideration. The two individuals may not talk to each other for various reasons, but as long as they are not spoken these reasons remain indecipherable (subject to many conjectures) – what the communication must avoid, since it has the purpose of helping to understand (also, possibly, to modify attitudes or opinions).
The most perfect communication is that between two people who can use their whole body to communicate. The more mechanical means come between these two people, the more imperfect the communication becomes.
In order not to be impossible, due to the presence of these artificial means, communication must have very precise rules, which must be respected by both the issuer and the recipient. (To tell the truth today, in Western civilization, the communicative and informative dictatorship of the broadcaster is clear, that is, of the one who owns the media and who does not tolerate interference that could call into question this monopoly).
This of course does not mean that there is more possibility of “mutual understanding” between two close (proxemic) people than between two distant people, divided by various artificial means. Indeed, humanity’s need to provide artificial means with which to communicate with distant people was probably born precisely from the difficulty of establishing normal (human) relationships with close people.
However, there is no doubt that no artificial means is able to remedy the shortcomings of a normal communication relationship between two close people. Whoever thinks otherwise, creates illusions.
In addition, it must be specified that in the world of humans, not so much mechanical means, as other human beings, who perform particular functions and which make communication sometimes easier and sometimes more difficult, often come between the transmitter and the receiver. Think, for example, of the function of the journalist, when he must report the words of an interviewee, or of the function of an ambassador.
Normally any intermediary (receiver) modifies some of its part the received message that it must transmit: if it does not do it in content, it does it in form or tone. This is an absolutely inevitable limit.
On the other hand, a mechanical vehicle could not be more faithful than a human subject. Indeed, while an intermediary may somehow remedy a possible bad reception of the message (the broadcaster may have provided it inadequately or inaccurately or insufficiently), a machine certainly cannot. How many times have there been better ambassadors than their heads of state?
It can even be said that between two involuntary falsifications, that of the human intermediary and that of the machine, the former is always less serious than the latter, precisely because perfection is expected in front of a machine, while in front of a human subject is willing to tolerate shortcomings.
It is however true that the more intermediaries there are, the more risky the entire communication becomes.
Sometimes intermediaries make communication easier in the sense that they know how to simplify it without trivializing it, or they know how to dampen too excessive tones on the part of the issuer. However, a broker is accepted as such by the issuer precisely because he can trust the honesty of that. A broker could never falsify a message to the point that the issuer decides to replace it with another trusted person.
II) Message, Referent and Context
The content of the communication calls a message (from the Latin missum , “what has been sent”).
The object to which the message explicitly or implicitly refers is called the referent. The object can be a real or imaginary thing, a concept or a state of mind … Eg the message “raining” has as its reference the “rain”.
In a certain sense, the referent gives substance to the message, which otherwise would appear incomprehensible, too abstract and generic or not very significant.
However, it would be a mistake to think that it is sufficient to identify the contact person to adequately understand a message. Message and referent can be understood adequately only if placed in a sufficiently defined space-time and semantic context (which are then the substrate and the background in which the words acquire a more or less specific meaning).
To keep to the example above: the expression “it rains” if it is said in a desert area, where water is scarce, it can make one think of a collective mood of happiness, but if it is said in a geographical area characterized from a strong industrial presence, it can also raise concerns, as the community already knows the danger of “acid rain”.
As you can see, the rain contact person says nothing particularly significant if extrapolated from a specific context. The “raining” claim continues to be generic. In this regard, think only of how many misunderstandings arouse many meteorological forecasts, and not only because, despite the technical-scientific means, they often turn out to be very approximate or even unfounded, but also because they are continually subject to popular moods. The sun, for example, is always presented as an index of “good weather” and rain as an index of “bad weather”. Only when it is too hot is it said that it should rain.
This way of setting things takes absolutely no account of the natural alternation of sun and rain, let alone the fact that, for example, agriculture needs rains no less than the sun to be able to develop (aspect, this , which in a society based mainly on industry and services is completely marginal).
Therefore, in order to understand or adequately formulate a message, it is necessary to know well in which context (or for which context) it was born (or is addressed).
It is necessary to have a sufficiently developed historical or social or cultural or environmental awareness, otherwise there is no “science”, but only a chat.
Mind you: the proper understanding or formulation of a message is not inversely proportional to the number of possible referrals to which that message can connect: a message is no longer easily understood or formulated as the lesser referrals it can connect to.
Ultimately it is always and only the semantic context (extra-linguistic) that decides on it, and it is essentially a social context, that is, based on human relationships which are presumed to be characterized by an experience of value, located in a space and in a certain time.
This obviously does not mean that a correctly formulated message cannot be misunderstood. It simply means that if one thinks he can be better understood by using language considered unequivocal, he deludes himself.
A language could be unequivocal if it had very few expressions to communicate, that is, if it was close to the animal one, but in such a language no human being would recognize himself. Without considering that one of the characteristics of humans is precisely that of wanting to misunderstand words (fact, this, which produces paradoxical, comic, tragicomic situations …, absolutely unknown to the animal world). The possibility of misunderstanding belongs to the exercise of human freedom.
II.1. Specific contexts
The context therefore helps both the issuer to encode and the receiver to decode the message adequately to the situation on which it depends.
The context not only connects the message to the referent in a univocal way, but it actively connects the issuer to the recipient, specifying the roles of each and establishing the rules to which each must comply.
In fact, the problem is that of realizing, even after some time and with very large spaces, an understanding of the message that is as adequate as possible.
And it is precisely the context that allows us to know a whole series of extra-linguistic elements that decisively help the understanding of the message.
The ambiguity of communication is not a limit, but a richness of human language, precisely because there are many nuances of meaning.
It must also be considered that often the issuer, when he sends a message, since he thinks he is referring to his contemporaries, leaves many elements of the context to which the message refers implied, so, after some time, understanding can be quite difficult of the message, when not even impossible.
The assumptions, the implicit references are often the keystone that allows the recipient to decode the message, but in order to be identified, they need adequate knowledge of the original context.
This knowledge may seem all the more difficult the more the context is far away in time and space. However, this is not always the case. Today we know much more about the mysteries of the pyramids or of Stonhenge than about the mysteries of the strategy of tension or the disaster of Ustica.
Much depends, in the field of communication, on the desire to make yourself understood, or on the actual possibility of making yourself understood. Often, in fact, those who send a message must take into account prohibitions and censures to which political power, directly or indirectly, obliges them.
Simplifying, it can perhaps be said that, according to the various types of message, there are three contextual forms:
a) linguistic and textual, which allows us to understand the meaning of a message by relating it to the text to which it belongs. This is to avoid undue extrapolations or reconstructions of the meaning of a message by taking pieces of sentences in scattered order, using the linguistic context only in a very approximate way (this is the criterion of certain anthologies or of many summaries that are used in the school context);
b) situational or extra-linguistic, which allows to understand the meaning of a message by inserting it in a particular situation or circumstance. Here the analysis of time and space becomes decisive. You must be able to answer the questions “when” and “how”;
c) cultural, which allows to clarify the meaning of a message by inserting it in a more or less vast and complex set of elements connected to the culture of a social group, an environment, a community, being careful not to isolate an ever individual from the group to which it belongs. Here, answering the question of “why”, it is necessary to analyze the developments of ideas, life concepts, regulatory choices, political decisions, etc. It is undoubtedly the most difficult job. Those who simply do this, regardless of the other two jobs, build without foundations.
Often, naively, it is believed that a message is all the more effective the more it appears without contextual references. It is even thought that a message can aspire to eternity the more it detaches itself from the historicity that conditions it. Nothing could be more false. A message can be useful to posterity only if it has been useful to contemporaries. Obviously posterity will only be useful as a “lesson in method”, as a “general criterion of acting”, but this is enough to be concrete and historically determined.
The time that must characterize the individual most is the present. Each message is all the more useful, interesting, true and profound the more it has been able to help the men of the present to solve their problems.
In this sense, it can be argued that a message is all the more destined to last over time (as “teaching”), the more it has known how to place itself in the time in which it was formulated.
III) The canal
The message, to arrive from the sender to the receiver, must pass through a medium, called a channel.
In this sense, the five senses of the human body represent the five fundamental natural channels. Western society has developed them, mainly due to technical means, above all two: visual and auditory. Conversely, taste, smell and touch were penalized enough.
In our society, touch is mostly related to sexual situations, or is used in purely restricted areas (eg family or parental). Among strangers, touch is scarcely used as a means of communication, and in any case it is much less so in northern European countries than in Mediterranean ones.
One has the fear of touching oneself, or one thinks that by touching one another, one wants to convey a message that goes beyond pure and simple friendship or cordiality.
Taste is one of the senses most sought after by advertising messages, which however can only transmit it through sight and hearing. It is literally bombarded with sensuous messages that undermine the health of the body.
The sense of smell is definitely the most overlooked sense in our society. In fact, the media have convinced us that capitalism is the best civilization in the world, that we endure the unbreathable air of our cities as a completely natural thing, the air conditioners that delude us into making it more breathable, etc. The neglect of the needs of the sense of smell leads citizens to become seriously ill with all modern diseases of capitalism.
As for the other two channels: visual and auditory, they have acquired, with the advent of TV, a record so great that they are practically able to induce the user to believe that the true reality is only that which transmits TV and that everything that is not seen or heard is practically as if it did not exist.
Until the development of radio, prevalence was obviously hearing. With the invention of the cinema, the vision of moving images took over, but for a long time they remained silent and in black and white.
Before radio and cinema the prevalence was of the written text, for those who had studied, and of the oral speech, for the vast majority. You were then undoubtedly more able to tell things and you had more patience to listen to them. As for reading the books, they undoubtedly trained the mind in fantasy.
Now the prevalence has definitely passed on to the images, to the point that the words surround them. The images must be in constant movement and multicolored, capable of dealing with any topic.
The great mystification of TV occurs when it is claimed that the images speak for themselves. That is, the authenticity of a message is directly proportional to its television coverage (especially if it is live).
In the Italian school there are no compulsory courses that help the student to take a critical attitude towards radio-television communication and multimedia information in general.
Thanks to TV, the spectator’s passivity has become almost total, although today the need for interactivity is claimed by many. That is, the user is asked to interact on a consumer object decided by others.
The mass media have become increasingly powerful, but their use is mainly negative, since, even when it wants to be positive, the user, taken individually, is unable to control anything in person.
There can be no positive value in the use of means whose management is so complex as to escape the understanding of the average culture citizen.
No political power today can do without the use of these powerful means of seeking social consensus. The more the channel is able to reach as many people as possible, the more it risks being subject to distorted use.
Censorship and exploitation could be avoided if the ownership of the media was really owned by the citizens, that is, if it were truly “public” and not “state”, that is, “governmental”, “parliamentary”, “party”, or of a hegemonic social class.
On a technical level it can be said that the choice of the medium conditions the content of the message itself. There is no channel that in itself can offer greater guarantees of authenticity than another. A message can be falsified by any means; on the contrary, the falsification is normally the greater the more complex and sophisticated the means.
A final aspect to consider when choosing the communication channel, in relation to a specific message to be transmitted, is the question of when to transmit it. The broadcaster needs to know when is the right time to send a message and when it isn’t.
The broadcaster must also know the best transmission mode that a given channel allows. It is not possible to freely use a vehicle without fully knowing its actual potential. (Of course many of these potentials are learned during the use of the medium).
However, in order to be truly democratic, an issuer would have to give itself preventive rules, which would prevent it from misusing a certain medium.
Each broadcaster must know that the technical means or their specialized command are not sufficient to transmit a message. To be effective, a message must be appropriate to the human sensitivity of the recipient, and the latter must be able to react by showing appreciation or disappointment.
IV) The code
The set of conventional signs with which a message is formulated is called code.
The code must be known both by the issuer (who in this case becomes an encoder) and by the receiver (the decoder), otherwise communication is impossible.
The less the code is developed, the easier it is to communicate, but only for very simple concepts and ideas, which certainly cannot satisfy the complex needs of human interaction.
On the other hand, if a code is too complex, it becomes the property of only a small minority of people.
Therefore, a communication is all the more interesting as it is possible to formulate deep thoughts or feelings (possibly even using simple messages, understandable to everyone).
True communication must be structured like a pedagogical language.
However, not all messages, used in a pedagogical way, can be understandable. Many of them are understood but not accepted, because they are not shared; others are not even fully understood, even though they are expressed in simple language: this is because when prejudices and stereotypes exist, one is not available to understand the entirety of the message.
Not only that, but since the human being is of extreme complexity, it often happens that the same word can be understood in somewhat different ways.
It is not enough to know a code to be able to communicate in the fullness of our possibilities: an extra-linguistic (or meta-linguistic) understanding between transmitter and receiver is also needed, which, if there is no sharing of a common experience, is one of the most important things difficult to achieve.
If therefore the code is the result of a convention, the need to live a human experience, for an adequate and mutual understanding, cannot be the result of a simple convention.
From this point of view, the physical proximity of two people (eg two work colleagues, two condominiums etc.) is not in itself a sufficient guarantee to achieve a common experience.
Nor can it be argued that a code reflects the more widespread geographically the more it reflects the reality of such common experiences.
An experience should be considered “common” when its fundamental values are shared, and therefore when the codes it uses to express are the result of a free choice on the part of the people involved in that experience.
This leads us to believe that many of the codes currently in force (eg road, braille, international maritime, etc.) are not the result of a real convention between free people, but the imposition that groups of people ” powerful “(politically, economically, etc.) have exercised over the popular masses over the centuries.
Some codes are subject to change because at some point the hegemonic classes are forced to accept the changes that occurred spontaneously among the popular masses. In principle, the dominant power always tries to prevent changes from happening, but then, when they are so widespread that it has become impossible to ignore them, they feel compelled to accept them (think, for example, of the difference between European and English American or between these and the South African one).
The most immediate and direct code is the gestural one of the body. However, since this code does not exhaust the communication possibilities of humans, it is also the least suitable for expressing the complexity of human action.
Normally those who use gestures do so to synthesize concepts which, if expressed in oral or written language, would certainly be more complex.
Another characteristic of gestural language is its symbolic-evocative capacity, which is very strong precisely because those who use it know they can put it as an alternative to merely oral and written language.
The human being is not only made to gesticulate, but also and above all to speak. If we say that it is made to communicate, we would undoubtedly say a truth of a general nature, but specifically the particular communication that normally belongs to it is that of the word spoken with the voice. So much so that no comedian or tragic actor has ever limited himself to using simple gestures: from time to time he needed captions (if the film was silent), or at some point he felt the need to resort to words.
Everyone knows that the code of gestures is more universal than that of words, but it is also because it is simpler and therefore less suitable for expressing the complexity of our thoughts and emotions.
At this point we could ask ourselves if there will ever be a common universal language one day … To answer this question we should first ask ourselves if an immutable universal code makes sense.
The beauty of the language lies precisely in its perennial mutability, that is, in the ability to transform itself according to the needs of the speakers.
A common universal language can only be a second language, less complex than the first language, the mother tongue.
V) Noise and Redundancy
Any communication can be disturbed or even impeded: it is noise; or it can be facilitated and strengthened: it is redundancy.
“Noise” is a technical term, which refers to physical inconveniences: eg a hoarse or stammering voice from the broadcaster, or distraction or deafness from the recipient.
Even when the term intends to refer, in a more translated way, to a code that is too difficult or too obscure or to the excessive changeability of the referent – these are always technical problems.
In reality, the real obstacles to communication, those that can hardly be removed, as there is a stubbornly negative will, are those that place the established power between itself and the oppositions. For example, in the 70s a “gigantic noise” which diverted the attention of public opinion from the real (socio-economic and political) problems of the country, concentrating it towards those created in the best possible way (terrorism), was the so-called “strategy of tension”. Governments then in office used extremist forces (left and right) to induce belief that terrorism was the nation’s main contradiction, so the opposition would have to seek agreement with state institutions to defeat it, putting social claims are second.
Vice versa, the factors that facilitate or reinforce communication, acting on one of its elements, are called “redundancy”, which does not aim to increase the information contained in the message, but only to make it clearer.
Redundancy is typical of advertising or of certain teaching in schools. In some cases redundancy can help solve the problems caused by “noise”, but excessive redundancy most often produces the opposite effect, that is habituation, so instead of appearing as a specific medium in a particular situation, is perceived as a natural, normal, though annoying thing, and therefore to be avoided as much as possible.
Another case of absolutely unbearable redundancy is the repetitiveness of the news offered by the news, even of different broadcasters. More than 90% of the news are absolutely identical, and they are repeated with unnerving frequency, so much so that the viewer at some point puts them all on the same level: futile or tragic they are, they have the same little or no relevance for him.
The fact is quite curious, because journalism was born by inventing a concise, stringent literary style, in a certain sense “anti-literary” by definition. Its redundancy today is due to the fact that it has totally detached itself from people’s lives and has become an instrument that only discusses futile things or that uses futile language to talk about serious things. Journalism is the chatter par excellence and, like all chatter without construct, it is a redundant phenomenon as such.
Really useful redundancy is one that offers the same message differently (eg using an image instead of words, or using a simple image to explain a difficult concept). In such cases, redundancy can be used to shorten the time needed to understand the message, or to lengthen them, but only because we want to reach the maximum possible number of people.
In a certain sense, “noise” and “redundancy” are equivalent: they are instruments that the established power can use at its discretion at any time. Think, for example, of the concept of “democracy”. This concept is used as “noise” when we speak of “socialism” and is used as “redundancy” when we want to argue that capitalism has no alternative.
Everyone fills their mouths with this word, simply to show that they don’t want to get out of this system. “Democracy” has the same function that the word “God” had in the past. Were not massacres of heretics, holy wars, inquisitions, crusades… carried out in the name of “God”? Well, today we do the same things, in obviously different ways, using the word “democracy”. Opposition forces must in turn use “noise” and “redundancy” to obstruct those that legitimize the system.