As discussed in the previous blog article, the Shannon’s communication model is an influential model of communication that offers insights into how the communication process is designed. And, this model consists of five key elements: information source, transmitter, receiver, destination and noise. However, did you know that even this super model had limitations?
What Are the Limitations of the Shannon’s Model of Communication?
1. Communication Is Not Always Intentional
As per the Shannon’s model of communication, it is assumed that the information source always intentionally sends a message during the communication act. However, in reality, it is seen that many communications take place unintentionally and unintentional communication is always non-verbal. For instance, it usually takes place in forms that are displayed unconsciously, such as through physical posture, tone of voice, speech patterns, eye contact, hand gestures, facial expression and body language. Contrary to the Shannon’s model of communication, many experts believe that a considerable percentage of human communication is non-verbal or unintentional.
Let me give you one example: During a meeting between Draco and Ron (two business partners), if Draco crosses his arms, it denotes a gesture of defensiveness. Another example is if an employee slouches and shrinks back in his chair during an important business meeting, it will make him look less confident.
2. Applicability to the Different Levels of Communication
Another criticism of the Shannon’s model of communication is that it starts with an information source and ends with a destination. The communication model seems to apply more to person-to-person or interpersonal communication and is not suited for other forms of communication such as intrapersonal, small group, organizational, public and mass communication.
Suppose during an election campaign, a politician is addressing to the nation, this is a public communication and the Shannon’s model of communication cannot be applied to this form of communication.
3. One-Way Communication
Let’s observe again the flow of communication in the Shannon’s theory of communication. First, the process starts with the information source and then travels through the transmitter and receiver to reach the destination. As a result, it is noted that the model is based on a one-way process.
However, communication is a dynamic process where both senders and receivers can simultaneously receive and convey information. This is known as feedback. It can be in written, verbal, non-verbal or even a combination of all three. Feedback is a crucial element of communication as it helps to establish whether the targeted receive has been able to correctly decode and understand the message of the sender. In addition, feedback helps to determine the success and failure of the encoder’s ability to send a message and according to Bovee and Thill (1992), “Feedback plays an important role by indicating significant communication barriers: differences in background, different interpretations of words, and differing emotional reactions.”
For example, following a sender’s message, feedback can be in terms of a written message, a spoken comment or even a tiny smile.
Furthermore, the Shannon’s model of communication also assumes that the information source is active while the destination is passive.
4. Meaning of the Message
Another significant limitation of the Shannon’s model of communication is that it ignores the content of the message, which is one of the most critical elements in a communication process.
The content of a message refers to what people are communicating about. However, the absence of this crucial element in the communication model represents a significant problem.
For example, when the CEO of H.Potter company calls his secretary, the content of his message is: “Mr. Hagrid, please arrange for a meeting with all the team leaders right now!”
Despite receiving much criticism, this model is still being used by many in the field of communication. What is your view about it?