Monday, 31 March 2008

Shannon and Weaver

Revisiting 'Shannon and Weaver', I've realised that my interests develop from Warren Weaver's paper.

It always pays to go back to the early papers in any field, and though I'd recently re-read Shannon's paper, I'd not gone back to Weaver. Weaver talks about three levels to the general communication problem:
  • Level A. How accurately can the symbols of communication be transmitted? (The technical problem.)
  • Level B. How precisely do the transmitted symbols convey the desired meaning? (The semantic problem.)
  • Level C. How effectively does the received meaning affect conduct in the desired way? (The effectiveness problem.)
(Shannon is primarily focussed on Level A.) I suspect that three levels is artificial - you could choose any number - but maybe is useful in practice. (Also of course the number three has religious significance, as in the trinity. You may mock, but I'm sure the OSI model has seven layers because of the religious/mystical significance of the number seven. It is certainly why we've identified seven colours in the rainbow, though it meant using 'indigo'!)

As I was reading, I was thinking 'ah, but he's not explicitly talked about context' and then there it was, a mention of context, exactly fitting with where I was coming from. Unfortunately I can't actually find it again, just at the moment... ("If I had a pound for every time I've seen something and not made a note of the reference..." Well, I was squashed on a crowded train at the time, among the 33 000 people travelling from Milton Keynes to Wembley to watch the MK Dons in the Johnston's Paint Trophy final, so it wasn't terribly convenient to take notes.)


Tony Hirst said...

"and not made a note of the reference..."

That's what folded corners are for, isn't it? ;-)

David Chapman said...

What's the smiley for 'horror!'

You mean damage an OU library book!!!!