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07 JUNE 2015

Ferdinand de Saussure: Place of Language in the Facts of Speech

"In order to separate from the whole of speech the part that belongs to language, we must examine the individual act from which the speaking-circuit can be reconstructed. The act requires the presence of at least two persons; that is the minimum number necessary to complete the circuit. Suppose that two people, A and B, are conversing with each other [see figure 1 below].

Suppose that the opening of the circuit is in A's brain, where mental facts (concepts) are associated with representations of the linguistic sounds (sound-images) that are used for their expression. A given concept unlocks a corresponding sound-image in the brain; this purely psychological phenomenon is followed in turn by a physiological process: the brain transmits an impulse corresponding to the image to the organs used in producing sounds. Then the sound waves travel from the mouth of A to the ear of B: a purely physical process. Next, the circuit continues in B, but the order is reversed: from the ear to the brain, the physiological transmission of the sound-image; in the brain, the psychological association of the image with the corresponding concept. If B then speaks, the new act will follow-from his brain to A's-exactly the same course as the first act and pass through the same successive phases, which I shall diagram as follows [see figure 2 below].

The preceding analysis does not purport to be complete. We might also single out the pure acoustical sensation, the identification of that sensation with the latent sound-image, the muscular image of phonation, etc. I have included only the elements thought to be essential, but the drawing brings out at a glance the distinction between the physical (sound waves), physiological (phonation and audition), and psychological parts (word-images and concepts). Indeed, we should not fail to note that the word-image stands apart from the sound itself and that it is just as psychological as the concept which is associated with it. "

(Ferdinand de Saussure, Charles Bally, Albert Sechehaye, Albert Riedlinger, Wade Baskin, p.11, 12)

Ferdinand de Saussure, Charles Bally, Albert Sechehaye, Albert Riedlinger, Wade Baskin (1966). "Course in General Linguistics", McGraw-Hill Book Company, New York Toronto London.




1966 • acoustical sensation • Albert Riedlinger • Albert Sechehaye • audition (linguistics) • audition phonation circuit • brain • Charles Bally • circuitcommunication processcommunication theory • Course in General Linguistics (1966) • dialogic • ear • Ferdinand de Saussurehuman expressionimagelanguagelinguistic philosophy • linguistic sounds • linguistics • mental facts (concepts) • messagemodel of communicationmouth • muscular image of phonation • phonation (linguistics) • phonation and audition • physiological process • physiological transmission • psychological association • psychological phenomenon • sound waves • sound-image • speaking-circuit • speechtheory of communication • Wade Baskin • word-image


Simon Perkins

The now discredited hypodermic needle model of communication

"The Hypodermic Needle Theory is a linear communication theory which suggests that media messages are injected directly into the brains of a passive audience. It suggests that we're all the same and we all respond to media messages in the same way.

This way of thinking about communication and media influence is no longer really accepted. In the 1930s, many researchers realized the limitations of this idea and some dispute whether early media theorists gave the idea any serious attention at all. Nevertheless, The Hypodermic Needle Theory continues to influence the way we talk about the media. People believe that the mass media has a powerful effect. Parents worry about the influence of television and violent video games. News outlets run headlines like 'Is Google making us stupid' and 'Grand Theft Auto led teen to kill'."

(Brett Lamb, 12 April 2013)



1930sArthur Bergerassumptions • attitudinal attributes • behaviour systemsbehaviourism • Bernard Berelson • biologically based theory • communication theoryconceptual model • David Croteau • Dennis Davis • discredited theory • Elihu Katz • Hadley Cantril • Hazel Gaudet • Herta Herzog • human instinct • human nature • hypodermic needle model • hypodermic needle theory • hypodermic-syringe model • infusion • injection • James Tankard • linear communication theory • magic bullet theory • mass communicationmedia • media gun • media influence • mental imagemessagemodel of communication • obsolete theory • passive audience • Paul Lazarsfeld • propaganda • shooting metaphor • sitting duck • situational attributes • Stanley Baran • theory of communication • transmission-belt model • unidirectional flow • uniformly controlled • Werner Severin • William Hoynes


Simon Perkins
15 JUNE 2012

Audience Research: Reception Analysis

"Despite the (implicit) nominal link to the work on what is also called 'Reception Theory', within the field of literary studies, carried out by Wolfgang Iser, Hans Jauss and other literary scholars (particular in Germany), the body of recent work on media audiences commonly referred to by this name, has on the whole, a different origin, although there are some theoretical links (cf., the work of Stanley Fish) than the work in literary theory. In practice, the term 'reception analysis', has come to be widely used as a way of characterising the wave of audience research which occurred within communications and cultural studies during the 1980s and 1990s. On the whole, this work has adopted a 'culturalist' perspective, has tended to use qualitative (and often ethnographic) methods of research and has tended to be concerned, one way or another, with exploring the active choices, uses and interpretations made of media materials, by their consumers.

As indicated in the previous discussion of 'The Media Audience', the single most important point of origin for this work, lies with the development of cultural studies in the writings of Stuart Hall at the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies at the University of Birmingham, England, in the early 1970s and, in particular, Hall's widely influential 'encoding/decoding' model of communications (see the discussion of 'The Media Audience' for an explanation of this model). Hall's model provided the inspiration, and much of the conceptual framework for a number of C.C.C.S' explorations of the process of media consumption, notably David Morley's widely cited study of the cultural patterning of differential interpretations of media messages among The 'Nationwide' Audience and Dorothy Hobson's work on women viewers of the soap opera Crossroads. These works were the forerunners of a blossoming of cultural studies work focusing on the media audience, throughout the 1980s and 1990s, including, among the most influential, from a feminist point of view, the work of Tania Modleski and Janice Radway on women consumers of soap opera and romance, and the work of Ien Ang, Tamar Liebes and Elihu Katz, Kim Schroder and Jostein Gripsrud on international cross cultural consumption of American drama series, such as Dallas and Dynasty.

Much of this work has been effectively summarised and popularised, especially, in the United States by John Fiske, who has drawn on the theoretical work of Michel de Certeau to develop a particular emphasis on the 'active audience', operating within what he terms the 'semiotic democracy' of postmodern pluralistic culture. Fiske's work has subsequently been the object of some critique, in which a number of authors, among them Budd, Condit, Evans, Gripsrud, and Seamann have argued that the emphasis on the openness (or 'polysemy') of the message and on the activity (and the implied 'empowerment') of the audience, within reception analysis, has been taken too far, to the extent that the original issue––of the extent of media power––has been lost sight of, as if the 'text' had been theoretically 'dissolved' into the audience's (supposedly) multiple 'readings' of (and 'resistances' to) it.

In the late 1980s, there were a number of calls to scholars to recognise a possible 'convergence' of previously disparate approaches under the general banner of 'reception analysis' (cf. in particular, Jensen and Rosengren), while Blumler et al. have claimed that the work of a scholar such as Radway is little more than a 're–invention' of the 'uses and gratifications' tradition––a claim hotly contested by Schroder. More recently, both Curran and Corner have offered substantial critiques of 'reception analysis'––the former accusing many reception analysts of ignorance of the earlier traditions of media audience research, and the latter accusing them of retreating away from important issues of macro–politics and power into inconsequential micro–ethnographies of domestic television consumption. For a reply to these criticisms, see Morley, 1992."

(David Morley, The Museum of Broadcast Communications)



1970s1980s1990sactive audience • active choices • activity • American drama series • Anna-Maria Seemann • audienceaudience research • Billy Budd • Celeste Condit • Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studiescommunication theorycommunications and cultural studiesconsumersconsumption • Crossroads (television series) • cultural patterning • cultural studies • culturalist perspective • Dallas (television series) • David Morley • differential interpretations • domestic television consumption • Dorothy Hobson • Dynasty (television series) • Elihu Katz • Elizabeth Evans • empowerment • encoding/decoding • ethnographic researchfeminist perspective • Hans Jauss • Ien Ang • international cross cultural consumption • interpretation • James Curran • Janice Radway • Jay Blumler • John Corner • John Fiske • Jostein Gripsrud • Karl Erik Rosengren • Kim Schroder • Klaus Jensen • literary scholarship • literary studiesliterary theory • macro-politics and power • MBC • media • media as text • media audience • media audience research • media audiencesmedia consumption • media messages • media power • media studiesmedia textmessageMichel de Certeau • micro-ethnographies • micro-ethnographies of domestic television consumption • model of communication • multiple readings • Museum of Broadcast Communicationsopennesspolysemy • postmodern pluralistic culture • powerqualitative research methods • reader-response criticism • reader-response theory • reception analysis • reception analysts • reception theory • romance • semiotic democracy • soap opera • Stanley Fish • Stuart Hall • Tamar Liebes • Tania Modleski • television • television consumption • textUnited StatesUniversity of Birmingham • uses and gratifications • Wolfgang Iser • women consumers • women viewers


Simon Perkins
15 MARCH 2011

A simple abstract model of human communication

"One of the first designs of the information theory is the model of communication by Shannon and Weaver. Claude Shannon, an engineer at Bell Telephone Laboratories, worked with Warren Weaver on the classic book 'The mathematical theory of communication'. In this work Shannon and Weaver sought to identify the quickest and most efficient way to get a message from one point to another. Their goal was to discover how communication messages could be converted into electronic signals most efficiently, and how those signals could be transmitted with a minimum of error. In studying this, Shannon and Weaver developed a mechanical and mathematical model of communication, known as the 'Shannon and Weaver model of communication'. ...

Shannon and Weaver broadly defined communication as 'all of the procedures by which one mind may affect another'. Their communication model consisted of an information source: the source's message, a transmitter, a signal, and a receiver: the receiver's message, and a destination. Eventually, the standard communication model featured the source or encoder, who encodes a message by translating an idea into a code in terms of bits. A code is a language or other set of symbols or signs that can be used to transmit a thought through one or more channels to elicit a response in a receiver or decoder. Shannon and Weaver also included the factor noise into the model. The study conducted by Shannon and Weaver was motivated by the desire to increase the efficiency and accuracy or fidelity of transmission and reception. Efficiency refers to the bits of information per second that can be sent and received. Accuracy is the extent to which signals of information can be understood. In this sense, accuracy refers more to clear reception than to the meaning of message. This engineering model asks quite different questions than do other approaches to human communication research."

(Communication Studies, University of Twente)

Shannon, C.E., & Weaver, W. (1949). The mathematical theory of communication. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

Hawes, L.C. (1975). Pragmatics of analoguing: Theory and model construction in communication. Reading, MA: Addison–Wesley.

Fig.1 Mathematical (information) model of communication.



abstract modelabstractionaccuracyBell LabsBell Telephone LaboratoriesClaude Shannon • communicating system • communicationcommunication processcommunication theorydisorderefficiencyentropyfidelity • human communication research • information technologyinformation theorymeaning makingmessagemodel of communicationnoise • output • pioneeringpredictabilityrandomness • receiver • reception • redundancysignalsymbolsystems approachsystems theorytheory of communication • transmission • transmission model of communicationtransmitter • University of Twente • Warren Weaver


Simon Perkins

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