A gentleman orders a coffee in a crowded cafe. The young woman in line behind him shoots a withering look at the rambunctious toddler tugging on her coat. From the radio blares an advertisement for a one-day sale at the mall. At a nearby table, a deaf couple signs to each other, while a teenager in the corner busily texts a friend on his cell phone. These situations all have one thing in common. They all involve communication.
Communication is the act of conveying information for the purpose of creating a shared understanding. It’s something that humans do every day. The word “communication” comes from the Latin “communis,” meaning “to share,” and includes verbal, non-verbal and electronic means of human interaction. Scholars who study communication analyze the development of communication skills in humans and theorize about how communication can be made more effective.
Humans convey information through a variety of methods: speaking, telephones, email, blogs, TV, art, hand gestures, facial expressions, body language and even social contexts. Communication can occur instantaneously in closed, intimate settings or over great periods of time in large public forums, like the Internet. However, all forms of communication require the same basic elements: a speaker or sender of information, a message, and an audience or recipient. The sender and recipient must also share a common language or means of understanding each other for communication to be successful. As such, a study of communication often examines the development and structure of language, including the mathematical languages used in computer programming.
The act of communicating draws on several interpersonal and intrapersonal skills. These include speaking, listening, observing, questioning, processing, analyzing and evaluating. Recipients of a message must be able to identify the sender’s intent, take into account the message’s context, resolve any misunderstandings, accurately decode the information and decide how to act on it. Such skills are essential to learning, forming healthy relationships, creating a sense of community and achieving success in the workplace.
As a field of study, communication spans a broad, rich array of subjects, including sociology, psychology, philosophy, political science, linguistics, history, literature, criticism and rhetoric. Although much of the field’s subject matter is theoretical in nature, communication studies have proven applicable to business, film, theater, composition, advertising, education, foreign policy and computer science.
In today’s globalized, media-driven world, communication studies have become more relevant and exciting than ever. Web developers seek new, inventive ways to draw Internet users to their websites. Public policy writers debate society’s most pressing issues. Through linguistics, computer scientists are developing programming languages that may someday allow humans to interact directly with computers. Students who earn degrees in communication often hold highly influential positions as journalists, editors, university professors, public relations officers, marketing consultants, speech writers, filmmakers, motivational speakers and political campaign managers. To communicate is to shape the world.
Interested in studying communication? Learn more about the communication major here.