Communication and Media
There are four types of media that correlate to different methods of communicating. The media and communication methods are as follows:
- Text-based media and words.
- Audio-based media and voice.
- Imagery and sight.
- Haptics and touch.
Text-based media are any media that supports written communication composed of any of the following:
There are many communication systems that are text-based. Some are synchronous, assuming both parties are interacting with each other at the same time. These include:
- Instant messaging.
Other systems are asynchronous and assume the communicating parties are not interacting at the same time, so responses are not expected immediately. Asynchronous text-based communication includes:
- Discussion forums.
- Social networking.
- Traditional "snail" mail.
It is feasible for a method of written communication to be either synchronous or asynchronous, depending on whether or not the two parties are active in the discussion at the same time. An example of this is texting.
Audio-based media includes anything that incorporates sound to deliver the message. Audio-based media began when the first recordings were made on wax rolls and played over a phonograph. As technology improved, applications expanded.
Audio-based media emulate the natural voice, and the voice is a primary form of communication in face-to-face interactions. People are naturally comfortable with audio communications.
As with text-based media, audio-based media can also be separated into synchronous and asynchronous communication. Examples of synchronous audio include:
- Land line telephones.
- Cell phone.
- Internet (VOIP) phones.
- Short-wave radio.
- Audio conferencing.
- Transportation dispatching.
These are examples of asynchronous audio-based communication systems:
- Audio podcasts.
- Radio broadcasts.
- Internet radio.
Again, these are examples of the media's primary use. Many audio-based media may be used either synchronously or asynchronously, for example:
- A recorded call from a doctor or advertiser may be delivered over the phone.
- A bus dispatcher may communicate with a driver, or simply announce information.
Graphics and Imagery
The use of visual media in communication is powerful. Many people process visual information more quickly than textual information or audible information.
The expression "A picture is worth a thousand words" has much truth to it. Visual imagery is used to enhance communication when words alone are too cumbersome to explain concepts that are either:
Simple images are often used to communicate simple concepts that would require many words to communicate. These images may be used alone or in combination with other media, and include:
- Road signs.
- Warning signs.
- Computer icons.
- International symbols.
Images may also be used to communicate more complex concepts that are difficult to explain with words alone. These images are often combined with words, either in audible form or text form. The following are examples of complex concepts that are communicated through images:
- Architectural designs.
- Electrical or mechanical diagrams.
- Product assembly instructions.
Technology has opened the door to animated visuals as well. In colleges and universities, educational simulations are commonly used in online science classes.
Images are often used in published media, including online media, such as:
- Promotional material.
Common image types that are used in these publications are:
More complex images, graphics, and animated images are often combined with audio-based media because the combination of the two can closely simulate face-to-face communication. Examples of these combined media include:
- Slide show presentations with voiceover.
- Video podcasts.
- Video conferencing.
Haptics are a very interesting communication media. Haptics relate to the tactile, or the sense of touch. Haptic communication began as a way to replace communication through the usual senses of sight and sound.
- Braille has been in use since the 1800s for sight-impaired individuals.
- Communicating through touch is common for those who are both hearing and sight impaired.
Technology has increased the use of haptics in communication; primarily in the form of vibration. Beginning with computer gaming, haptics have been used in:
- Flight simulator chairs.
- Braille displays for the visually impaired.
- Mobile device vibrators.
Mobile device vibrators, like those used in wireless phones, provide a way to receive information privately about incoming phone calls, timers, alarms, and more.
Another example of haptic communication is the paging device used at some restaurants. These devices are given to the customers when they check in. When a table is ready for a customer, the device vibrates.
Simple vibrating tactical signals can communicate a number of different messages by varying:
- The length of the pulse.
- The intensity of the pulse.
- The number of pulses.
Haptic media are not commonly used in day-to-day interpersonal communications, but as we look to the future, tactile tools are likely to become more accessible for day-to-day virtual communications.