posted Jun 14, 2003
in Communication Ethics

This entry is part of the BlogBook called "The Ethics of Modern Communication".

Communication Ethics book part for Example. (This is an automatically generated summary to avoid having huge posts on this page. Click through to read this post.)

Let me show you an example of this model applied to one of the most common Internet operations, a search engine query. Let's call the search engine S (for Search engine) and the person querying the engine P (for person). Let's assume P is already on the search engine's home page and is about to push "submit search".

  1. P (as sender) opens a connection to S (as receiver) via the Internet (the medium). P sends the search request (the message).
  2. S, which exists for the sole purpose of searching the Internet in response to such requests, accepts the connection, receives the request and begins processing it. In the past, the search engine has read a lot of web pages. It puts together the results and creates a new connection to P, who is now the receiver, using the Internet. It sends back the results.

    Technical people will note at this point that the same "network connection" is used, as TCP is both send and receive, so no new "network connection" is ever created. This is true on a technical level, but from this model's point of view, there is a new "connection"; what constitutes a "connection" does not always match the obvious technical behaviors.

On most search engine pages with most browsers, you'll also repeat this step for each graphic on the results page, loading a graphic that's on the page. In this case, the person P is the sender for the first connection, the company running the search engine S is the receiver for the first connection, and the medium is everything in between, starting at P's computer and going all the way to the search engine itself.

This model does not just apply to the Internet and computer-based communication. It applies to all communication. When you buy a newspaper, the newspaper is the medium, and the sender is the publisher. When you watch television, the television is the medium, and the television program station is the sender. When you talk to somebody, the air is the medium and the speech is the message. This is a very general and powerful model for thinking about all forms of communication.

 

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