Communications and Control

John R. Swartz
September 1997
Tokyo, Japan
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The world is undergoing an explosion in global communications which is augmenting the global transfer of information in education, finance, health, government and business. Increasingly, the computer is assuming the dominant role in global communications, and given its orders of magnitude growth in international communications, it is time to review the impact of computer mediated communications (CMC) as it relates to cross-cultural communications and distributed project management.

It is time to ask whether CMC helps or hinders global communications. Does it present a platform for the improvement in the transfer of data cross-culturally? Does it improve understanding between individuals and organizations of different cultures? Will it reduce or increase the potential for tension and misunderstanding? What impact will it make on the growing interest in distributed project management? And, what is the best way of utilizing this new medium in distance and cross-cultural communications?

Variables of Human Communications

Human communications is enormously complicated. It is made up of an almost unending array of variables, which include:

Human cognition, which is the act or process of knowing, and the way that an individual processes the coding, storing, and retrieving of information. It includes attention, perception, memory, reasoning, judgment, imagining, thinking, and speech.

Physical constraints, which limit communications potential, such as how well one can hear or see, or what their intellect is, or how fast or slow they can read.

Educational constraints, which determine at what level, in what topics and with whom an individual can, or prefers to, or has the opportunity to communicate.

Social and power constraints, which structure communication relationships, and how communications is conducted.

Subliminal communications, which support the existing message, unconsciously change the message, or create new ones.

Cultural constraints, which augment an individual’s perception of time, space and distance.

Technical constraints, which:

  1. Increase or decrease the potential to communicate;
  2. Change the interpretation of the information received through the choice of medium that is used;
  3. And, which can change the message through the method by which it is displayed, such as in the use of text, audio, video & photographic montage, or graphics.

There is mimicking, and body language, and para-language, and language itself, and vocabulary, and the language of the sane and insane, technical language, and religious language, and much more. Each of these areas is worthy of a study in its own right, and each could easily take up the remainder of this paper.

However; one of these topics by itself, is not communications, for communications is the confluence of them all, and understanding only one will not provide an understanding of human communications, much less an understanding of how computer mediated communications (CMC) impacts communications cross-culturally. It is for this reason, that we must briefly review these key aspects of human communications to provide a basis of discussion about the impact of CMC on cross-cultural communications.

This paper represents only a segment of my research on the nature of human/machine interface as it relates to communications and the development of optimal methods for the transfer of technical information. Here, I limit my discussion to an introductory review of the various elements of human communications as outlined above, all of which will be impacted by CMC; and the question of "what impact will CMC have on cross-cultural communications. I offer suggestions and submit questions on some issues that have not been discussed in the resource literature. This discussion of communications is weighted toward technical communications, but it is not discussed exclusively as such, because education, business and personal communications also share the same characteristics in terms of collaboration and the acquisition and transmission of knowledge.

Next Section: Understanding the Basis of Human Communications

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