The 4 Dimensions of Communication

by Chris Sheridan

Introduction: - 4 physical dimensions:

Just like the 4 dimensions of the physical world (yes, there are more than 4), there are 4 dimensions of human communication. To recap,

1st Dimension - a point, like this period.
2nd Dimension - a line, like this one_____, or area with length and width.
3rd Dimension - add vertical component - height, as in a cube or sphere. This is the one that is most familiar to us, especially for things up close.
4th Dimension - the space/time continuum. Space and time are inextricably linked - as in very long distances being measured in light-years.
E=mc2 - When an object (composed of matter and having mass) travels toward the speed of light and beyond, it becomes less physical and more energy. (It will turn into pure energy when the velocity hits the speed of light squared).

These dimensions apply directly to communication...

1st Dimension of Communication:- Internal dialog:

This is when we talk to ourselves - not out loud, but in our heads. It is our internal belief system that only we ourselves know about how we really feel about everything.

If we say: "I know I can get this job," or "I can ace my P.E. exam," or "I bowl about a 240," - we will! That's because we can say with reasonable assurity that we can do those things within our abilities.

Of course, the negative version of this works quite well, also. We sometimes keep ourselves from growing because we tell ourselves what we can and cannot do. "I can't figure this thing out," or "I'm not really a creative person - that's something you're either born with, or not," Saying these things can have a devastating effect!

It is also the images we play in our heads like thinking what it'd be like if we move to a new city, or run into an ex- at our own wedding, or what we would do if the apartment caught on fire.

In the 1st dimension, communication takes place instantaneously.

2nd Dimension of Communication:- One-to one:

Face to face interactions, such as talking with someone next to you. This form is limited to our senses - mainly the strength of our voices and ears. And, both parties need to be present for the message to be transferred. Once out of earshot, communication can no longer take place. Sign language, light, flag and smoke signals all fit in this category because one needs to be within visual range to get the message.

With technology, messages can be transmitted and received over distances beyond the reach of our senses. Messages have to be written or recorded on some media (such as a letter or newspaper) to be physically taken to the other person either by foot, horseback, boat or carrier pigeon. At this point, time becomes an issue and messages are not always timely. With technologies such as the telegraph and telephone, the messages do not need a physical form, although the devices and wires do. Now, the proximity factor is no longer relevant - messages travel great distances at nearly light-speed.

3rd Dimension of Communication: - One-to-many:

From public speaking to rock concerts, these messages can be received by several listeners/viewers in one locale, such as a movie theater or stage, but only come from one entity that has control over the content. The receiver can choose only from what is available, and the communication is mostly one-way, except for audience reaction.

With technology, one-to-many messages are broadcast by, radio, cable or satellite. In this dimension, one sender can transmit a message to many, many receivers simultaneously around the world. But without a live audience, the feedback is more removed, an therefore the communication is even more one-way.

In the 3rd dimension, time and distance again are not a significant factor, but timing is everything. The receiver has to be at the concert or near a radio or in front of a TV to get the message. Even if you tape a show with your VCR and watch it later, you still have to coordinate the machine with the airing schedule determined by the sender.

4th Dimension of Communication. - Many-to-many:

These messages (you are reading on now) are now possible with the Internet. Now, we can send a message that anyone else can receive from just about anywhere and at anytime - 24 hours a day. No longer do we have to wait for a show to come on, or a book to be returned from the library. E-mail travels as fast as a telephone, and you don't have to be at your mailbox to receive (or send) it. Timing is controlled primarily by the receiver, not the sender. And the sender can post an essay on the Web at 4:00 in the morning (like this one).

The Internet and WWW represent the massest of all mass media. Perhaps the most important difference from other mass media is that the Internet is unmediated media. More specifically, it is self-mediated media. We can send or receive the information we want, when we want it - and every book is always on the shelf of the world's largest library. And, we all have a voice - a microphone or billboard to share our thoughts to the world.

In the 4th dimension, time, distance and physical space are irrelevant, and now, timing is no longer necessary. Furthermore, even the physical form of the media is reduced to (almost) pure energy. Not only can previously physical objects appear in front of us instantly (14.4 's might suggest otherwise!!) - we ourselves can be non-physically teleported to anywhere in the world where there is a WebCam running and see live images of Amsterdam or Santa Cruz. Ultimately, it is our choice of when and where to go - and these decisions are made at the fastest speed in the universe - the speed of thought.


1996 - 2000 by Chris Sheridan For educational and information purposes only. If using in a paper, please reference the author and URL. If for commercial uses, please e-mail the author for permission.
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