Monday, October 20, 2008

Passive Communication

I have always regarded communication to be central to human endeavor and to be playing a key role in crafting the civilization we all are part of today. Communication dates back to the times when meaningful exchange of symbols among humans gave rise to societies, eventually to language and culture and heritage. Communication has paved the way towards sharing of knowledge, evolution of novel ideas to even the point of the myriad scientific discoveries.

What strikes to us at the very first moment when we hear someone talking about communication is a group of people sitting face to face and conversing. In fact this has really been the traditional way to think about human communication since a long time. However, communication does not need to be an active exchange of meaningful words through some agreed upon language. Communication can be passive - modes by which certain information percolates in a society via variegated media.

I am talking about passive communication when you borrow a book from the library. When it happens to be a very old torn book, you would often find that several parts of the book are marked, underlined with ink, notes written on the margins, or pages folded by their corner for future reference. What do all these cues tell us? What kind of information is being conveyed to us through these passive, non-sequential, sporadic bursts of "hints"?

I would label this "passive communication". Communication which need not be based on some language. Communication which is not intended to cater to an individual or to an audience. Communication which percolates through time, non-periodically. Communication which does not associate itself with any feedback mechanism to the communicator.

I believe such passive communication plays a significant role in crafting our thoughts, and caters to emergence of newer meanings with time and with multi-faceted individuals. When you see a couple of sentences marked in ink in a long densely typed page of a library book, you immediately know they are key ideas. Even before knowing the context of the entire page, such passive communication cues give you an idea of the content of that page.

This kind of passive communication is extremely rich in my opinion. Because their analysis can lend us interesting insights into how thoughts have evolved with respect to that book. And the dynamics of thought process are central to understanding our society. Because a society gradually moves towards progress when it generates a collective thought out of all these miniature passive communication cues hidden under the piles of text since time immemorial.

1 comment:

alok said...

Can we imagine a world without any communication? Impossible so... The latest trends are for building a strong networked communication, say it technology-wise or anything … it is the most significant part. And undoubtedly passive communication has a very important role to play in it. You gave a very nice example.