We have so far given a brief description of communication. Let us now go on to understanding who the actors are.

First of all, there are two actants: Sender and Receiver, without whom there would be no communication process.

These two actants exchange ideas, emotions and feelings, expressed in the message.

The sender initiates the communication process, is responsible for the transmitted meaning, decides who the receiver is, the style, channel or means of communication, subject to treat, and signs and codes to use, in order for them to be interpreted and digested by the receiver.

The sender, therefore, chooses the signs, but can only predict the meaning they will be given by the receiver.

It is, in fact, the receiver who ultimately uses and interprets the signs produced by the sender. And only if the sender has chosen his icons, symbols and codes well, will the receiver be able to absorb the knowledge and emotions that the sender meant to convey.

If the receiver fails to interpret the signs sent, the result is entropy, loss of information and misunderstanding of the message.

Here is an example to understand this concept better:
  1. A young designer draws a sketch.
  2. An expert patternmaker uses the sketch to create a pattern, that is, the shape on paper of the garment envisioned by the designer
  3. The designer sees the sample cut and tailored according to his pattern and yells: “but I had designed an evening dress, not a dressing gown”
  4. The patternmaker replies “Ah, then why didn’t you add the horizontal stripes to your sketch?”
This is a clear case of a misunderstanding. The sender/designer used a series of visual signs and codes to his choice, which proved to be a failure.

What were the missing elements that prevented the patternmaker/receiver from understanding the intended meaning of the designer’s sketch?

Perhaps a lack of certain visual signs that the patternmaker was expecting, which the inexperience and the tender age of the designer prevented him from recognizing as essential visual elements in the transmission of the concept, of his idea of “evening dress”.

The patternmaker, in fact, realized his misunderstanding thanks only to the young designer’s complaints.

This is hardly ever the case.

Seldom does the sender have a second chance to realize his misinterpretation and make amends, especially when there is no interpersonal or direct relationship to communicate through and communication is filtered through a medium such as television, the press or the Web.

If the designer had not been able to instantly make amends (and question) his creation transformed into a garment, and if that garment had been put into production and presented through a video or an advertisement in the press or on the Web, it would have been classified and perceived by the public/receiver as a “dressing gown”, despite the sender/designer’s intention of presenting it as an original evening dress.

But if the public had been interested in this type of “evening dress” would it have ever considered the designer’s creation, which appeared to present a different item?

It would have been a wasted business opportunity based on an initial misunderstanding caused by a misuse of visual signs.

This is one of the axioms of communication: the meaning of a “text”, therefore also of dress, is not produced solely by the sender, but is built together with the receiver, whose role is to decode the signs transmitted by the sender.

The meaning, therefore, of a text, message or sign, does not exist objectively in itself, but is always a subjective product of the receiver’s interpretation.

Another important element is that the figure of the sender does not refer to one person only, but to a series of persons. It is a role, a function.

In the foregoing case, the sender was the fashion house, formed of the designer, patternmaker, tailors and the communication department.

The same applies to the receiver, who was initially the patternmaker only, followed by the patternmaker and the tailors, in relation to the sender/designer then, ultimately, the public, in relation to the fashion house.

The basis, therefore, of any communication process is a relationship.

The sender has the challenging task of learning to use the most appropriate signs for every occasion, in relation to its target or to its “model receiver”, depending on the intentions.

Mistakes in choosing and using signs and codes prevent the sender from transmitting his thought, generating misunderstanding, therefore, miscommunication.

All this is obviously amplified when using mass media.


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