Saturday, October 30, 2010

On Communication

Spaceship Earth

This fall for my fifth wedding anniversary to my lovely wife, we went to Disney World and Universal's  Islands of Adventure (to go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter).  While at Epcot we went on Spaceship Earth, the newly redone ride in the big sphere.  The ride was very interesting as it tells the history of the mankind.

The theme running through the ride (at least to me) was that of the evolution of communication.
Spaceship Earth starts with the dawn of human kind, humans hunting by themselves, it then goes on to say the first breakthrough was people working together to hunt.  From groups hunting we have tribes, then towns, cities, and countries forming.  All-a-long this forming of larger groups of people we find people sharing information as key to progress.  This progress spans from: early cave drawings, to papias writings, books, universities, libraries, and finally computers with large databases and other means of storage.  A very interesting way of looking at the history of mankind.

Basic Patterns of Communication

Spaceship Earth got me thinking again about something I've been thinking about since my undergrad at NIU, there are really only two forms of communications, information sharing and information downloading.

Information Sharing

Information sharing, to me, is anytime you have more than one entity sharing information.  Example of this are a conversation among two people.  A conversation is when all parties are speaking and thinking about what each other are saying and are forming a pool of shared meaning and knowledge, all parties gain knowledge and insight from this conversation and leave it with more knowledge than before it took place.

In the picture above we have two people, Jim and Cindy (my parents) communicating back and forth with each other.  We could easily abstract this to two computer systems communicating as shown below.

There is no difference in the pattern between Jim and Cindy speaking and Chrome and Google communicating, they both share information back and forth and leave the conversation with more knowledge than when they entered it (true you could say that Chrome and Google do not gain anything, but they could if they wanted to and sometimes do, i.e. browser cookies and web server analytics).

Information Downloading

Information downloading, again to me, is anytime one entity is obtain information from an information storage.  This storage can take any form: a book, database, or even a teacher.  In this form of communication only one entity gains anything from the communication, the storage gains nothing.  An example of this would be a presentation, in the typical presentation the presenter gains no new knowledge on the presentation they are giving, but the observers of the presentation gain the knowledge being presented.

In this picture we have myself presenting a topic to an audience.  Since I am just presenting, I am not gaining any new knowledge on the topic while (I hope) the audience is gaining new knowledge about the topic being presented.  This can be abstracted to web service and a database as shown below.

There is no difference between Mike and the audience or GetParty web service and the Party Details database, both the audience and GetParty are downloading information from Mike and Party Details.  In both cases Mike and the Party Details database gain nothing from the exchange.