Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Communication methods

The table below outlines a way of categorising communication channels:

Fully shared (information visible to the full web and potentially to web crawlers, or in a public space)
Partially shared (information visible to wider group than just the defined recipient)
Private (information visible to only the defined recipient)
One-to-many (broadcast – the message has one sender but many recipients)
Twitter; Blogs; Comments on blogs; Content providers (News, Video, Podcasts, etc); Forum posts; Websites; Newspapers and Magazines; TV and Radio; out-of-home advertising
Private Twitter; Facebook status updates
Email; SMS; Facebook messages
One-to-one (one sender, one recipient)
Forum posts; Comments on blogs; Open letters; Twitter with @ tag
Facebook wall messages and “Likes”
Email; SMS; Facebook messages
Many-to-one (many senders, one recipient)
Online petition (Dear Mr. President...)
(as above where collaboration to prepared the communication)
(as above where collaboration to prepared the communication)
Many-to-many (many senders, many recipients)
(arguably all collaborative communication output)
(as above where collaboration to prepared the communication)
(as above where collaboration to prepared the communication)

There are two distinct concepts covered in the table above:
  • who information is to (intended for);
  • and who information is shared with.
In some cases, the recipient is only vaguely defined (e.g. a news publication), and the proportion of the population receiving the information (i.e. shared with) that is not the in intended for category is limited (e.g. reading a news article in a newspaper you've purchased that wasn't relevant to you).

In other cases, a message might ostensibly be for a particular recipient, but the communication with the wider group is more important to the communicator (e.g. trying to make an impression on the group via shared conversation with an individual).

There are three broad groups:
  • Defined recipient(s): where the recipient is clearly referred to in the communication or in the metadata of the communication. Defined recipients can be broken down into subgroups, for example email breaks defined recipients into “To:”, “CC:” and “BCC:”; Twitter breaks defined recipients into “@” recipient and followers.
  • Intended recipients: who the sender wants to pay attention to the information (may or may not align with the defined recipient)
  • Sharing group: who the sender wants to be able to access the information (information not presented to them, but is accessible to them)

Some key variables for describing communication tools
  • Public/Group/Private
  • One-to-one/One-to-Many/Many-to-one
  • Who intended for/who shared with
  • How access to groups is controlled (e.g. subscription, paywalls, friending/unfriending, following/unfollowing)
  • Aggregation (e.g. RSS)
  • Analogue/digital
  • Price paid to be a recipient or in the sharing group
  • Sensory medium (sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, etc)

From many

There are some interesting aspects to the from many communication channels. It could be argued that any collaborative output is a from many, for example if the from is considered to be the journalist and the editor that worked on an article, rather than the newpaper that published it.

In many cases, we make use of one-to-many communication tools for many-to-many communication: one person sends/publishes the output of the collaboration.

The question

What combination of communication channel variables is left untapped by existing communication tools?

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