Communication is "an apparent answer to the painful divisions between self and other, private and public, and inner thought and outer word." As this definition indicates, communication is difficult to define in a consistent manner, because it is commonly used to refer to a wide range of different behaviors, or to limit what can be included in the category of communication. John Peters argues the difficulty of defining communication emerges from the fact that communication is both a universal phenomena, and a specific discipline of institutional academic study.
One possible definition of communication is the act of developing meaning among entities or groups through the use of sufficiently mutually understood signs, symbols, and semiotic conventions.
In Claude Shannon's and Warren Weaver's influential model, human communication was imagined to function like a telephone or telegraph. Accordingly, they conceptualized communication as involving discrete steps:
The formation of communicative motivation or reason.
Message composition.
Message encoding.
Transmission of the encoded message as a sequence of signals using a specific channel or medium.
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