9001. Discuss the difference between "communication," and "the study of communication."

9002. In this chapter we speak of the need to view communication as more than collections of "things." Why do we put the word "things" in quotation marks? What do the quotation marks communicate? (The marks themselves are "things" - or are they? What relationships and environments play a part in the use of quotation marks in communication?)

9003. Comment on the attributes, or qualities, of the "fish" mobile as listed in the illustration? Are all of these legitimate attributes? What additional attributes might the system have? You might begin your answer by looking up the word "quality" in the dictionary.

9004. We said, "a system is perpetually changing - it never comes to rest." Yet in the absence of any breeze at all, the "fish" mobile will certainly come to rest. Did we lie? Consider this question in light of the fourth part of the systems definition: "systems possess an environment."

9005. Contrast the definition of "system" given by Littlejohn with the one given by Gerald Weinberg in his book An Introduction to Systems Thinking.

A system is a collection of parts no one of which may change.

Which one do you prefer? Why?

9006. A bit of thought will show that the selection of the group of parts that comprise the system is arbitrary, or entirely up to us. There are other parts in the environment that could have been included in the system if we had decided to do so. Some believe that this means that a system is not a "real" thing that exists in the world apart from us; rather it is something that we invent to help us make sense of the world. Others believe that systems are real and do actually exist. What do you think about this?

9007. The strings and bars in the "fish" mobile confine each fish to a particular path. That is, there are only certain places a particular fish can go. Taken altogether, these paths are known as the state space of the mobile. This state space can be represented in a diagram, as shown next.

fish question

A. Notice that this state space diagram is missing information on the depth of each fish. Devise a way of adding that information to the diagram. Explain how the state space diagram can be used to demonstrate that the fish can never touch each other.

B. Try to develop a state space diagram for the mobile shown in this chapter. Why is this such a difficult task?

9008. Name some of the objects and relationships, describe the environment and explain how each of these systems changes over time

  1. Your digestive system
  2. The curriculum of your school
  3. Your family
  4. The educational system of the United States
9009. Imagine that a construction worker digging a ditch with a back hoe cuts the telephone cable near your house causing the telephone to go dead. Is this an example of noise?

9010. How might noise defeat the "spelling" checker of the computer upon which this document is being prepared?

9011. At one point in this chapter, the word "discovery" was purposefully misspelled. Is that instance an example of noise? Is it noise when a spelling checker tries to "fix" a word that you want to misspell?

9012. Consider one of our examples of non-human communication:

When someone steps out onto the beach in Oregon and the salt air touches their nose and the smell of the ocean comes into their mind, communication has happened.

In terms of the Shannon/Weaver model is this really communication? Can a receiver receive a message that was never transmitted?

9013. When we made this statement, "communication does not require the presence of human beings," we asserted that even if there were no people anywhere, the earth would still be here along with its plants and animals and communication would still exist. What do you think about that?

9014. Explain the idea of a "channel" in terms of

  1. Television
  2. Radio
  3. Traffic on a highway
  4. Aircraft warning lights
9015. In the North Church example, notice that the content of the signal transmitted is not identical to the content as interpreted by the receiver. What does it mean to say that "I got your message?" How might we insure that the message received is really what was sent?

9016. In the thermostat/heater example the content "less than 70deg." as transmitted means "turn on" to the receiver. Does this violate our definition of a "code?" Might there be an additional coding process inside of the heater that is not discussed in the example?

9017. What does it mean to say that an "incoming signal from the thermostat has significance to the heater?" How do we define the term "significance?" Give examples of communication that has no significance.

9018. Explain how the heater/thermostat system can be thought of as "talking to itself."

9019. Discuss this statement: Only human beings are able to engage in meaningful communication.

9020. Based on the expanded Shannon /Weaver model, define the term "message."

9021. Examine each of the five definitions of the word "communication" that are given in the dictionary entry at the beginning of this chapter. How do they contrast with one another? Which definition became the focus of the discussion in this chapter? Why do you suppose it was that one?

9022. Choose a fairly long document, such as a paper that you've written for a class -- make a copy of it on your word processing disk. Tell your spelling checker to change all occurrences of the string of letters CAT to DOG. Look at the results -- notice that words such as CATALOG, for example, are now DOGALOG. Now tell the spell checker to change all occurrences of DOG to CAT. Did this put everything back the way it was? Why not? (This aspect of the S/W model is called is called entropy. It is worth further investigation.)

9023. The following quotation is from Boulding 1985, p. 135.

[The genome] is able to select chemical structures from its environment and use energy to build these into more complex structures, which eventually constitute the living organism that it "knows how" to make. The exact process of "morphogenesis" by which, say, the egg becomes a chicken, ... is still a mystery, but clearly there is a communication here between some kind of structures in the genome and its environment that transfer information from the genome into the structures that it builds. ... [M]ere cell division would never produce a cell of another kind unless the genome has the capacity to communicate.

Investigate the process of "morphogenesis." In your opinion is this a communication process? Why or why not?

9024. Scientists report that some kinds of trees exude certain chemicals when they are under stress. Nearby trees may react to these chemicals and thus "prepare" themselves for potential danger. At the time these reports were announced, some media presented the story in terms of tree communication. Find these media stories and the associated scientific reports. In your opinion do trees communicate? Explain your answer.

9025. Some people talk to their plants. Is this communication? Explain why or why not?