Communication, Information, and Pragmatics

Communication, Information, and Pragmatics

Adriana Braga (Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) and Robert K. Logan (Ontario College of Arts and Design, Canada & University of Toronto, Canada)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 10
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2255-3.ch102
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The context in which the information is interpreted is the only way that the meaning that was intended by the sender can be understood by the receiver, but the meaning that the receiver attaches to the information sent by the sender will always vary to some degree (Chan, Walker & Gleaves, 2015; Gibbs et al, 2015; Gui & Argentin, 2011; Introna & Nissenbaum, 2000). Because the ‘user is the content’ all communication is miscommunication to a certain degree. Perfect communication is an ideal that all communicators strive to achieve through the art of rhetoric. To sum up what we have just posited: information is required for communication but does not necessarily result in communication and never results in perfect communication. The extra ingredient that is required to transform information into communication is context or pragmatics, which is never perfect. Recent methodological innovations try to account for the pragmatics on digital environments (Boyd and Crawford, 2012; Hine, 2005; Lee and Chen, 2015).

In this article we will first examine the meaning and significance of information, which will entail a critique of Shannon Information Theory. We will show it is really a theory of the transmission of signals. We describe how MacKay and Bateson with their respective formulations of “information is the distinction that makes a difference (MacKay, 1969)” and “information is the difference that makes a difference (Bateson, 1973)” adds the element of meaning to the definition of information. We then examine the proposition of Kauffman, Logan et al. (2007) that organization is a form of information and that life entails the propagation of organization.

Assuming that it is not possible not to communicate, we emphasize the pragmatic dimension of communication. We argue that ‘information,’ ‘communication’ and ‘social interaction’ are inseparable elements of production of meaning, even if analytically they can be conceived as independent concepts. Thus, as in any communication there are three simultaneous dimensions operating as a system – syntactic, semantics and pragmatics, and it is also the case that ‘information,’ ‘communication’ and ‘social interaction’ are operating as a system. In this sense, speech acts owe their meaning to performances in the context of what information the sender sends, the interpretation of the receiver and the social context that exists between the sender and the receiver. We argue that, from the differential emphasis on the syntactic, semantic or pragmatic dimensions of communication, lies a major difference between models for the theory of communication: communication as transmission of information or communication as a relational activity.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Knowledge: The ability to use information strategically in a social context to achieve one’s objectives.

Social Interaction: Mutual action and/or influence among co-participants of the same social situation.

Communication: A symbolic process whereby the social reality is produced, understood, maintained and updated in a given situation. Communication is the mediation that allows collective social action. Communication is contextualized information through pragmatics.

Information: Structured, organized data. It is composed by syntax and semantics, that is, with reference to a code and to a given meaning.

Naturalistic Perspective: Empiricist approach of the Social Sciences based on the premise of collecting data essentially from “natural” situations, those that happen despite of the presence or participation of the researcher.

Pragmatics: A discipline that stands between Philosophy and Linguistics, and tries to define to which degree the human sense of ‘reality’ is determined by language. The production of meaning is oriented to action, and that the idea of what a thing ‘is’ lies on the sum of the effects that can be conceived as possible from it. Pragmatics is the use of social context to assist meaning.

Data: The pure and simple facts without any particular structure or organization, the basic atoms of information.

Wisdom: The capacity to choose objectives consistent with one’s values and within a social context.

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