The Mathematical Theory of Communication by Claude Shannon and Warren Weaver

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The Mathematical Theory of Communication by Claude Shannon and Warren WeaverFor my research report, I read The Mathematical Theory of Communication by Claude Shannon and Warren Weaver. This book is an in-depth description of their theory. While I will focus mostly on Weaver’s translation and application of information, I will also touch on the theory’s core ideas as explained by Shannon.

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The information theory is the extentsion of Nyquist’s and Hartley’s origingal ideas on the subject. However, Claude Shannon includes new factors such as “the effect of noise in the channel, and savings possible due to statistical structure of the original message and due to the nature of the final destination of information.” Shannon’s ideas were based on the fundamental problem in communication, which he described as the “difficulty of reproducing at one point the message selected at another point.” The most significant aspect is that the actual message sent is one “selected from a set” of possible messages. A system had to be formed to work for each possible selection. Shannon also constructed the Linear Model of Communication. It is rare to see a communication text book that doesn’t include this model, or a model that is based on this one. However, modifications had to be made because Shannon and Weaver both overlooked the importance of feedback.

Warren Weaver helps us understand Shannon’s complex theory by explaining it in layman’s terms. Weaver uses the word “communication” in a broad sense to incorporate all the different ways one person’s mind could affect another. Basically, it encompasses all human behavior.Weaver simplistically describes the three levels of communication problems. The first level, Level A, is the technical problem. The technical problems deal with the transfer of sets of signals from sender to sender. These sets of signals could be as simple as written speech or as complex as telephone or television transmission.

The second level (Level B) is concerned with the understanding and interpretation of the meaning by the receiver when compared with the intended meaning of the sender. Level B is referred to as semantics problems.

Level C, the effectiveness problems, is the final communication problem. It is concerned with how well the meaning is conveyed to the receiver.Weaver goes on to describe numerous problems within each of the previous three. One of the major problems in each of these categories was that of entropy. Entropy may be simply defined as randomness.


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