The Web of Life (6) Communication


All poetry has to do is to make a strong communication. ~ English poet Stevie Smith

Communication is transmitting information. Neither reception nor behavior is necessary for communication to occur. A futile cry for help – to no reception – is still a communication.

Reception often differs from the intended signal; a dissonance known as miscommunication.

To signal is to intentionally send a communiqué. Signaling is necessarily reactive, in having an originating stimulus, though that stimulus may be nothing more than the passing of time.

As communication is often unintentional, volition does not belong in its definition. Communication may lie outside behavior, and, by logical extension, outside life itself. Nature is constantly communicating.

More mundanely, we tend to think of communication as being between beings. But communication is also within an organism: between cells, and even between molecules within cells. In all instances, the essence of communication is ecological information.

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Sensation is internal communication of sensed external stimuli and information about the quality of its reception: sensation includes the status of the sensory apparatus, as well as its substantive uptake. (Information about sensory quality typically goes unnoticed. It is only when our senses seem amiss, such as during sickness, do we become aware of that aspect of sensation.)

During perception, the mind symbolically synthesizes sensation, determining its meaning. Perception references knowledge, which may either be from experience or innate. Sensation and perception are both internal communications.

Behavior is driven by concepts which are deemed meaningful. Meaningless perceptions are ignored.

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To be in the world is to communicate. Such is the entanglement of life.

All behavior is communication. ~ American communication scholar Paul Watzlawick et al

Signaling sometimes involves a level of indirection. The fruit that advertises its ripeness is communicating on behalf of the seeds inside. Fruit past its prime is a different communiqué.

Flower advertisements and potential prey warnings are exemplary communications. Blossoms have nectar guides which communicate a beeline to a treat.

Patterns of high contrast on a flower are particularly attractive to bees. As all vision systems are keyed to contrast, flower patterning is an attribute of visual communication attuned to an intended receiver.

Flowers with conical petal cells, such as roses, provide adhesive grips that let a bee grab onto when it is windy. This is an example of communicated convenience as a morphological trait.

Indigestible animals sport loud spots, outrageous coloration, or other identification to ward off predation. Some free riders mimic the inedible species, to gain the same protection without packing the poison.

Mimicry is specific signaling. Though an unappreciated communiqué to all but its sender, camouflage is often not even a behavior.