Keeping it Simple: Communication Breakdown

In the sphere of information replication and mass communication, those messages which most succinctly and concisely convey meaning tend to be those which are most successful in self-propagation, regardless of the relationship of those messages to truth or fact.

In the sphere of information replication and mass communication, those messages which most succinctly and concisely convey meaning tend to be those which are most successful in self-propagation. The compression of information to short-form semantic packets for mass consumption invariably simplifies information content in ways which obscure or render ambiguous the facts or aspirational truths and complex realities which are being represented. Complex political, economic or scientific realities find themselves distilled into simple caricatures, memes, media bites or brief sequences of news-ticker representational sketches.

Overviews and generalised insights into complex issues provide useful and rapid methods of information transmission. The maintenance of coherent communications systems as a basis for successful social and cultural order mandates an organisational or procedurally structured capacity and aptitude to produce and transmit simple, reductive information packets. Unifying concepts of national identity, religious affiliation, ideological or political bias and innumerable other tribal or emotional affectations are key motifs in this context.

The compression process by which complex phenomena and social situations are filtered into simple and intuitive mnemonics is how cognition and intelligence (already) function to assure minimum viable comprehension and situational awareness for a generalised survival and selection bias in problem solving. Psychological attachment to simple narrative themes generates a reflexive internalised representation of those concepts around which self and meaning are layered in sedimentary orbits around, if not a single or simple symbol string and concept, at least a potential or virtual centralised node or semantic pivot. This central focal point of such a communications system provides some measure of certainty and meaning in an otherwise radically volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world.

A critical problem of mass communications that emerges from this compression process is that constant exposure to short-form narratives adversely influences the analytical aptitude of participant observers in the communications system. Having been presented with serially repetitive simplifications of complex realities, it becomes natural to both exist and to participate in the information environment at that level of cognitive method: blind-shuffling the prefabricated and easily-manipulated building blocks of reductive simplicity and superficiality. Mandatory acquisition of cognitive methods to facilitate rapid comprehension becomes an existential obligation in any complex communications system undergoing incessant and accelerating metamorphosis.

The opportunity for deep reflection and intelligent analysis continues to exist and is positively (if indirectly) reinforced by the iterating fractal edges of scientific research and an associated, considered rationality. The narrowing focus in specialisation through which seminal insights into the logical patterning of the world emerges tends to rely for comprehension upon a depth and circumspection rarely provided by the rank superficialities of a simple and semantic sentence or concept compression characterised by the popular media and entertainment culture. The inverse function of a focused complex rational investigation into the observed regularities and probabilistic patterns of the human (and wider) world is that distributed and simplistic caricature through which popular culture and mass communications interprets reality.

Concepts derived from sophisticated rational analyses are required in general to compete for attention in the gladitorial arena of white noise that is popular culture, social media and the proliferation of often unreliable and unashamedly biased news sources. An emergent property of such communications and information systems is that the successful self-propagation of simplistic messages and ideas through the cultural and technological medium of transmission generates recursive commercial and ideological selection mechanisms biasing the most effectively replicated information. In this way, actual facts and their derivable truths are always already inhibited because the ongoing entrainment of Global populations to rapidly assess, decide and affiliate based on partial or compressed and accelerated forms of representation privileges reduced complexity and minimally-difficult extractable information content.

There is probably no simple way to articulate or expain this dynamic. There is no irreducible or concise short-form explanation that is easily communicated and understood by everyone in ways which provide broadly applicable insights and conceptual tools or suggestions for improved cognitive practice. This problem of even communicating the problem (of communication) is also reflective of a central thesis here: the requisite conceptual intelligence and comprehension required to successfully negotiate or remediate our world is actively inhibited and obscured by the incumbent cognitive methods required to participate in the system of mass communication and information transmission.

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