The Evolution of Communication – Different Views of Freedom

The International Yoga Day logo, showing a woman in lotus position before a rising sun

International Yoga Day celebrates the physical and spiritual prowess that yoga has brought to the world stage. For many, the routines are a way to connect the body, mind and soul in a way that has existed for centuries. Do we also experience this power of freedom and connections in communications nowadays?  Seeking the answer to this question first brought us to the communications department of the Attorney General’s office in Phoenix, Arizona, as a part of this year’s SUSI Scholars program. Deputy Chief Attorney General Daniel Barr, who believes in building relationships, forging collaborations and helping people improve their work by anticipating their needs, joined us in our discussions about evolving communication. He believes that the most influential thing is to understand the audience that is in front of you: what does their environment look like? what messages do they need? how does one anticipate their need for credible information.

The scholars around the table in Room 444
SUSI scholars collaborating after the day’s discussions

Communications at the Attorney General’s Office 

Richie Taylor, communications director, believes in learning the voice of the person that you represent. This will reveal individual perspectives in relation to the shared purposes of the office, thus creating the starting point for effective communications. The steps that need to be taken should be clear and measured from the beginning.  

“Know the voice, and become the voice” says Ellen Pierce, digital communications director. This gives you the ability to tell the story how it needs to be told. Continuous education of internal and external audiences is essential for effective communication. Human communication and the use of technology (e.g., artificial Intelligence and interactions on social media platforms) give different perspectives on the evolution of communications. Communicators nowadays are continuously in motion to find solutions for reaching their audiences. A demand for information creates a constant struggle to achieve this communication freedom. 

Trustworthiness versus Credibility

Writing speeches, making videos, using different communication tools and platforms can be essential for effective communication, but listening to audiences is the main reason that there is a demand for communication. Being able to understand this demand provides freedom in communications, because there is not a single formula for communicating with an audience or reaching a communication goal. Finding the specific solution for messaging about a subject, a cause, a person, an office, or anything else broadens paths to communication.

Communication professionals around the world explore this freedom all the time. They maintain that momentum in new technologies for reaching audiences, as they are continuously confronted with situations where everyone knows how to communicate in this technological era. Memes with misinformation or disinformation are also constant communication challenges now. This combined with the trustworthiness of the sender, who can use their power to inform audiences all around the world. Audiences should be more aware of the credibility of a message: who is behind the message, who is the source, and whether it is a credible source for the specific subject. Even if the sender is trusted, audiences should be aware that this is not a guarantee of credible information.

Different Views of Freedom in Communication

Professionals around the world evolved into this freedom in communications and joined the discussion about the evolution of communications. 

  • Firly from Indonesia says, “The internet and multichannel media systems have greatly increased the potential of viewers to customize their media consumption. This has led to ongoing fragmentation of media audiences. This suggests that the fragmentation of shared media experiences challenges existing theories of media exposure and effects to people in society.”
  • Tirse from Turkey believes it depends on the society, particularly in the online realm. “Especially after the pandemic, there have been significant changes. However, there are several issues to consider. In the case of a highly polarized country like Turkey, people are trapped in the information bubbles they have created. Consequently, they fail to acknowledge and listen to other perspectives, which undermines pluralism.”
  • Rakib from Bangladesh says that people across the globe are constantly adapting themselves to emerging communication technologies in receiving both required and not-so-required information and engaging in their everyday communications. Since the turn of the 21st century, but increasingly in the past two years, people have been constantly seeking to master some techniques for finding and consuming information on internet platforms such as social networking sites, news portals, e-mail, messaging channels, and simlar. People have continued to use internet-based communication platforms and social media networks for interpersonal, group, and mass communication.
  • Eman from Eqypt talked about changes over the last 5 years. In terms of demographics, young people mainly depend on social media, primarily using TikTok and YouTube. Older demographics (ages 30 to 50) are using social media–particularly Facebook–in addition to TV talk shows. Regarding the issues, things vary a bit because Egyptians regardless of age depended mainly on TV (especially international channels) during the revolution. But during Covid-19, things ranged between using social media as the primary source of information, which affected decision making regarding vaccines and also depended on national TV channels.
  • Myat from Myanmar noticed that more social media channels are being used in the past two years after the pandemic. Actual news and information is mostly received by various audiences through social media. And audiences over the age of 50 get their information via radio and television. 
  • In Taiwan people turn to social media to receive information or communicate with others, says Felicity. For starters they consume information in text with the addition of interesting or attractive photos; but on other platforms they are now attracted to short stories or videos. The lack of ability to read long passages leads other ways of communicating effectively, i.e. the trend of memes and short stories to reach the same audiences as mentioned above.
The different views of each country confirm the freedom of audiences to choose a channel for information, and emphasize the importance of targeted communication. It’s not only what we want to communicate about and how this goal is reached, but about how we bring the message to where the audiences are.
  • Hassan from Lebanon observed the growth of social media platforms for news and information, which often leads to misinformation or disinformation. The use of WhatsApp groups is a great example, where all kind of information is spread and audiences depend on these platforms for information and actual news.
  • As for Cambodia, Sokhen explained that citizens depend on social media, mainly Facebook, to receive and share information nowadays. They can access the internet as it is affordable and accessible in the country. TikTok is the new trend among young Cambodians who like to be entertained and also share viral content. Social media is the hot new way to consume and share information for formal and informal communication.
  • Peter from Slovakia was a bit skeptical about the evolution of communication and says that in his opinion, people use personal communication less and less. They do not hear each other properly, and the ability to understand a text is a big challenge. The younger generations even lose the skills they need to write with understanding. Therefore, the quality of communication is going down, but at the same time used as a starting point for media in our society. “Social networks make our communication simpler and quicker. Nevertheless, in the words of Mr. Richard Ruelas, reading headlines and subhead lines, watching simple entertainment videos, quickly skimming TV news in the evening or reading media articles during the day, doesn’t make us really informed. Nevertheless, we feel informed, because we heard some emotional bombastic message that overwhelmed everything for that day and overshadowed current affairs.
The scholars pose for a group selfie at The Yard in Phoenix
SUSI scholars from 5 continents celebrate together at The Yard in Phoenix
  • Mariana from Ukraine thinks that social networks have made incredible changes in the ways people communicate with each other and get their information. In Ukraine, Telegram has become the main source of information for the current situation over the last two years. A wide variety of social networks are used for corporate communications such as Messenger, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and email.
  • The Covid-19 pandemic undeniably marked a turning point in the use of information and communication technologies, amplifying the adoption of online conferencing tools and distance learning platforms for Brazil, says Carmem. Many companies embraced the option for their employees to work remotely, strengthening the significance of these technological advancements. Nevertheless, this trend will not prevail as the dominant norm. Ultimately, people yearn for genuine social interaction and connectivity after a prolonged period of isolation, and remote work has burdened many workers with an overwhelming workload that also influences their way to communicate.
    Regarding personal communication, the consumption of information and news, the past couple of years have brought both positive and negative elements. On one hand, the accessibility and sharing of information has been greatly facilitated through various apps and social platforms. On the other hand, this ease of access has fostered an increasingly toxic environment with misinformation, overexposure to personal/private information, and an overwhelming overload of data and information that can detrimentally impact our well-being. In the light of these circumstances, it becomes crucial to find a good balance between harnessing the benefits of technological advancements and safeguarding the mental and physical health. By carefully studying the digital landscape, we can ensure that technology remains a tool for progress rather than a source of harm.
  • Alejandro from Costa Rica believes that WhatsApp has led our communication ties to our family, friends and work in the past years, in urban cultures with access to the internet and other platforms. WhatsApp facilitates contacts and for the moment reduces costs. However, at universities, face-to-face contact is privileged for most courses, since it is believed that engagement and physical attention is needed to recover from the loss of contact following the pandemic. In Latin America, this virtualization of interpersonal communication is not a reality that can be generalized to all people. Rural communities without internet, Indigenous people without digital skills and other vulnerable groups, are still at least partially excluded. Face-to-face communication and traditional forms of interpersonal communication are equally relevant in their day to day.

The evolution of communications

The pros and cons for the freedom of communications that leads to evolving communications give us a great overview of the challenges and benefits for professional communication. In Suriname we believe in strong relationships to engage with all audiences. Everyone knows someone who knows someone, who knows anyone that can reach someone. Sounds complicated, right? It’s not, for a small country with 600,000 citizens. Relationships are essential for any type of communication and used to build communities or platforms, do business and reach audiences in their own unique space, whether online, offline, formal or informal. Embracing all modalities makes it possible to inform audiences in a respectful and suitable way.

You have the power in communications

A woman wearing a VR headset manipulates two hand controllers
Myat (Myanmar) experiments with virtual reality. Photo credit: Angela van der Kooye

In this technological era, all the tools given should be used to improve engagement with certain audiences, to keep maintaining this freedom in communications. This is not only relevant for the sender, but also for the different audiences that receive information on a national, regional and international basis. It’s an ongoing process that increases productivity, creativity, knowledge sharing and the freedom to express one another. A popular quote that is frequently used, is communication is key. I believe that communication gives you the power to evolve into the individual that you want to become, where you determine how you receive and share information in this technological era.