Types of Human Communication

Human Communication

To converse with another human these days in there are so many options.  The development of various technologies has created various new and different ways of communicating.  As humans, we have a limited but highly versatile number of different ways of communicating.  Primarily we have four ways of communicating: visually, audibly, olfactorily and physically.  In this article, the author is going to call attention to the progression of our visual and audible communication.

 Left side: a person listening / Right side: a person using hand signals

Example Audible Style Communication

For the longest time the human race relied on primitive communication involving audible sounds, visual body language and possibly communication through touch.  Even though we have physical limitations, as society has developed we have created technologies to increase our ability to communicate over larger distance and longer throughout time.  For example, the invention of signal horns allowed humans to send a signal to everyone within listening distance.  Due to limitations again of human lungpower and endurance, signal horns eventually were outdated with the invention of a bell towers.  This audible technology does have advantages, for instances everyone within hearing distance is able to get the message approximately at the same time.  For this reason today in most modern cities in the event of a natural disaster, several siren alarms is sounded allowing for almost instantaneous communication of the pending event.  Now to this technology at larger distances is susceptible to the wind.

Alphorn from Switzerland

Alphorn video — http://youtu.be/65O_auqxduI


Example Visual Style Communication

Subject to the direction of the wind, at large distances sound waves only travel in the direction the wind is moving.  If the air travels in the wrong direction, such as downwind versus upwind, then intended recipient would never hear the message.  To work around this limitation and to increase the distance a communication could travel signal fires were invented.  Arguably hand signals were probably used long before the invention of the signal fire but a signal fire can send its’ message much farther than using body language.  The advantage is light is not dependent upon the direction of the wind and light can travel much faster than sound.  Nevertheless, the disadvantage of signal fires is that they are ineffective in poor weather conditions.

A signal fire from one of the Lord of the Rings movies

Signal Fires Example –as seen in Lord of the Rings:


Mixing Communications

Meanwhile during our human history the invention of writing has allowed for lasting communication for the ages.  It is due to the invention of writing that we have today several great works from our past, such as the works of Homer and Plato.  Although many advances in communication were instrumental in the development of our technology today, this author would argue Morse code and the telegraph machine played a large part.  Morse code is one of the first forms of communication that made it possible for a message to be transformed through a physical motion into an audible sound, that which could be transmitted around the world and then could be translated back into text.  From this experience, society was able to learn and was inspired to create new ways of communication.

telegraph straight key and morse code chart

 Video on Army Morse Code — http://youtu.be/Li8Hiwbc664

Modern/Future Communications

In today’s fast paced and highly advanced technological forms of communications, we are able to use cell phones in an ever-advancing way.  The telephones originated as a device that would transmit the sounds it hear at one end to a phone at the other end and vice-versa.  Nowadays we have cell phones that allow for a multitude of different forms of communication.  The modern cell phone can transmit a phone call through the airways to almost anywhere on the world via a network of technology.  More recently, cell phones can now allow video conferencing, currently via the internet.  A “video phone call” is a great example of mixed visual and audible communication.


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Evolution of cell phone to smart phone

Cell phones also allow us to continue a more “primitive” form of visual communication, text messages.  A text message on a cell phone is still using the same form of communication as that as a letter but now it is faster.  Sending an emailing, mailing a letter or texting a message are all really the progress of the same base form of visual communication.  Cell phones technology has allowed for another evolution in mixed forms of communication resulting in some people choosing to utilize “voice-to-text”.  As with the pervious example of Morse code, a physical motion was required to produce an audible sound that was received at the other end and translated back from the audible sound to a written visual communication.  Now an audible sound (your voice) is translated to a written visual text transmitted and then displayed again as a visual text communication.  In addition, a “text-to-voice” technology exists allowing text to be translated into an audible sound.


In the opinion of this author, society will continue advancing our technology because of two reasons.  First, our curiosity will always push us to explore other ways of communicating.  Secondly, society will need new ways of communicating as our ideas and desires become ever more complicated.


For instances, most everyone knows that driving a vehicle and using your cell phone is dangerous however society has an uncontrollable need to communicate while driving.  Since necessity is the mother of all inventions, perhaps the next advancement in communication will allow for the safe (or at least safer) communication while driving.