Gerbner's General Model (1956)
Gerbner's General Model emphasizes the dynamic nature of human communication. It also gives prominence to the factors which may affect fidelity.
The model shown diagrammatically is to be read from left to right, beginning at E - Event.
• The event (E) is perceived by M (the man (sic) or machine).
• The process of perception is not simply a matter of 'taking a picture' of event E. It is a process of active interpretation.
• The way that the E is perceived will be determined by a variety of factors, such as the assumptions, attitudes, point of view, experience of M.
• E can be a person talking, sending a letter, telephoning, or otherwise communicating with M. In other words, E could be what we conventionally call the Source or Transmitter.
• Equally, E can be an event - a car crash, rain, waves crashing on a beach, a natural disaster etc. In this case, we could be applying the model to mass media communication, say the reporting of news.
The model is a useful starting-point for the analysis of wide variety of communication acts. Note that the model, besides drawing our attention to those factors within E which will determine perception or interpretation of E, also draws our attention to three important factors:
• Selection: M, the perceiver of the event E (or receiver of the message, if you prefer) selects from the event, paying more attention to this aspect and less to that. This process of selecting, filtering is commonly known as gatekeeping, particularly in discussion of the media's selection and discarding of events or aspects of them.
• Context: a factor often omitted from communication models, but a vitally important factor. The sound represented by the spelling 'hair' means an animal in one context, something that's not supposed to be in your soup in another. Shouting, ranting and raving means this man's very angry in one context, raving loony...