CORRECT HANDLING OF NOVERBAL MEDIA IN EDUCATIONAL COMMUNICATION OR,
HOW NOT TO DROWN THE BABY IN THE BATHWATER
Nonverbal Media in Education arc here to stay
There is no doubt that, whatever be our political orientation
left, right, or center and whatever our assessment of man’s place
in the world religious, secular, or in between, man in modern times
has accepted the importance of education in shaping the future in
the course of his history. Whether we are deeply sceptical of it, the sheet pressure of population
and of raised expectations about the level of education to be to be
attained by different segments of it as defined by age, sex, and class,
if not any other considerations, have made us recognize the need to
open up channels of education outside formal education.
Education in these other channels will be neither formal with
fixed schedules of work and play nor informal as in a family circle
or a play group but semi-formal as in the response to a work of art
and so partaking of both. In
opening up such channels we may sometimes have to give up the luxury
(some would say the necessity) of fact to face communication
between the teacher and the taught and accept distancing in education
as a fact of life. Indeed
we may have to accept severely limited opportunities for the teacher
to receive feedback and offer monitoring and for the taught to offer
talkback and receive first aid-in other words accept the broadcast
mode of distanced of communication rather than the telephonic mode. Not only are new channels being opened up,
but new media of education other than the hitherto dominant discourse
through language are being explored and exploited.
In particular the audio and the visual media being harnessesd
to semi-formal and distanced education in varied multi-media combinations. It is being claimed that not only may they
supplement discourse through language by way of illustration but also
they could sometimes take over the property of discursivity and compete
In short, in spite of the serious reservations and resistance
evinced in the earlier stages, the new distancing and broadcast channels
of semi-formal education are here to say either in the older medium
of language discourse (for example, the earlier experiment of an open
university in Britain) or in the newer audiovisual and multi-media
combinations (for example,
the newer experiments in Continental Europe and the developing countries).
(The very holding of this Colloquium is a proof.) But this very acceptance of the newer channels
and media imposes on us the need to be mature and self-critical. We need not feel too insecure and media, and
too impatient to take a broad, long-term view of the ends and means
of education. If we fail to b e maturely self-critical, we
lay ourselves all too open to the glamour of the passing fashions
and to the sales pitch in behalf of the marketers of the new gadgets
and outfits. More sinisterly, we leave education vulnerable
to manipulation for the promoting of the antisocial ends of powerseekers
both conventional and not so conventional. Shail we, in that case, throw the proverbial
baby away with the bathwater? More
likely, we may drown the baby the baby in the bathwater. We mustn’t let that happen, must we? There is all the reason for returning to the
But then What is Education
Every society arranges for some education of the young. This arrangement may be looked upon as the conscious aspect of the
wider process whereby a human being becomes a member of that society,
of some community of people sharing their life and at the same time
a party to the culture, the lifeways of that society-in short, the
process through which a human being comes a person, gains a personality
of some kind. Education is an aspect of the twin processes
of social and cultural assimilation of the young, that is, of ensocialization
and enculturation, to assign them their technical designations. Looked at this way, education may be said to
continue even beyond the youth of the educand.
Every society may also arrange for some education of the incoming
outsider and thus arrangement correspondingly becomes an aspect of
the twin processes of social and culture assimilation of an outsider,
that is, of adsocialization
and acculturation. The outsider
may be young or adult. He
may actually be an immigrant form another society or an aspiring entrant
to a class of the society (Eliza Dolittle of Bermard Shaw’s Pygmalion
or Monsieur Jourdain of Moliere’s Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme
are no mere isolated stage creations. There are so many of their living counterparts knocking at the door).
Why does a society take this trouble?
There are two very good reasons.
A human being. Unlike
many animals, is not born fully equipped genetically to cope with
life and gains sexual maturity even before becoming viable The result
is a long period of immunity becoming viable (this is called neotony).
What genetic equipment he has needs opportunities to develop
adequately may also need to be considerably supplemented. by acquisition
of new equipment through experience.
There is also a second reason based on the principle that prevention
is beeter than cure. By inculcating into the young a sense of belongingness
and an approved way of life, society simplifies the job of social
regulation of its members. By
catching them young society hopes to make them more tractable later
use-(the twin reasons should now serve to make clear why education
could be thought of not only as a preparation for life but
also as an instrument of power as a device for ensuring law and order
or as an opium of the exploited.)
Education achieves these goals by imparting socially relevant
and acceptable facts and insights, attitudes and skills.
The facts support the insights and the insights in turn help
make sense of the facts. The
attitudes motivate the acquisition and maintenance of skills and the
skills are supportive of the attitudes.
But, fortunately for the spiritual health of mankind,
this very imparting of ‘socially relevant and acceptable’ educational
content in the course of education may also act partially as a quietly
and constructively subversive force.
(The founding fathers of modem India saw in education
an instrument for the regeneration and transformation of Indian society
in the nineteenth century. Even
at a less deliberate level, an apparently innocuous literacy programme
could have a subversive effect even in the absence of a Paulo Freire
to assist the process). Conformation
and subversion constitute the two faces of education.
But maybe this is too harsh and too dialectical a way of putting
the matter. The Maya people
of Central America do so in a much more humane and poetic manner in
one of their sayings:
For in an baby lies the future of the world:
Mother must hold the baby close so that the
Baby knows that it is his world; Father
Must take him to the highest hill so that
He can see what his world is like.
The dialectical opposition is now seen also to be a natural
continuity. What can sustain subversion in a person except
the knowledge deep inside that it is his world that needs to be set
right? What is the point of
confirmation except as gaining a point of departure for the highest
hill that the person is capable of climbing?
Education can both be a mother and a father.
We have spoken of education as an imparting of content. But this is gross simplification. This imparting is really an inducing and a controlling of the learning
process. The educator induces
and then controls in the learner modification in the available behaviour
patterns through a manipulation of the patterns of available experience. He may also inhibit or encourage this or that
incipient or established behaviour pattern (this is the preventive
and remedial phase of education).
The changes in the behaviour patterns, namely the facts and
insights, attitudes and skills so acquired experience constitutes
the medium of education. The medium is typically but not exclusively
discourse an widely used medium of education.
The father wishing to keep his son away from smoking is blandly
says, “Do as I say to you, don’t do as I do”.
Desdemona listened to the story of Othello’s life from year
to year and gave a world of sights.
“This only is the witch-craft I have us’d”—so runs Othello’s
self-defence (Shakespeare, Othello, act 1, scene 3).
If the experience available through discourse can be so powerful
in changing a person, how much more powerful can be experience available
through less indirect and consciously modulated media of education?
Let us make an inventory of educational media ranging from
the more indirect to the more direct.
Mathematics of course is even more indirect, more abstract
The language of mathematics
Language as writing-reading, correspondence
Language as speech
Limited to listening
Supplemented by dialogue
Language as song
Pictures and models both still and
Three dimensional pictures and models
both still and moving
Photographs and cinephotography
Phonography cum phonography and cinephotography
Games ad sports: viewing, participating
Staging: viewing, participating
Travel and field observation
Work experience in the laboratory and the field
Project work and workshop
The media vary not only in the directness of their impact but
also in the opportunities they offer for the active involvement on
the part of the educand and the careful monitoring on the part of
the educator. The media also invite their use in combination. Thus a book may incorporate dialogues and illustrations.
Didn’t Alice think. “What
is the use of a book without pictures or conversations?” (Lewis Carroll,
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, chapter 1). Pictures may incorporate speech and thought
balloons and be supplemented by titles legends. The language of mathematics and drawn visuals combine in maps, ad
graphs of various sorts. A
sound film combines moving pictures, sound effects on screen, music
on and off screen, speech on screen, and
monologue off screen. Of
course the mixing has to be done skilfully so that the media do not
get in one another’s way.
media are also combinable with different vehicles of dissemination
and transmission. The printing
and publication of books, periodicals, wall displays, sound-recorded
discs or tapes, pictures and photographs, videotapes and filmtrips
and films and the broadcasting through radio or television enable
the media to overcome the limitations of space and time.
In older societies one had to depend solely on sermons and
other forms of religions and secular gatherings, debate, picture galleries
and museums as modes of dissemination.
Education certainly can harness the new media as well
as the new vehicles.
Verbal and Nonverbal
Media Compared on Operation.
The foregoing excursus into educational theory should have
made it clear that education is no less a social and cultural fact
than it is a psychic fact and so amenable to sociological and ethnological
analysis no less than psychological analysis.
The question of the media and vehicles is a question of communication
and communicative signals and symbols and as such also amenable to
The inventory of the media of education just presented will
have served to bring out a rough three-way grouping based on the way
in which the experience of the educand is induced and controlled.
indirect access to reality
reality passive reception
Reception and reproduction in language
relatively active involvement
Production in language
concrete, direct access in reality
Relatively passive reception
relatively active involvement
activity and practice
Obviously this grouping is only a rough and ready one-there
are degrees of indirectness and degrees of passivity and there is
fair amount of boundrycrossing and media-mixing.
For our present purposes we restrict our consideration to communication
for educational purposes with the use of media dependent on
audial/or visual perception.
We said earlier that language is versatile in that it makes
experience accessible to the learner across separation in space and
time and at the same time helps the learner to make sense of this
experience so as render it intelligible. On the one hand, language brings the world
to one’s door as it were-let us call it the reach of the medium. On the other hand language helps us to understand
this world by letting us find the figure I the carpet as it were-let
us call it the discursivity of the medium. What we are trying here to find out is to what extent the audiovisual
media can match or exceed the reach of language can describe or narrate,
explain or argue, persuade or coerce, could any of the audiovisual
media describe, narrate, and so on?).
The visual media can present pictures or (with abstraction)
models. The pictures or models may be still over time
or moving over time. They
may be flat, two-dimensional or rounded, three-dimensional. They may be man-made or machine-recorded (photographic). The audial media can present sound pictures
of sound patterns or speech. These
may be monophonic or stereophonic (three-dimensionāl). They ay be natural or man-made or machine-recorded
(phonographic). The audio-visual
media can present pictures (son et lumiére shows)or (with
abstraction) models or on-going situations.
They may be staged or machine-recorded from actuality. The reach of these media will vary. To the extent that our sense-perceptual knowledge
of the world is mainly visual and only marginally auditory with the
other senses making even more limited contributions, the visual medium
will make for a greater reach than the auditory and the linguistic. A picture is worth more than a thousand words,
runs a Chinese proverb. What
we need here is of course more than proverbial wisdom, we need careful
further study yielding hard experimental data on the comparative impact
of different media and the contribution of specific features like
still/moving, flat/ rounded, diffuse/sharp recording, and so on towards
the overall impression created by a particular medium.
We also need to assess how the specific target audience is
going to respond to them. One
thinks here of the anecdote about a village audience puzzling over
the giant metre-high mosquitoes of a typical screen image of a 16mm
film, and (Indeed, ‘literacy’ in non-verbal media is also important
as verbal literacy is.)
What about the discursivity of the audiovisual media? How do they compare with each other and with language in conveying
facts and insights and attitudes and skills? Each of these media operates at the level of
sensuous impact and at the level of symbolic content. The sensuous
impact is open to patterning on terms of figure and ground of steady
states and transitions, or landscape in space and scenarios in time. In some cases the sensuous impact may dominate
symbolic content as in instrumental music or abstract dance or decorative
design or concrete poetry (whether spoken or written). In some cases the symbolic content may dominate
the sensuous impact and symbolic content are in balance there may
be greater play of non-discursive, tacit symbolism. Again, there is scope for further study.
of folklore offer a certain classification of folk narratives. I submit that this classification can be extended
not only to non-folk and non-linguistic narratives but to linguistic
depictions as well. The classification
is based on two criteria:
does the narrative or make a claim depiction on the recipient’s belief? Is it factive or simply ficitive?
does the narrative or make a claim depiction on
verisimilitude? Is it realis or irrealis?
The first criterion looks for deixis and authenticity, the
second for mimesis and stimulation.
Putting the two criteria together we obtain the following cross-classification.
Realis: History, Geography, Travelogue,
Irrealis: Mythical, History, Mythical
Geography, Animal Fable, etc.
Realis: Novel, Parable, etc.
Irrealis: Fantasy, Fairytale, etc.
Again, a careful further study is needed in respect of the
discursive and non-discursive symbolic capacities of the different
media. Thus, it is obvious that the irrelais use of
the media with mythic or fantasy content depends more on non-discursive,
tacit symbolism. Communication
will be more successful to the extent that the non-discursive, tacit
symbolism serves to create a world and induce the recipient to enter
it. Factivity and verisimilitude (with elucidatory or documentary content)
are not as important as someone brought up wholly on the discursive
symbolizing of science and technology, of chronicles and gazetters
is apt to believe.
Finally, a word about the mixing of media.
We have already mentioned the need of ensuring that one medium
does not tin the way of another.
An obvious example is an amateurish documentary where there
is together too much verbal commentary by a voice off screen, which
does not trust the sights and sounds to speak for themselves as much
as possible. In the final
analysis such a harmony between mixed media is achieved only through
the fusion of the media into a single medium-either one of the mixed
media is dominant and incorporates the other(s) or a more complex
medium like the cinematic medium emerges out of the fusion.
Again, careful further study is needed on these lines.
Before we take leave of the audiovisual media and their capacities
for reach and for discursitvity, a word is necessary about non-discursive,
tacit symbolism. This is a large topic that I have treated at
length in semiotic terms elsewhere (“Tacit symbols: Visual and verbal”,
presented at the Seminar on Indian Symbology, Industrial Design Center,
Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, January 1985; see Kelkar 1987.)
The concept of tacit symbolization refers to the covertness of the
what symbolizes or of what is symbolized or of the symbolic lineduk
between the two or of the whole symbolizing even and serves as a link
between discursive symbolization of logic, mathematics, natural and
human sciences, everyday speech and the non- discursive symbolizations
of literature, art, mass media, myth, rite, magic, folkore. As we develop the concept of tacit symbols
and the tacit knowledge we begin to see that tacitness may have different
degrees of depth-at one end we have mere implicitness where the symbolic
content is wholly recoverable and at the far end we have a level where
we have reason to believe that the symbolization brings the symbolic
content into existence rather than just uncovering preexisting content. What educators need to recognize is that educational
communication need not say everything-at least, should not say everything
directly. They should count
on and develop the learner’s capacity for tacit and/or non- discursive
symbolism. (Normally the tacit
component works in conjunction with the implicit or the explioit components
in educational communication.)
Who is the boss? The Educator or the Devices?
I hope I have succeeded in showing two things.
First, each medium has its characteristics strengths and weakness
and we have to have to clear notion of what it can do cannot do; otherwise
we may be guilty of unrealistic expectations.
Secondly, in employing the medium we should have a clear notion
of what we are seeking to accomplish; otherwise we may simply get
carried away by the medium beyond reason.
In short, the educator has to learn to achieve the right marriage
between educational means and educational ends.
In this process, out semiotic analysis of the media has to
go beyond syntactic and semantics into pragmatics.
Pragmatics is the study of signs in relation to other signs
to the things they stand for, and to the life of the users of signs.
Signs of course include signs that call for and submit of elucidation
to the recipients of the signs: that is, signs include symbols.
last section will, therefore, be concerned with the pragmatics of
educational communication with special reference to audiovisual media.
First, one must avoid a confusion between the media of education
and the vehicles of transmission and dissemination.
The vehicles have a limited bearing on the educational process
to the extent that they permit or inhibit interaction between the
educand and the educator. But more relevant is the part played by the
media as such.
Secondly, one must discriminate between the quality of hardware
and the quality of software. It
is not an exaggeration to say that a piece of hardware is only as
good as the piece of software that goes with it.
The software is more intimately bound up with educational process.
The quality of the software is more crucial.
Thirdly, the educational material needs to be fine-tuned (or
at least rough-tuned) to the reception level of the learner.
This presents an acute problem in developing countries where
fine-tuning may be a luxury in relation to scarce physical resources
and yet where fine-tuning may be all the more desirable in view of
sharp differences of reception levels between the genders, between
social classes, between urban and rural milieus, and between subregions.
Thus, in western India one recognizes the following four educational
levels: illiterate, semi-literate and literate (one to seven years
of schooling), educated (eight to twelve years of schooling), and
well-educated. The threshold between what is considered common
knowledge and common wisdom and what is considered to be in need careful
explication may differ form one audience to another. An illiterate in a urban milieu is on a par with the literate in
a semi-urban or rural milieu, and so on.
The lower the educational level.
The more important are case of intelligibility, familiarity
and typicality of the concrete material, a lower ratio of abstraction
to concretization, a lower density of presentation, and the need for
authenticity—who says it becomes so much more important (the author
has considered these points in greater detail elsewhere: “Lokaṣikaṇa
samãj, April- September 1982, in Marathi). The whole
question of fine-tuning educational material to the reception level
of the intended learners calls for further study.
Fourthly, one has to judge to what extent the semi-formal and
distanced educational programme in which the audiovisual material
is to be employed is intended to be merely complementary to the formal
education available to the recipient and to what extent it is intended
to be no more than supplementary. There are situations in which even
informal education in the family circle or the playgroup or thorough
folk literature and folk art has to be complemented or supplemented
or even counteracted (a case in point is the drive for family planning
or the drive against accepting dowries in India).
The selection and production of educational material has to
take the relationship of semi-formal and distanced education with
formal and informal and face-to-face education into account.
Fifthly, the rhetoric of presentation and persuasion has to
be fine-tuned to the dominant rhetoric of the recipient population.
The Westner often finds the Oriental very slow in coming to
the point and the Oriental finds the Westerner’s briskness all too
brash for his taste. Actually,
this may be a difference of rhetoric.
The Westerner is only making his point and then offering his
grounds or reasons to drive home the point—often ending in triumphant
Q.E.D. The Oriental is only
sketching in the background that will lend credence to the point that
he is taking some pains to suggest with becoming politeness.
Of course the choice of the rhetoric needs to harmonize with
the educational content. What applies to linguistic discourse may also
to audiovisual discourse. More
detailed work is needed in this area.
Finally, the rhetoric of communication varies according to
the degree of active involvement expected from the recipient.
Applying this criterion to the four kinds of educational content
one may arrive at the following scheme.
Facts: One can except the recipient either to get the facts by rote or
in quiz-readness so to say or to get them as a tissue of interconnected
units. It’s the difference
between a dictionary and a thesaurus.
Insights: One can present the insights as inherited wisdom perhaps followed
by examples to elucidate them or as the most plausible way of making
sense of the examples presented first as problematic in some way. It’s the difference between I-say-so and isn’t–that-so.
Attitudes: One can aim at overwhelming the recipient or merely
to incline him in the desired direction.
It is the difference between the hard sell and the soft sell.
Skills: One can either spell out the steps carefully offer some general
directions expecting the recipient to use his judgement. It is the difference between offering a recipe
and offering tips.
Communication is not merely a matter of saying things, it
is also a matter of leaving things unsaid.
It is not merely a matter of overt symbols leading the recipient
overtly to preexistent overt content, it is quite often a matter of
tacitness, indirection, suggestion, and even a matter of the symbol
bringing the content into being as it were.
There is no reason to suppose that holding the baby close and
taking the child to the highest hill is only something that applies
only to the simpler, more direct modes of communication.
From time to time we have underlined the need for careful further
study. I hope appeals will be needed by researches
in communication especially in the content of developing countries
since research already available from developed countries may not
be wholly usable their context. Merely
keeping up with the Western Joneses
will not help-not only in respect of gadgets and software but also
in respect of teaching goals and teaching method.
Finally, INDIA what we have observed in respect of educational
communication and adversing, or management common and administration
This was presented at DIMED 86 Discurso das media e ensino
at Algarve Portugal, March 1986 hosted by instituo Portugies de Ensino
Lisooa, Portugal and Association international ale Por la Rechreches
et la Diffusion des M’ethodes Audio-Visuelles et Structoro-globalse
( AIMAV) and published in Actas do Colόgquio
em Frances e Ingêls Lisboa: IPED, 1986, p 219-30.
The title is new; the original which was appreciated at DIMED
86 is retained as a subtitle. The new title is simply for the convenience
of information Retrieval. The
sectional titles are also new.
Portuguese, French, English
nao afogar o bébé na água do banho
Se admitirmos a necssidade de um tipo de comunição a distãntica
fora dos quadros no ensino tradicional
como o praticado nas escolas e universidades (esino semi-formal)
para alunos e adultos e se acolhermos favoravlemente as possibilities
oferecidas pelos meios audio-visualis e suas combinações (multimédia)
uso da (lingua como suporte educativo (disso, (1a. parte)
o que é
realmente o esino (o seu lugar a longo prazo na vida do individuo,
os seus fins imediatos, os seus desafios) (2a.
parte) e, como o esino é transmitido discursivamente (o que a linguagem
verbal e a não verbal podem ou podem fazer (3a.
Se perdemos tudo isto de vista, podemos afogar o bébé na água
do banho. Se isso não
acontecer, somos senhores da situa ção e utilizamos o audio-visual do acordo
com certos prinpios de base (4a. parte).
Centre Advanced Study in Linguistics-Deccan College (India).
ne pas noyer le bébé dans I’eau
Si I’on admet la nécessité d’un
type de communication á distance en dehors de tout cardre d’enseignment traditionnel
comme celui partiqu dans des coles ou des universits (enseignement
semi-formel) pour les scolaires et les adultes, et si I’on accueille
favourblement les possibilitiés offertes par les moyens audio-visuels et leurs combinaisons (multimédia)
ainsi que I’usage du langage comme
support éducatif (discurisvité dans I’ensignement), nous
ne devos cependant pas pedre de vue (premiére partie) ce qu’est réellement
I’enseigment (sa á place long terme dans la vie d’un individu, ses buts
immédiats, ses défis) deuxiéme partie, et comment I’enseignement
est trasmis discursivement et non-discursivement (ce que le langage
verbal et le non-verbal preuvent ou ne peuvent pas faire) (transoisiéme
nous perdons tout a de vue, il se peut que nous noyions le bébé
dans I’eau du bain. Dans le
cas contraire, nous restons matres de la situation et nous utilisons
I audiovisuel en accord avec certain principles de base (quatriéme partie).
How not to
drown the baby in the bathwater
In accepting the need for a ‘broadcast’ mode of communication
(‘distance’) outside the framework of the conventional
system of schools and universities (‘semi-formal’) for educating
the young and old and in welcoming the possibilities opened up by
the audio-visual media and their combination with each other (‘multimedia’)
and with language as the medium of education (‘discursivity in teaching’),
we must not lose sight (section I) of what education is really all
about (its long term p.s.2 in human life,
its immediate goals and functioning, its challenges) (section II)
and how education is mediated discursively and nondiscursively (what
language and the nonlinguistic modes can and cannot do) section III). If we so lose sight there is a real danger of drowning the baby
in the bathwater. If on the
other hand we do not so lose sight, we could be the
masters of the situation and employ the audiovisual media in accordance
with certain priciples (section IV).
The Correct Handling of
Nonverbal Media in Educational Communication
Given the modern need for large-scale and optimal-quality education,
the new broadcast and other distanced channels of semi-formal education
are here to stay, whether their medium is language discourse or nonverbal
If one is to preserre
both discursivity and reach in the use of nonverbal media, one must
not lose sight of what education of the young and the old is all about
its long-term place in human life, its immediate goals and functioning,
and its challenges and opportunities.
Again, one must not lose sight of just how education is mediated
verbally and non-verbally: the two modes have each their strengths
and weakness in respect of
reach and discursitvity in communication.
Otherwise, there is every danger of drowning the learner in
the bathwater of fancy gadgetry and outfits.
If only we keep all these considerations in sight, we could
well be the masters of the situation, employing the audiovisual media
effectively in accordance with certain operative principles.
May one hope that the lessons of this inquiry will note be
lost up on the media-users in non-educational fields too?
And upon the researchers in the field of media operation?
in French Synopsis
-Pour qu’une institution
on doit dévélopper la notion d’’’ajustement pragmatique’’ ou bien
I’ajustement entre le message et les divers éléments d’une situation
de communication. La crédibilité
consistute un de ces éléments et liée au fait que le message
soit effectivement accepté par le récéptur. De plus, on doit aussi consideré
la situation communicative elle-mme et le probléme de I’expressivité,
pusiqu’un message essaie de nous dire quelque chose sur I’état
au moment de la communication.
--L’importance de redre
le discours didactique adéquat aus divers secteurs du public-cible.