We want to talk about the creative aspect of communication.
Creative, interactive communication requires a plastic or moldable medium that can be modeled, a dynamic medium in which premises will flow into consequences, and above all a common medium that can be contributed to and experimented with by all.
Do two tape recorders communicate when they play to each other and record from each other? We believe that communicators have to do something nontrivial with the information they send and receive.
And we believe that we are entering a technological age in which we will be able to interact with the richness of living information-not merely in the passive way that we have become accustomed to using books and libraries, but as active participants in an ongoing process, bringing something to it through our interaction with it, and not simply receiving something from it by our connection to it.
Such a medium is at hand–the programmed digital computer.
Its presence can change the nature and value of communication even more profoundly than did the printing press and the picture tube, for, as we shall show, a well-programmed computer can provide direct access both to informational resources and to the processes for making use of the resources.That is a rather startling thing to say, but it is our conclusion.As if in confirmation of it, we participated a few weeks ago in a technical meeting held through a computer.Nearly every reader can recall a meeting held during the formulative phase of a project.Each member of the project brings to such a meeting a somewhat different mental model of the common undertaking-its purposes, its goals, its plans, its progress, and its status.To the people who telephone an airline flight operations information service, the tape recorder that answers seems more than a passive depository.It is an often-updated model of a changing situation-a synthesis of information collected, analyzed, evaluated, and assembled to represent a situation or process in an organized way.In two days, the group accomplished with the aid of a computer what normally might have taken a week.We shall talk more about the mechanics of the meeting later; it is sufficient to note here that we were all in the same room.It changes the nature of communication: When communicators have no such common framework, they merely make speeches at each other; but when they have a manipulable model before them, they utter a few words, point, sketch, nod, or object.The dynamics of such communication are so model-centered as to suggest an important conclusion: Perhaps the reason present-day two-way telecommunication falls so far short of face-to-face communication is simply that it fails to provide facilities for externalizing models.