Conversation, Not Communication


When we have a learned grasp on the basics of language, we know how to manipulate our words to express our thoughts — we talk, and we do this to communicate. But how often do we view talking as communicating? Yes, technically when we speak we are communicating; but do we recount instances of sharing ideas with friends by saying, “I was communicating with Hank just yesterday...”? Certainly not often, if at all; instead, we view our vocal exchanges with others as organic, unfolding, reflexive activities. We have conversations. So it can be when we apply this to the exchange of visual information.

This distinction of necessary so that we might approach the activity of drawing as we would the activity of casually conversing...

While it is understood that drawings are an effective method of communication, it is necessary to now make a distinction about how to classify the activity of drawing; to propose that drawing is analogous to “conversation” requires an exploration of the semantic meanings of communication and conversation. To communicate, as defined by the American Heritage College Dictionary (Fourth Edition), is “to convey information about; make known; impart,” and communication is rightly defined as “the act of communicating,” or “the art and technique of using words effectively in imparting one’s ideas”. This definition frames communication as a one-way process, a monologue wherein there is no interaction by the audience listening to the vocalization of information. To converse, on the other hand, is “to engage in a spoken exchange of thoughts, ideas, or feelings” and conversation is “an informal discussion of a matter by representatives of governments, institutions, or organizations.” Immediately we are confronted with two key terms that separate communication from conversation: conversation involves an exchange of ideas, and it is considered more informal when compared to communication. This exchange of ideas is a two-way process, a dialogue between the parties involved, and allows for the back-and-forth swing of information transferral. The informality of conversation inherently creates an environment that eases the tensions associated with diverse working groups (governments, academic disciplines, etc.), and sets the stage for exchanging ideas through non-standardized means.

This distinction of terms, however minute, is necessary so that we might approach the activity of drawing as we would the activity of casually conversing with our peers, neighbors, or colleagues. Exchanging visual information can be encountered as a casual, fluid action that needs no formal training.