The SMCR (Source-Message-Channel-Receiver) Model is a standard in communication studies. This model was originally developed by Claude Shannon and Warren Weaver, and then altered by David Berlo, but the latest credit has been given to Wilbur Schramm for his interactive interpretation. In the book, “Media Now: Understanding Media, Culture, and Technology,” authors Straubhaar, LaRose, and Davenport credit Schramm as being the founder of mass communications, and state that Schramm’s Model of Communication , or the SMCR Model, is a “classic model that stresses the dominance of the media” (Straubhaar, et. al, 18). His application of this model is most relevant to media communication studies because of its dynamic process and interchangeable roles.
The SMCR Model was designed to “describe the exchange of information as the message passes from the source to the channel to the receiver, with feedback to the source” (Straubhaar, et. al, 18). There are several components to this model. The source is the beginning of the message or communication. In an everyday example, the source would be like an advertising company. The message, or the information, would be like the commercial or magazine advertisement. These commercials or advertisements are seen through television, movie previews, radio, magazines, etc. These forms of advertisements are called channels, or the means by which the message is conveyed. The receiver, or the end of the communication, would be considered to be the audience, the viewer, the target at which the message is planning to “attack.”
There are other important attributes to the SMCR model. These attributes are what make this model so dynamic . Sometimes, when receiving a message, we (as the receiver) experience noise. Noise is any distraction that can alter or distort the message en route. Radio static, call waiting, or loud talkers in a movie theatre are good examples of noise in the media communication context. Feedback is also an important component. Feedback is what normalizes the communication between the source and the receiver. Feedback usually is given by the receiver after the message from the source has been sent and received. This can be a replied e-mail, a call-in on a radio station, a response to an advertisement, etc. Encoders and decoders are also important to this model. Encoders and decoders are just that – they take the message and interpret it. A perfect example of this would be a message being encoded by microphones or cameras and decoded by stereos and televisions.
Schramm’s version of the SMCR model was received well by most scholars, and is still used widely to this day. However, it did receive a good amount of criticism as well. Straubhaar specifically mentions the criticism made by Carey in 1989. Carey thought that Schramm’s model was too linear and that it completely misrepresented the “circular, interactive, or even ritual process” that takes place within communication, specifically in media (Straubhaar, et. al, 19). But, other critics say that Schramm’s model is not as linear as one thinks, but it still only includes two parties. This weakness is explained further here.
Straubhaar, Joseph, et al. Media Now: Understanding Media, Culture, and Technology. Boston: Wadsworth, 2010.