Media Science-Stories vs. Scientific Research vs. the Natural World

This paper talks about the different ways on how Non-human Animal Communication is laid out. It is mainly a comparison of various takes on the topic, including scientific research, media science stories and how it is being laid out in the natural world. The scientific research it will tackle is about the role of the physical environment on the animal acoustic communication. This is more on the scholarly way of tackling the topic of non-human animal communication, and is based on extensive studies and research.

Another approach is from National Geographic News, which is about a speech project that will be able to understand the communication between non-human animals. This is a media science approach wherein it mixes scientific knowledge regarding non-human animal communication and the dissemination of information through mass media. National Geographic is a well-known scientific knowledge provider through various media means, like print and television.

The approach on the topic will be on how they will be able to mix the products of scientific research with the mainstream information paths like television shows and environmental magazines. The final approach that will be tackled will be regarding an internet article which came from an unknown author regarding the concept of language for animal communications. This take is more on how most of the people see the topic, making them able to conceive certain ideas, just like what is stated in the internet article.

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They test on the possible means of communication, like body signals, excretion of chemicals, or even telepathically, which is not really on the realm of the human understanding. One of these researches is about animal acoustic communication, wherein it emphasizes on the physical characteristics of the world which is perceived by the organism or animal that is being focused on. This research article has been published in the Journal of Comparative Psychology by two authors, which are both from the Animal Behavior Graduate Group of the University of California, Davis (Rundus and Hart).

This article tackles on how the physical environments of the non-human animals play a very big role in their lives. It affects the way they communicate with each other, having certain effects on their communicative signals, since these signals directly reflect the physical characteristics of the environment they are living in. The examples that were tackled were the communication of whales, elephants, frogs and many other animals. It also talked about the different purposes of their communication, like for social relationships, parental bonds, or mating calls.

There are various conditions which were given in order for the communication of these animals to be established. The first condition is the communication of animals in the terrestrial environments. This is comparably the most familiar way of communication to us humans, since we are also terrestrial organisms. This is affected by the physical barriers like different land formations and materials around the terrestrial environments.

This affects the transmission of signals, which are mainly caused by various factors like the type of substrate, the amount and type of foliage, and various geological formations in the area. Communication signals which are transmitted through the air, or airborne signals are also said to be affected by certain factors in the atmosphere, like the temperature of the environment, the speed of the wind, the humidity, turbulence, and also depending on the time of the day or even the season.

Another condition is the communication in the aquatic environment. This is considerably different from that of the terrestrial world, wherein there are different factors to consider. Land dwelling animals greatly differ from the aquatic animals.  It is said that aquatic signals are far more different in the degree of the influence in the terrestrial signals. The propagation of these signals is greatly different, wherein the acoustic signal is several hundred times less than that of the signals propagated in the air. Because of this, acoustic signals are deemed to travel much greater distances in the water. However, these signals are subject to greater distortion of the communicative signals when it passes over long distances.

Humans are also said to intervene with the communication patterns of these animals. The animals’ context of the natural environment is greatly affected by man’s efforts in creating structures or modifying the place to their suiting. Because of these, the animals are forced to adapt with the changes, thus changing their communication patterns as well. Hunting and food gathering of humans have also affected the animal communication, wherein they are forced to seek places away from the people hunting them. Boats in the oceans have distorted the communication patterns of aquatic animals, since their communication signals are also affected. The communicative changes are then adopted by these animals, thus affecting their communication patterns permanently.

Another article on non-human animal communication is from the National Geographic News, which is about understanding animal communications. This is more of an exposition of what researchers call as the Dr. Dolittle Project, wherein it aims to learn more about the animal communication. This is in order to help not only the researchers, but also the people to have a better grasp of animal’s behavior, so that they will be able to improve the means of taking care of them, especially for those in the wild or for the captive animal populations.

A researcher said that in the past, humans are trying their best to teach animals on how they will be able to communicate like humans. It’s just high time for us to change that thinking, and try to learn their language, instead of making these animals learn ours (Mott).

An example is learning how elephants communicate. This is by using a program that captures the elephant’s behavior then puts it into data which is a modified human speech recognition program. This is able to alert the scientists if there are any changes, including the physiological indicators of the animal.

They are using the technology in order to understand these animals more, and that they are able to apply this successfully on elephants. Elephants have been made to wear collars with digital microphones so that the sound will be captured as they go about their daily lives. After the day, the collars will be removed and the information stored their will be analyzed.

One of the aspects that were focused on was the emotion in the elephant’s voices. This is manifested by the hierarchy of the elephants, wherein the subordinates were found to be nervous when they are around  higher-ranking members, an act just like that experienced by humans when they are around their superiors. It is found that there was a nervous jitter in their voices when they approach the superior animals in their herd.

The last article is from an internet source, which have an anonymous source. It is more on the author’s opinion regarding the concept of non-human animal communication, wherein the author believes that language does not separate animals and humans, and that animals do have their language, and that they have the ability of cognitive thought. This is because of the animals’ possession of senses; they are able to see, hear and feel things in their environment. Language is their means to communicate to the world, and it is impossible that they have no actual connection with the world. Their connection is established by that language (Anonymous).

The article expounds the author’s idea that animals are capable of thought and intention since they have certain abilities like sight and auditory capabilities. This is in comparison with the human’s gauge of mental aptitude which is language. The author quotes what other scientists have said regarding language, which is attached to human mentality. Human mentality is definitive of language competence, and that this language gives the people a grasp of their world, their environment. Because of this they are able to understand their world better.

Summary

The differences on the various ways of writing on science lie on who they are addressed to. Scientific Research is the most reliable means of writing on science, since they present the facts straight from the research itself, including the findings of the experiments. Scientific research offers a truthful, factual slice of information straight from the researchers and the scientists.

The only problem is the format that the information is being presented. It is not readily understandable by those who don’t know much of the language the scientific research is written. It is highly technical, so it is assumed that the level of those who will read the scientific research is also high, wherein they are able to understand the raw information being presented to them. This limits this information to those who are able to understand it from how it is written.

Comparing this to media science stories, these scientific writing is comparably understandable to a wider range of audience. It is formatted to be understood by a lot of people, especially the masses. National Geographic News presents light information to the people, and they back up the highly technical information that they offer with explanations coming from the researchers themselves. But the problem with this is that the information being delivered becomes diminished, to the point that it doesn’t necessarily give out the specifics of what is being written. This scientific writing doesn’t focus on the scientific process itself, instead, it tackles more on the outputs of the research and how it will be useful to the people.

On the other hand, the least factual, least reliable scientific writing is the opinions from the people other than scientists or researchers. This is not first hand information, instead, just a summary of their understandings of the topic, which is in this case, the non-human animal communication. The author condenses other information that he got from other authors and other researches and puts it into his own words. This is a highly opinionated writing, that’s why it is necessary to be critical regarding the truthfulness of the information being presented.

Bibliography:

Anonymous. “Animal Communication”.  2005.  Planet Papers. May 2 2007.

Mott, Maryann. “Animal “Speech” Project Aims to Decode Critter Communication”.  2006. Ed. National Geographic News.  National Geographic. May 2 2007. <http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2006/09/060926-dolittle-project.html>.

Rundus, Aaron S., and Lynette A. Hart. “Overview: Animal Acoustic Communication and the Role of the Physical Environment.” Journal of Comparative Psychology Vol. 116.Issue 2 (2002): pp. 120-22.

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