Charles Berret

This paper presents a model of communication based on the conditions of its success and failure. Building on Peters’ metaphor of communication as both a bridge and a chasm, the model depicts cryptography as a drawbridge to selectively choose the audience of a message. The model forms a set of islands linked by a series of drawbridges, each representing a source of communication’s success or failure, and each of which must be passed in sequence. The first drawbridge is recognition, in which the most basic source of failed communication is to be unaware that a message is even present. The next is access, in which some form of barrier or lack of authorization keeps one from accessing a message. Next is legibility, the ability to recognize individual symbols, followed by intelligibility, the recognition of coherent patterns, words, and syntax in those symbols. The final two stages of this model concern different stages of meaning. The public meaning of a message is the literal, surface sense intended to be understood without insinuation or ambiguity. The private meaning of a message is either selectively encoded for a specific audience, or else fully interior to our own minds. The descriptive and explanatory power of this model is illustrated through various examples in which communication is secret, secure, and otherwise selective of its audience.