As a concept, communication is notoriously difficult to pin down. It represents a phenomenon that is at one and the same time ubiquitous yet elusive, prosaic yet mysterious, straightforward yet frustratingly prone to failure. It has been portrayed as ‘both complex and brittle, composed of several series of sometimes very subtle actions and behaviours, which as a rule are felicitous but quite often less than completely successful’ (Rosengren, 2000: 37). This has created difficulties when it comes to reaching agreement over matters of formal definition. Holli et al. (2008) attributed the problem to the vast range of activities that can be legitimately subsumed under this label. Traced back to its Latin roots the verb ‘to communicate’ means ‘to share’, ‘to make common’, meanings reflected in much of the current literature. Hewes (1995) identified two central themes at the core of communication:
1 intersubjectivity – which has to do with striving to understand others and being understood in turn
2 impact – which represents the extent to which a message brings about change in thoughts, feelings or behaviour.