Primary encoding can be defined as the “astylistic” presentation of
information via a medium of communication such as speech, text, and hand
gestures. Secondary encoding is defined as a presentation style that applies
to or accompanies primary encoding and provides additional information. Put
in another way, primary encoding can be the "what" is said and secondary
encoding can be "how" it is said.
Primary encoding is presented at face value and secondary encoding
complements it with additional meaning. For example, you say the words, "I
am very interested in this job" (primary) during an interview but you appear
tired and uninterested (secondary) in what the interviewer is saying. From
your body language, the interviewer will think you are not interested. The
words you say may not be as important as how you say them.
Watch the following videos on the importance of body language and
non-verbal communication, which contains secondary encoded information.
This ADE will provide you with an overview of a few secondary encodings
and what happens when a person cannot detect it. It will focus on the use
of colour, tone, and culture.
the Technical Help Page for guidance on
enabling this technology.
The way we speak can convey information about ourselves, beyond the
spoken words The tone of voice we use with the words convey the the meaning
we intended as well as our emotions. Without the tone, as is often the case
with text, it can be difficult to determine the meaning. The first and
second activities will illustrate this.
Tone is sometimes also used to alert a user of an event. This is called
an earcon. However, the user may not be able to detect it due to a hearing
disability. The earcon may use a tone that is outside the range of hearing.
The third activity will illustrate this.
What to do:
- Go to the Tones and
Emotions website and complete the activity.
- Did you detect different emotions from the provided answers?
- Go to the Lack of Tone
website and complete the activity.
- How many of the emotions/meanings did you get correct?
- What techniques do you use to indicate your emotions/meanings
when you are chatting with friends online?
- How do you express the following?
- Do your friends express it the same way as you? If not, how does
- What are some problems with using emoticons and acronyms?
hearing test and see which range of tones you are able to
- What is your "reference sound" (dB)?
- What range(s) of sound can you hear (in Hz)?
- Compare your results with someone. How does their range differ from
- As a developer, how would you avoid earcons that use sound outside
the hearing range of your users?
Our cultural background has a strong influence on how we interpret
information. The tones in a language can affect how we speak and how we
understand another language. Also, the phrases within one culture can be
unknown to another. The following activities will illustrate this.
What to do:
- Listen to the following English audio clips.
- What can you conclude about the pronunciation of the words
and the meanings? (Note: It may help to write down the
spelling of each word in the audio clip.)
- Listen to the following
- How many different words do you think is being spoken?
- How many times do you think the "same" word was spoken?
- Go to the
New Concept Mandarin page and listen to the different tones
in the language. Each tone can be a different word. Were you able
to tell the difference between the pronunciations? Listen to the
again. How many words can you hear?
What to hand in:
In addition to the questions asked throughout this activity, submit the
- What did you learn from this ADE?
- What will you do differently now that you have learned it?
- Should secondary encoding be used on Web content? If so, how should
it be used? If not, why not?
- Besides those presented in this ADE, what are some other solutions
that can help resolve the problems with secondary encoding?
- What were your expectations of this ADE?
- Did this ADE meet your expectations? Provide a rating between 1 and
7, where 1 means not at all, 4 means somewhat, and 7 means
absolutely. Please explain your choice.
- Did you feel that the video(s) for this ADE was appropriate? Why or
why not? Provide a rating between 1 and 7, where 1 means not at
all, 4 means somewhat, and 7 means absolutely. Please explain your
- Do you have any suggestions for other possible videos?
- Did you feel that the questions above got you to think about the
real and serious issues regarding this ADE? Provide a rating
between 1 and 7, where 1 means not at all, 4 means somewhat, and
7 means absolutely. Please explain your choice.
- If you have any suggestions on how to improve this ADE, please
include it here.
Additional Information and Tools
provides a good summarization of emoticons, where they came from, and
what they mean.
website suggests ways to convey emotions and tones.
website describes the use of abbreviations and tags.
- This is a
guideline for developing earcons.