Kickoff for September FIS Session

From: John Holgate <HolgateJ@sesahs.nsw.GOV.AU>
Date: Tue 17 Sep 2002 - 07:22:28 CEST

Dear FISers,

Thanks to John Collier for his authoritative and stimulating coordination of our previous session.

attention a little on the proposed theme of Misconceptions and Paradoxes - particularly the relationship of that enigmatic entity 'information' and what we call 'meaning'.

Several of our contributors have seriously explored this area - that intriguing no-man's-land between science and philosophy.

And many of our recent discussions have skirted this topic (role of abduction, intentionality, logic etc).

Each of our presenters has approached the issue from a different but credible perspective.

Luciano Floridi in 'Is information meaningful data?' proposes the concept of 'semantic information' and makes an interesting departure from classical information theory by positing that truth is the hallmark of an informational entity :
'The main thesis defended is that meaningful and well-formed data constitute information only if they also qualify as contingently truthful. '.

Does 'meaningful data' adequately account for the concept of information? If information is expressed in terms of 'well-formedness' how do we validate its shape within the framework of a possibly symmetric universe?

Heiner Benking's paper advocates a cognitive panorama - a mindscape of meaningful data which provides us with maps and models for positioning and sharing our concerns and assumptions.
Soren Brier's cogent and systematic article 'The Cybernetic Model: an evolutionary view on the threshold between semiosis and informational exchange' searches for sense within the framework of cybersemiotics by extending Peirce's triadic worldview. He comes up with an original philosophical framework for a trans-disciplinary information science or a semiotic doctrine. He views meaning 'in an evolutionary light' as an embodied process.
Ted Goranson's 'The Importance of Multilevel Agency' examines the basis for the self-organizing behavior of biochemical systems by positing a semantics of the information exchange both between biochemical entities and within human intercourse.
Christian Fuchs in 'The Role of the Individual in the Social Information Process' opens up a relatively unexplored vista on 'social information' from a neo-Marxist position. This socio-political dimension certainly raises a number of unanswered questions about the nature of information as a social good and its role in human organisation.

What role does a mythology play in the cultural transmission and distortion of information through art and science?
Terry Marks-Tarlow's 'Riddle of the Sphinx Revisited' examines the 'dynamic tension between knowing and not knowing'
within self-referential uncertainty as expressed in the Oedipus myth.

As we move from Luciano's First Order Logic to Soren' Brier's cybersemiotic model and the kinematics of Heiner Benking's cognitive panoramas to Ted Goranson's semantically-determined systems, Christian Fuchs's 'dialectic of actions and social structures' or Terry Marks-Tarlow's self-referential uncertainty in myth, the frame of reference changes from statement to system to sign to society to mythology. However each author supports a broadly-defined semantics.

Finally, at the other end of the spectrum, we have Christophe Menant's 'Information and Meaning' a study of the paremecium and
its reaction to an acidic environment . For him a meaning is a 'meaningful information that is created by a system submitted to a constraint when it receives an external information that has a connection with the constraint.' If a humble paramecium can in fact process 'meaningful information' how does that tally with the semantics inherent in the views of the other presenters?

All these papers suggest a number of enigmas and possible misconceptions.

Our first question might be: Is a viable theory of information contingent on a theory of meaning?

I am looking forward to your continued lively interaction.

As we enter our discussions let me reiterate John Collier's observation:

"So, we need to keep our systems open, and recognize that all systems in the world are also open."

John Holgate

Received on Tue Sep 17 07:23:00 2002

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