[Fis] [Fwd: Re: Information is a linguistic description of structures]--T...

Mark Johnson johnsonmwj1 at gmail.com
Thu Oct 1 09:47:13 CEST 2015

Dear Loet and colleagues,

I wonder if an alternative view is possible: that the symbolic
codification of the sciences inherent in discourse and supported by
our universities (as they are currently constituted) is a constraint
which prevents us exploring a proper science of constraint. To
overcome it requires not just words and papers, but new forms of
practice, pedagogy, organisation and innovative uses of technology
(possibly what Gordon Pask referred to as 'maverick machines').
Expectations of academic practice - particularly within University
management - make this very hard to establish. Gregory Bateson
identified this very clearly - I recommend his essay at the end of
"Mind and Nature", "Time is out of joint".

There are perhaps some encouraging signs: the practices of artists and
musicians with new technologies, for example, or innovative approaches
to design. The challenge in taking such things more seriously lies in
thinking creatively about how we talk with each other about them.
Bateson understood the problem: he called it the "anti-aesthetic
assumption" which "Bacon, Locke and Newton long ago gave to the
physical sciences, viz that all phenomena (including the mental) can
and shall be studied and evaluated in quantitative terms."

Bateson's argument is that there are two complementary aspects to
mental process: a conservative, rigorous inner logic that demands
compatibility and conformance, and an imaginative, adaptive response
by nature in order to survive in a changing world. It is a mistake, I
think, to subsume the imaginative within the 'conservative inner
logic', which is the tendency of the language-oriented view of the
world. Somehow the balance has to be struck: "Rigour alone is
paralytic death, but imagination alone is insanity"

The point is that this has to be struck organisationally and
institutionally. Bateson ends by asking the Board of Regents at the
University of California (in 1978) "Do we, as a Board, foster whatever
will promote in students, in faculty, and around the boardroom table
those wider perspectives which will bring our system back into an
appropriate synchrony or harmony between rigour and imagination?" It's
an important question. How many university managers would even
understand it today?

Best wishes,


On Thu, Oct 1, 2015 at 7:14 AM, Loet Leydesdorff <loet at leydesdorff.net> wrote:
> in other words, it's time we confess in science just how little we know
> about language, that we explore language's mysteries, and that we use our
> discoveries as a crowbar to pry open the secrets of this highly contextual,
> deeply relational, profoundly communicational cosmos.
> Dear colleagues,
> The vernacular is not sufficiently codified to contain the complexity of the
> sciences. One needs specialized languages (jargons) that are based on
> symbolic codification. The codes can be unpacked in elaborate language; but
> they remain under re-construction. The further differentiation of codes of
> communication drives the complexity and therefore the advancement of the
> sciences as discursive constructs.
> This cultural evolution remains rooted in and generated by the underlying
> levels. For example, individuals provide variety by making new knowledge
> claims. Since the selection is at the level of communication, however, this
> level tends to take over control. But not as an agent; it further
> differentiates into different forms of communication such as scientific
> discourse, political discourse, etc. Sociologists (Parsons, Luhmann) have
> proposed “symbolically generalized media of communication” which span
> horizons of meaning. “Energy”, for example, has a meaning in science very
> different from its meaning in political discourse. Translations remain of
> course possible; local organizations and agents have to integrate different
> meanings in action (variation; reproduction).
> In my recent paper on the Self-organization of meaning (at
> http://arxiv.org/abs/1507.05251 ), I suggest to distinguish between three
> levels (following Weaver): A. (Shannon-type) information processing ; B.
> meaning sharing using languages; C. translations among coded communications.
> The horizontal and vertical feedback and feedforward mechanisms (entropy
> generation vs. redundancy generation in terms of increasing the number of
> options) are further to be specified.
> Hopefully, this contributes to our discussion.
> Best,
> Loet
> ________________________________
> Loet Leydesdorff
> Professor Emeritus, University of Amsterdam
> Amsterdam School of Communication Research (ASCoR)
> loet at leydesdorff.net ; http://www.leydesdorff.net/
> Honorary Professor, SPRU, University of Sussex;
> Guest Professor Zhejiang Univ., Hangzhou; Visiting Professor, ISTIC,
> Beijing;
> Visiting Professor, Birkbeck, University of London;
> http://scholar.google.com/citations?user=ych9gNYAAAAJ&hl=en
> _______________________________________________
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Dr. Mark William Johnson
Phone: 07786 064505
Email: johnsonmwj1 at gmail.com
Blog: http://dailyimprovisation.blogspot.com

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