[Fis] Shannon-Weavers' Levels A, B, C.

Loet Leydesdorff loet at leydesdorff.net
Thu Oct 15 14:38:54 CEST 2015

Dear Marcus, Mark, Bob, and colleagues, 


My ambition was a bit more modest: the paper does not contain a theory of meaning or a theory of everything. It is an attempt to solve a problem in the relation between sociology (i.c. Luhmann) focusing on meaning processing (and autopoiesis) and (Shannon-type) information theory. Luhmann left this problem behind by defining information as a selection, while in my opinion entropy is a measure of diversity and therefore variation. I was very happy to find the clues in Weaver’s contributions; Katherine Hayles has signaled this previously. 


Another author important in the background is Herbert Simon who specified the model of vertical differentiation (1973), but without having Maturana & Varela’s theory of autopoiesis for specification of the dynamics. I agree with Luhmann that one has to incorporate ideas from Husserl about horizons of meaning and Parsons’ symbolically generalize media as structuring these horizons for understanding the differentia specifica of the social as non-biological.


Mark more or less answers his own questions, don’t you? The constraints of the body provide the contingency. The options are not given, but constructed and need thus to be perceived, either by individuals or at the organizational (that is, social) level. The contingency also positions (as different from others) with whom we can then entertain “double contingencies” as the basis for generating variation in the communication. How this works and feeds back on the persons involved seems to me the subject of other disciplines like psychology and neurology. The subject of study is then no longer (or no longer exclusively) res cogitans.


For example, if a deaf person is provided with a cochlear implant, s/he may enter other domains of perception and be able to provide other contributions to the communication. The double contingencies between him/her and others can be expected to change.


Bob and his colleagues define information (2008; p. 28) as “natural selection assembling the very constraints on the release of energy that then constitutes work and the propagation of organization.” This may have meaning in a biological framework, in which selection is considered “natural” resulting in organization(s). In the cultural domain, organization (of meaning) remains constructed and contingent; selection is never “natural”, but based on codified expectations. The codes steer the system from above. Differently from biological and engineered systems, this next-order level does not have to be slower than the systems level (Simon). Expectations can proliferate intersubjectively at higher speeds than we can follow. For example, we have to catch up with the literature. Stock exchanges operate faster than local markets because of the more sophisticated codes that mediate the financial exchanges.


Maturana (1978, at p. 56) introduced the biologist as super-observer who does not participate in the biological phenomena under study, but constructs them: “Thus, talking human beings dwell in two non-intersecting phenomenal domains.” (italic added). Systems which operate exclusively in terms of expectations and anticipations of future states cannot be found in nature; they can only be considered reflexively. They allow us to de- and reconstruct in terms of improving the models, and thus sometimes find new options for technological intervention. Paradoxically, biology as a science is itself part of this cultural domain. For example, we have access to our body only in terms of perceptions (that are steered by expectations) and at the other end by knowledge-based interventions.


This is my second posting for this week. 






Loet Leydesdorff 

Professor Emeritus, University of Amsterdam
Amsterdam School of Communication Research (ASCoR)

 <mailto:loet en leydesdorff.net> loet en leydesdorff.net ;  <http://www.leydesdorff.net/> http://www.leydesdorff.net/ 
Honorary Professor,  <http://www.sussex.ac.uk/spru/> SPRU, University of Sussex; 

Guest Professor  <http://www.zju.edu.cn/english/> Zhejiang Univ., Hangzhou; Visiting Professor,  <http://www.istic.ac.cn/Eng/brief_en.html> ISTIC, Beijing;

Visiting Professor,  <http://www.bbk.ac.uk/> Birkbeck, University of London; 

 <http://scholar.google.com/citations?user=ych9gNYAAAAJ&hl=en> http://scholar.google.com/citations?user=ych9gNYAAAAJ&hl=en


From: Fis [mailto:fis-bounces en listas.unizar.es] On Behalf Of Marcus Abundis
Sent: Thursday, October 15, 2015 7:11 AM
To: fis en listas.unizar.es
Subject: [Fis] Shannon-Weavers' Levels A, B, C.


Hey Mark,

    Sorry if I confused things by commenting on Bateson AND THEN Shannon-Weaver. In my mind those were two different matters, and did not merit my calling them out as such.


In general . . . 

    I too never saw Shanon-Weaver's Levels A, B, C as complete. In fact, I thought that portrayal as barely (oddly) half-hearted, in contrast to the allusion to a needed "theory of meaning." Still, I will dig into the work Loet and Bob reference . . . and see if I can find some personal satisfaction.


    ALSO, I found myself wondering if I should somehow try to tie Steven's sense of locality in with the notion of Levels A, B, C. Perhaps they are not specific enough in order to do so – not sure.


Marcus Abundis






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