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

Mark Johnson johnsonmwj1 at gmail.com
Sat Oct 17 19:39:49 CEST 2015

Dear Loet, Joseph and Fis colleagues,

Some thoughts:

Pascal: "the heart has its reasons [the constraints of the body] which the
reason cannot perceive [because it is abstract]" and yet... we do come to
know the reasons of the heart - we know them long before we know reason. In
language as Joseph says "Less is more" precisely, in my experience at
least, because ambiguities reveal the reasons of the heart. Poetic language
lifts the veil of everyday language to expose the raw, embodied, uncodified
constraints which underpin it. Music is more powerful still (Alfred Schutz
wrote about this wonderfully)

Can we fashion a description of how this works with existing theory? (I
don't believe we should surrender the territory to psychologists!)

Parsons's idea of 'double-contingency' of communication presents an
interaction between ego and alter where communication emerges through
selections of meaning and utterance of each party. Schutz, whose theory of
intersubjectivity was important for Parsons (they had an significant and
difficult correspondence about these matters which is well-documented in
Richard Grathoff's "The Theory of Social Action: The Correspondence of
Alfred Schutz and Talcott Parsons") found Parsons's model too
functionalist. Parsons and Schutz have a different understanding of how
people 'tune-in' to one another: I see Parsons's model as effectively
'digital': a set of multi-level interacting selections; Schutz's concept is
more 'analogue', involving sharing a sense of 'inner time' between people.
I prefer to think of this as a shared constraint.

Loet's redescription of double-contingency in terms of mutual redundancies
loosens the determinism in both Parsons and Luhmann (who followed him). I
think this is important, and opens a space for reconsidering Schutz's
understanding of how 'tuning-in' might work.

It's best to start with 'selection' (of utterance, meaning and
understanding in Luhmann). Shannon selections are constrained by redundancy
as we know, so to turn the spotlight on the redundancies rather than what
is selected allows us to differentiate the intersubjective communication
between two people talking face-to-face as one of higher mutual
constraint/redundancy than the intersubjective situation of writing an
email or a listserve post to Fis. Locality makes a difference in increasing
mutual constraint.

Returning to Pascal, my body constrains my thoughts in ways which cannot be
abstractly modelled, and yet I can apprehend my own constraints and those
of others, whilst not necessarily being able to articulate them in
language. I could however make music, wave my arms around, pull an angry
face, or cry. Isn't inference of constraints by observing such behaviour
essential to communication? How could double contingency work were we not
able to grasp and physically feel what constrains the other? Babies
wouldn't survive otherwise!

Just to extend the speculation a bit further, we should ask about the
process of knowledge construction itself in the light of mutual redundancy.
Since Hume, many believe that the agreement of scientists in the light of
event regularities is a factor in the development of knowledge. What do
those scientists 'tune into' when they do this? In what way might an
empirical event regularity be a mutual constraint? How are physical
constraints separable from personal, biological or psychological

Might apparently 'woolly' (but, IMO, valuable) sociomaterial accounts of
science be reframed as analytical accounts of interacting constraints?

just some thoughts...


On Thu, Oct 15, 2015 at 1:38 PM, Loet Leydesdorff <loet at leydesdorff.net>

> 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.
> 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, <http://www.sussex.ac.uk/spru/>University of
> Sussex;
> Guest Professor Zhejiang Univ. <http://www.zju.edu.cn/english/>,
> Hangzhou; Visiting Professor, ISTIC,
> <http://www.istic.ac.cn/Eng/brief_en.html>Beijing;
> Visiting Professor, Birkbeck <http://www.bbk.ac.uk/>, University of
> London;
> http://scholar.google.com/citations?user=ych9gNYAAAAJ&hl=en
> *From:* Fis [mailto:fis-bounces at listas.unizar.es] *On Behalf Of *Marcus
> Abundis
> *Sent:* Thursday, October 15, 2015 7:11 AM
> *To:* fis at 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*
> about.me/marcus.abundis
> _______________________________________________
> Fis mailing list
> Fis at listas.unizar.es
> http://listas.unizar.es/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/fis

Dr. Mark William Johnson
Leeds University Business School
Visiting Professor
Far Eastern Federal University, Russia
Phone: 07786 064505
Email: johnsonmwj1 at gmail.com
Blog: http://dailyimprovisation.blogspot.com
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