Mark Johnson johnsonmwj1 at gmail.com
Sat Jan 18 12:41:49 CET 2020

Dear all,

Thank you to Joseph for his excellent summary. Loet's reflection here cuts
through a lot of confusion, I think, and is an excellent example of the
utility of thinking trans-personally (i.e. through communication codes). I
know, Joseph, you're not (like many!) a fan of Luhmann, but I do wonder if
Occam's razor takes us closer to thinking trans-personally.

Following through Loet's comments, is the question about the proliferation
of communication codes? So it's not about "truth" (and so truth can't be
reinforced by any information police), it's about variety - the variety of
lifeworlds we each now exist in, the variety of tools we must select to
communicate, the variety of interpretations that can be brought to things,
the variety of audiences that can be communicated with. Trump and co
deceive by manipulating this variety - appearing to simplify it through
crude attenuation.

Is the problem "disinformation" or the inability to organise ourselves
effectively to manage this complexity? (Or rather the ineffectiveness of
existing institutional forms to manage this, some of which are making a
claim to "reinforce the truth" - witness our universities).

The theory of intersubjectivity upon which Luhmann (and Loet) build their
transpersonalism is predicated on the construction of effective selection
mechanisms that can manage the complexity of the environment. That
construction process requires a social context - an institution - in order
to operate... Does it not?

Best wishes


On Fri, 17 Jan 2020, 11:01 Loet Leydesdorff, <loet at leydesdorff.net> wrote:

> Dear colleagues,
> It seems to me that in a pluralistic society a variety of codes are used
> in the communication. For example, politicians may discuss "energy
> politics" or a "shortage of energy" when they mean "energy carriers" such
> as oil. In thermodynamics, however, there can be no "shortage of energy"
> because energy is conserved. The concept of "energy" is differently coded
> in scholarly and political discourse.
> A science journalist, for example, has the task to mediate and translate
> from a scholarly discourse into news items. "Science" cannot "meet the
> public." See for example:
> Leydesdorff, L. (1993). Why the statement 'Plasma-membrane transport is
> rate-limiting for its metabolism in rat-liver parenchymal cells' cannot
> meet the public. *Public Understanding of Science, *2(4), 351-364.
> However, the representation of a concept in a different communication
> system of reference can always be frames as "misinformation" from the
> perspective of the represented system. A translation is necessarily
> involved. This is not "post-modern" because also the* trias politica* contains
> three different codes of communication. The same concept may have different
> semantics in the court or in parliament. There are no longer single
> meanings.
> In a High Culture these ambivalences can be solved because the top of the
> hierarchy can eventually decided what is the correct meaning. For example, "*Roma
> dixit":*  misinformation is then heresy. In a pluralistic society,
> however, there is no single meaning. For example, what can be heroic in
> Catalonia can be considered as high-treason in the context of Spain. The
> European court may disagree with the Spanish high court because of using
> another code.
> Best,
> Loet
> ------------------------------
> Loet Leydesdorff
> Professor emeritus, University of Amsterdam
> Amsterdam School of Communication Research (ASCoR)
> loet at leydesdorff.net ; http://www.leydesdorff.net/
> Associate Faculty, 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 Fellow, Birkbeck <http://www.bbk.ac.uk/>, University of London;
> http://scholar.google.com/citations?user=ych9gNYAAAAJ&hl=en
> ORCID: http://orcid.org/0000-0002-7835-3098;
> ------ Original Message ------
> From: "Joseph Brenner" <joe.brenner at bluewin.ch>
> To: fis at listas.unizar.es
> Cc: pcmarijuan.iacs at aragon.es
> Sent: 1/17/2020 10:48:14 AM
> Subject: [Fis] LECTURE RESPONSES UP TO 16.01.20
> Dear Friends and Colleagues,
> As our discussion is taking place, the governments of Russia and the United
> States are being recognized as the sources of massive amounts of
> disinformation. Their objective in part was the election and is now the
> re-election of Trump as President of the United States. My personal view
> is that this disinformation is linked to and supports extreme right-wing
> economic, political and fundamentalist belief systems. I was therefore glad
> to see the agreement, in the responses to my Lecture, that disinformation
> is not only an important topic for further discussion in the context of the
> Foundations of Information Science, but one which some members of our group
> may be in a position to counter.
> I will present my comments in two groups, the first today are on the
> responses with which I agree, in a week or so on responses with which I
> disagree. As people who have followed my work might expect, there is no
> absolute separation between these categories. I also will try to give some
> sense of the dynamics of our dialogue. They will be indexed simply to
> facilitate (cross-) reference.
> I look forward to your responses as the basis for the next phase of the
> discussion.
> Thank you and best wishes,
> Joseph
> A.I 02.01 Jose Javier emphasized the public origins of disinformation, its
> relation to ‘intelligence’ and its use by totalitarian regimes, exactly
> along the lines above. I tend to agree with his suggestion that more than
> having a structure close to if not identical to information, disinformation
> IS information, BAD information. Using the ‘dis’ as an oversimplified
> distinction in structure tends to gloss over the pernicious operation of
> information with the properties we decry. Perhaps another term would convey
> the idea better or more simply.
> A.2 02.01 I am grateful to Stan for pointing to the distinction between
> concepts and examples. I suggest we keep this comment in mind in our
> further discussion.
> A.3 03.01 Mark J. responded to a comment by Stan with which I disagreed,
> namely, that there was something less primary about disinformation. Stan
> interposes an actor, a ‘searcher’ who analyzes information and ‘reports’ on
> it, presumably distorting it in the process. In any case, I think we agree
> that disinformation is a process – one of *disinforming. *I disagree with
> Mark however regarding agents and a consequent theory of agency (which has
> value in other respects). My view is that one cannot have the
> intentionality to disinform without an agent, and this can be an individual
> present at the start of the process. I suggest to Stan here that his
> two-step process is not absolutely necessary: the agent, the intentional
> ‘disinformer’, takes whatever material is available and mis- or should I
> say dis-uses it. Mark’s point about the necessity of even the smell (or
> stink) of an ‘informational police’ is certainly correct, but what is an
> acceptable alternative? Actually, police are simply tools of government,
> good or bad. We are talking here about responsible collective interactions
> as FIS members with – whom? We don’t know yet.
> A.4 06.01 Karl makes a number of useful points. The most important is the
> confusion, in English between *disinformation*, as the suppression,
> non-dissemination of inconvenient data or theories, and *disinformation *as
> the dissemination of false data. The confusion is not present in French,
> where the second is *désinformation*, and, as I learn, also in German and
> Hungarian. So what do we do? Push for the use of desinformation in English,
> which requires explanation, or something else? In any case, both share the
> notion of intentionality.
> Finally, I liked the way Karl pats us all on the back, but the objective
> remains also to get *some* message to *someone* outside the group.
> A.5 05.01 Pedro makes several important restatements of the biological
> origins of the equivalents of disinformation. (Until further notice, *pace
> *Karl, we have to continue to use this form.) The exacerbation of
> disinformation due to the new technologies also needs to be emphasized.
> What we have not yet identified is the distinguishing ‘marker’ of
> disinformation. It is a ‘fake’ as Pedro says *qua *content, but it looks
> exactly like the information people are used to getting. It can easily
> mimic credibility and authority, even if one has to be really ignorant not
> to see through it (45% of the U.S. population?)
> The question of balance is more interesting and possibly more encouraging.
> Balance in seeing and presenting other, alternative views to one’s own is
> an indication of openness and tolerance - at last, a few positive words!
> There is little balance in disinformation. In fact, perhaps *absence* of
> pros and cons in the same message, might be a marker for disinformation.
> A.6 09.01 This is perhaps the most serious, clear and urgent call so far,
> by Terry, for an adequate intellectual level of analysis of disinformation
> and related issues. Terry’ most important point, which I hope will receive
> further discussion as son as possible, regards the role IS4SI has to play
> and in front of what audience.
> I wish to emphasize that I was not making some kind of Luddite argument
> against cybernetic approaches (my note about Terry’s of 10.1) I only wished
> to insure that they have adequate grounding in non-computational science
> and philosophy. I hope, or even ask, that Terry could expand on his ideas
> on an informational immune system. This would be the next step after the
> identification of the ‘markers’ for the dis-ease.
> A.7 09.01 More than just a supplementary question, I feel this note of
> Mark’s goes to the heart of the technological *vs. *the non-technological
> aspects of the problem. I note his consideration of information and
> disinformation in tandem, at the level of institutions and systems. (For
> me, a husband and wife, or two friends or colleagues are systems). I also
> agree that over-application of computer systems to institutions may result
> in information *loss. * In the context of this discussion, it may
> actually be a tool employed by people who intend to disinform.
> A.8 08.01 Mark’s follow-up note points to one success of AI that I suggest
> be followed up separately. More specifically, he asks if machine learning,
> “might ground an insight” into the functional difference between
> information and disinformation, along the lines of Terry’s considerations.
> My response is the same: if yes, fine, but human learning is also required,
> and must be supported. If not, there will be no one left but machines, and
> I am sure they will be able to pursue ‘truth’ on their own.
> A.9 15.01 In supporting Terry, Pedro again calls for a role for IS4SI,
> initially internally with the formation of a special working group. Its
> purpose would be to see what both theoretical and applied contributions we
> might make. However, it is not the computer world as such that will result
> in ‘voting every afternoon’, in Arbib’s *fuite en avant.* when only X%
> (Pedro, please give us the right number) of the members of FIS have
> responded to this Lecture.
> The point about authentification, however, joins the previous ones about
> markers and functional differences; and constitutes a first real
> mini-consensus on a target for further work.
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