Information: Mass & Self-Gravitation

Storage

        Information storage is delayed communication.  The capability to reliably record information creates a repository into which the simultaneously recursive and reflexive functions of language and communication can refer.  Language is an incomplete logical system of self-reference and it is in the activity of storage of information that a pool for reference and internal system-extension manifests itself. This is fundamentally a system of self-reference and recursion when considered globally or holistically.  In any system considered as a whole, there is no outside of the system, all activities and information/energy flows are internal to the system.

        The speed and acceleration of cultural, technological change is a function of the available mass-density of storage resources, media and artefacts.  Every act of reference back into the storage pool has the potential to create more material, more mass-density of information from which to reference and this in turn enriches the array of all available resources and data from which to reference.  When information is stored in artefacts, digital media, storage devices after (or through) communication, it adds to the mass-density of information.  As all this communication is being considered as internal to a global and holistic system of communications, all of this self-reference and increasing mass-density of stored information resources represents a self-gravitating acceleration of the system as a whole.  This self-gravitating acceleration is a mechanism or process which illustrates not only how cultures and their associated technologies as a whole tend to accelerate and become more complex over time (here we are notionally dealing with language and communication), but also why this happens.

        Minds, mental life and memories are part of the self-gravitating system of information accumulation and complexity aggregation but represent special cases.  In fact, this is where we need to introduce the concept of sub-component or notional sub-system.  A sub-system of a globally considered communications system of language and information transfer can be considered to possess boundaries or limits.  If the membrane defining the edge of one sub-system is not permeable, the system has become isolated.  Unless this isolation is reversed at some point, the sub-system will tend towards developmental deceleration, stasis and atrophy.  As an aside, any non-isolated individual sub-system of a globally networked communications system is just as much the environment to the larger system as is the larger system to it: this is a purely logical (not causative)  relationship.  X is environment to system Y as Y is environment to system X, regardless of size or scale.  A mind is in precisely this kind of relationship to the culture (or whatever other arbitrary system we choose to define) in which it exists – there is a symmetry of interdependence.

        Message delivery clearly becomes more difficult where the information being conveyed is of non-trivial complexity.  Storage systems allow for functional delays, temporary breaks in communication which can allow previous information to be fully absorbed.  I honestly think by this stage no one will have read any of these Communication blog posts but that is besides the point.  This is information storage for my own reference as much as it is for the communication of any specific message.

r.gif

Language: Semantics & Abbreviation

Abbreviation

        Communication is intellectual oxygen.  The ability to send and receive messages and to fundamentally agree on the meaning of those messages is essential to participating in a shared world.  Ambiguity in communication is catered for by mental flexibility.  If I use the word “sphere”, it is by virtue of your mind being able to construct a contextual, dimensional depth around the word that you can extract something of the intended meaning from the context of the communication: was I previously speaking about a domain of political influence or was I discussing mathematics and topology ?  In an analogous manner to the way you can mentally visualise the rotation of a sphere (say, a brightly-coloured beach ball), there exists here an extra dimension of depth from which your intellect will extract and construct context and meaning.

        Allowing that you can extract intended contexts from the majority of the words and more complex concepts I use to communicate my message, I am able to move on to abbreviate my communication in several ways.  By introducing more complex words and sentence structures I am able to convey a larger amount of information than I would be able to through an equivalent number of shorter words and simpler concepts.  Any message deliverable through complex language should certainly be able to be parsed into simpler words and concepts if necessary but the value of the complex text is that of the facilitation of compression and acceleration of message transfer.  More complex messages can not always be delivered through simple communication patterns.

        Nuance and subtlety are also methods of abbreviation which place a certain faith in the mental acuity or intellectual creativity of the intended message receiver.  The language-game of the poet is a special case as it is intentionally shifts the semantic locus of the text (i.e. the reconstruction of the intended message) to the mind of the receiver and induces them to construct their own meanings from relatively limited emotive grammar, rhythmic cues or playful affectations.

mechanika4-face

Incomplete messages require active listening and creative translation.

Communication: The Problem

15873125_10154961283163982_4377058232686407107_n

The Problem

        The Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein identified some interesting problems of language.  Language is a logical system through which we communicate.  Language is also that through which we very often fail to understand what is being conveyed to us, that is – it is that through which we fail to communicate clearly.  Although we may share an agreed-upon vocabulary and work within similar logical constraints (i.e. conventions of syntax and grammar), we often persist in failing to understand one another.

        Wittgenstein proposed that we use personal language-games.  This is to say – we each invent our own private language games in which what we mean by the words, phrases and concepts we use are probably clear to us but may not necessarily be clear and unambiguous to other people we are attempting to communicate with.  Clusters of concepts, mental associations, attributed values, personal memories and each of our own unique and semi-independent emergent rules and evolving algorithms of connectivity and conceptual recombination characterise these internal language-games.  We may have a clear internal, personal meaning of what we are attempting to communicate when we formulate a message but unless we are very cautious this message may rely too greatly on our internal language-games of meaning.

        Part of this problem lies in the fact that we must necessarily abbreviate our meanings into bite-sized (comprehensible) pieces when we communicate.  If I was hell-bent on delivering a completely unambiguous message and meaning to you, I may choose to explain to you my thoughts in extraordinary and very likely mind-numbingly tedious detail. This would transgress social norms and also in most circumstances leave you skimming the text for emotionally or contextually charged words.  If you are skimming my text, then you are performing an abbreviation and time-saving method which all but guarantees that the message you interpret or translate is not the one I had intended to convey.

calvin-hobbes-adult-situations-in-movies

In semantics, context is everything.

Organisational Solutions

        The organisational requirement for clarity and brevity in communication can cause what may be unavoidably more complex and subtle meanings to be lost.  When a more complex system of communications and information analysis is being engaged with, modelled or restructured – it is not uncommon for new languages, methodologies and conventions to develop.  The development of new languages and methodologies for communication and organisation can also bring with it a fairly hefty overhead of complexity and potential ambiguity.  This of course necessarily also creates niches in the information and communications ecosystem for the experts and high-priests of jargonised methodologies to emerge and thrive.  (Case in point: ITIL).

        Intra-organisational (i.e. internal) communication relies on clarity and brevity for effectiveness.  Explicit technical documentation and procedural direction are amenable to clear and concise language but the inherent ambiguity of communication is often not resolved, it is usually displaced to another location.  The induction and training of staff into technical skill-sets and conceptual vocabularies is a cost to any organisation and this is also an example of the way that the requirements for reducing ambiguity to make communication and collaboration more effective can also simply relocate the cost.  In the case of the requirement for training staff – the inertia caused by ambiguity in communication represents a negative synergy that is then transferred to another location of training and upskilling staff so merely becomes a different cost (of money and time) in a different place.

        The juggling of costs and benefits is the art of management. The advantage of a shared methodology or best practice can be that skills sets are interchangeable and interoperable between organisations and sub-components of organisations.  Shared methodologies and their explicit vocabularies represent one solution to the ambiguities of communication in practical circumstances.  It may be important to note that best practice methodological solutions tend to be rigid and inflexible and do not adapt well to rapidly changing circumstances.

jef-mallett-frazz-comic-strip-detention-for-tomato-semantics

Different language-games and their inherent communicative ambiguities can unintentionally create conflict.

Message Delivery

        Language and communication provides a narrow aperture through which we most often only see a vague and blurry sketch of the intended meaning.  Written language differs significantly from spoken,  conversational interchanges.  In a verbal interaction it is to be expected that someone will repeat themselves possibly several times and in several different ways while checking that they are being understood and modifying the message as necessary to massage a more successful message delivery.  Written language is committed to the page, screen or network and is (generally) unalterable after that point.  If the words used are not cautiously and thoughtfully constructed it is probable that the intended meaning will be obscured and coherent message delivery will fail.

        It perhaps a matter of subtle analysis, empathy and foresight to be able to consider the likely places where the meanings of a message may break down and require reconstruction, resending or the use of alternative channels to facilitate effective communication.

34bfa421f7ec6132562cba4f0b809da0.jpg