Communication & Information: Being in the World

Sound in Cinema, Murray Stiller

Stiller presents Adorno’s Aesthetic Theory as one of the principle arguments for sounds significance in film. The theory outlines the role of art in capitalist society and social transformation, and the aesthetic value it may hold. Adorno believed that when art is authentic, it will contain inherent hermeneutic meaning, and empirical value. These characteristics would bring forth another ‘world’ even if the work could be traced by its social and/or cultural influences.

On the other end, Adorno believed that art that was produced solely for entertainment purposes could be, or is, reduced to information that could be consumed. Art of this nature will derive from commercial interests that dictate the participant (or spectator) as an object that is already immersed in the capitalist calculation, rather than a subject (or participant) that could reflect and reinterpret.

Adrorno’s ‘Standardization’reflects his analysis of mass-produced art, allowing audiences to become passive witnesses in the process of deconcentration. He calls for serious art that is authentic and original that demands attention. Original work will provide tension that must have deeper consideration, that can only find resolution through society

Film: Being in the World

How we engage with the objects in the world, make sense and give meaning to things and life.

First, we have Plato, who developed The Theory of Forms. This theory was meant to reveal the truth and rationality that drives man. He highlighted the need for abstraction and that meaning only derives from idea, or our ability to think.

It wasn’t until Heidegger in the 1920’s, that this logic-strict position changed. In Being In Time (1927) he claims that our ability to act in the world, and be involved with objects in the world is the most important aspect of the mind. He calls this “skillful coping”, like sports, crafts and playing instruments- where there we no longer need to think about doing something, we know how.

The introduction of computer technology changed the philosophical debate that had been circulating questions about the mind and intelligence. It was thought that the computer will be able to compose evidence and truth about the mind.

The foundation of artificial intelligence was based on the platonic ideas, that the mind is composed of logical and reasonable rules about the world. This is based on measurement and quality rather than the experience or “profound truth” of an object or thing.


Communication & Information Theory: Lars Skyttner, General Systems Theory

Physiology: Matter/energy & information. Assumes that “organisms are information systems”.

Semiotics: Something acts as a sign to a living organism. The inner-subjectivity of an organism possess the meaning of a given sign.

Infology: The presentation and reading of verbal & visual information.

*The problem of communication: to make a (truthful or misleading- according to the intention of the transmitter) representation in one place, of a presentation already existing  in another. Communication transfers as “representative substitutions”. In cases where phenomena that has value is transferred, it is called a “transaction”.  Communication and transactions are the only existing interaction systems (207).

A sign is everything which can be taken as adequately substituting for something else. Signs will always exist in a context of shared understanding.

⇒signs also designates and establishes the relationship between an idea and its resulting expression.

A signal is a sign that consists of a physical phenomena that is directly related to its present environment to supply its message directly.

⇒signals concern the external world only.

A symbol is the mental representation or internal reality that refers to the given object. The representation is established by known conventions to produce the conscious interpretation of a sign. Symbols are equal to data in classic information systems.

⇒symbols also relate to feelings, they retrieve information and communicators to produce motivation.

Communication symmetry is balancing a message’s quality of informability, detectability and localizability. There are two forms of communication:

Analogue: a both/and transfer that is an ongoing continuum. This requires a process of relationships, Skyttner gives these examples: Territory, More/less, Relativistic.

Digital : an either/or transfer that is a reproduction of structure and/or pattern. Skyttner’s examples are: Map, Either/or, Absolutist.

Skyttner lists 8 natural channels for communication: acoustic, optic, chemical, mechanical, thermal, electric, magnetic, echolocation (biosonar information, like bats).

Skyttner discusses the use of ‘Natural language’ which is characterized by an openness that permits all kinds of new messages. This language represents the most sophisticated and advanced form of digital communication. Skyttner states that the translation from analogue to digital communication will often result in a addition of information, but a loss of meaning.  He explains that environmental factors and needs determine the ultimate choice of communication channel and its design features.This will mean that the time and place are the most significant factors when communicating.

Claude Shannon’s “The Mathematical Theory of Communication

His three conceptual levels of human communication:


The syntactic (the data level) is entirely internal. The syntactic links signs and recognizes logical or formal patterns, like grammar, within a sign systems. Perception of the physical form rather than the content of the signs is rationalized and recognized.

Related problem: [Technical problem] How accurately can the symbols used in communication be transmitted?


Semantic level (the information level) is the application and general understanding of a given signs significance through interpretation. By related things, actions and outside world, the meaning and association between signs are constructed. This level maps the signs meaning within the given system’s goal.

Related problem: [representation problem] How accurately do the transmitted signs represent the intended message?


Pragmatic level (the knowledge level) is where evaluation takes place, dealing with the psychological and personal impact of communication. This level contains the controlling and regulating function of a system in practical application of knowledge and produces decision making.  The value for the transmitter and receiver are actualized in this level, and the question of meaning is held.

Related problem: [efficiency problem] How efficiently does the revived message influence the behavior of the receiver?


Empirics describes the physical characteristics of the communication channel like sound or light.

Meaning cannot be forecasted by someone else, since stored signals of previous referents may have different signification for the sender and receiver of a message. So, meaning is generated by social interaction or experience with (more or less) common environments. The relation between the symbolic representation and its meaning is random (220).

Shannon’s information theory does not deal with meaning or what is being said, as much as what could be said or what is not said. With this being said, information is not meaning, and has no value itself. Meaning is a relationship between the message and the receiver, not an inherent property of the message itself so it will vary between receivers.

Neither true nor false, significant nor insignificant, reliable nor unreliable, accepted nor rejected, the content within information is outside the scope of technical theory. The process necessary to code an experience into a set of communicable symbols, the transmission and decoding during recall is irrelevant to the very content. So, Shannon’s theory only concerns the probability of reception under various conditions (transmission).

The transmission and coding of a message take advantage of the spatial and temporal ordering of elements carrying the information to the receiver. Damping or distortion causes significant degrading to the message between transmitter and receiver, the total influence can be measured as the resulting difference between the original input and output.

In measurements and observations, communication systems are no longer between two entities (as a tree does not speak to a scientist through language) and is considered a channel of observation in contemporary information theory, distinct from a channel of communication which must have at least two people.

The “metamessage”, which provides implicit instructions for how the receiver is to interpret a message, is always superior to the content, including facial expression, bearing and intonation.  C. Cherry explains that the knowledge qualities (or pragmatic level) of a message rely on: the circumstances at hand, earlier experiences of the sender and receiver and each individual’s qualities (1996).

Information is not dependent upon any specific technology for production, distribution or use, it is a relation, not a concrete thing. It is a kind of variation pattern. Philosophically, information only exists under observation, it does not make any sense unless there is an information processor.

Information is ‘that which determines form’ where it’s significance is derived from the context to which it is being used.

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