Where Did Information Go? Reflections on the Logical Status of Information in a Cybernetic and Semiotic Perspective

Biosemiotics 6 (1):105-123 (2013)
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This article explores the usefulness of interdisciplinarity as method of enquiry by proposing an investigation of the concept of information in the light of semiotics. This is because, as Kull, Deacon, Emmeche, Hoffmeyer and Stjernfelt state, information is an implicitly semiotic term (Biological Theory 4(2):167–173, 2009: 169), but the logical relation between semiosis and information has not been sufficiently clarified yet. Across the history of cybernetics, the concept of information undergoes an uneven development; that is, information is an ‘objective’ entity in first order cybernetics, and becomes a ‘subjective’ entity in second order cybernetics. This contradiction relegates the status of information to that of a ‘true’ or ‘false’ formal logic problem. The present study proposes that a solution to this contradiction can be found in Deely’s reconfiguration of Peirce’s ‘object’ (as found in his triadic model of semiosis) into ‘thing’ and ‘object’ (Deely 1981). This ontology allows one to argue that information is neither ‘true’ nor ‘false’, and to suggest that, when considered in light of its workability, information can be both true and false, and as such it constitutes an organism’s purely objective reality (Deely 2009b). It is stated that in the process of building such a reality, information is ‘motivated’ by environmental, physiological, emotional (including past feelings and expectations) constraints which are, in turn, framed by observership. Information is therefore found in the irreducible cybersemiotic process that links at once all these conditions and that is simultaneously constrained by them. The integration of cybernetics’ and semiotics’ understanding of information shows that history is the analytical principle that grants scientific rigour to interdisciplinary investigations. As such, in any attempt to clarify its epistemological stance (e.g. the semiotic aspect of information), it is argued that biosemiotics does not need only to acknowledge semiotics (as it does), but also cybernetics in its interdisciplinary heritage

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