Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Expectation and Redundancy

Defining or describing 'information' is perhaps one of the most pressing challenges in the social sciences today. In the need to get to grips with our 'information society', scholars in the management sciences, economics, cybernetics, etc all worry about information.

I cannot determine whether what is at stake is an experience (the experience of you reading this, for example), or whether it is some kind of substance (like material substances). Living in a digital world is certainly an experience. And the environment of 'information' (whatever it might be) certainly produces constraints on peoples' actions in a way comparable to material constraints (the abusive email, the diktat from management, the news).

But I think thinking about substances and experiences may be a red herring. What we have experientially in an  'information environment' are expectations of what might happen next. It is these which are continually shifting, often in response to new pieces of 'information'. But whatever the nature of the environment, it is our continually shifting expectations that indicates its (the information environment's) presence. But expectations are strange things. An expectation doesn't exist at an instant. It exists over a period, gradually transforming into some other expectation. All expectations are prolonged in some way. Information needs to be seen from the perspective of the process of prolonging expectations.

The active ingredient in the business of prolonging an expectation (I think) is redundancy. Redundancy is produced by the patterning of lived experience. We only know redundancy through the fact that our expectations are prolonged (after all, to know a pattern is to confirm one's expectations).
When you look at these patterns, think about your expectations. It is my expectation that lasts, and it lasts because the redundancy is there. Were it not for the regularities we would not have the expectation...

So the relationship between expectation and redundancy is like that between Figure and Ground.
Expectation means that there is a figure in our seeing a figure. And our seeing the figure is dependent on the "ground of our seeing" as well as the "ground of the figure". 

But when expectations change, what happens to old expectations? In music, expectations shift, but old melodies, themes, harmonies somehow 'stick around' to be re-cognised later on in the structure. Somehow, larger stuctures are prolonged over time. It's like the dead branch of a tree that suddenly sprouts leaves again. 

So expectations may form themselves into structures. The redundancy in "information" maintains those structures and creates the conditions for novelty. At  moments of novelty new structures emerge, and old structures may be restructured. As new structures emerge, so they produce new redundancies.  Some of those redundancies may create the conditions for the reappearance of older structures. (I'm not sure how though, yet)

I'm currently looking at NetLogo models of Diffusion Limited Aggregation as a starting point for thinking about how this might work. 
The diffuse environment can be seen as 'redundancy'. The patterning of the structures that form can be seen as 'expection'  - particularly if we see this from the perspective of Nigel Howard's metagame trees.

But this is only the start. The structures may themselves be autopoietic in some form. And the structures will have different properties in terms of producing new redundancies as they grow (this would be a bit like Deacon's 'autocell')

But this is a good starting point...

1 comment:

Simon Grant said...

Hi Mark

As I mentioned in conversation, I think Kelly is relevant here. I found a good old-fashioned web page reference:
where it says

"Kelly's fundamental postulate for personal construct psychology was that: A person's processes are psychologically channelized by the way in which he anticipates events. (Kelly, 1955, p.46)

He saw all people as personal scientists engaged in anticipating the world. His first corollary, the construction corollary, states:
A person anticipates events by construing their replications.(p.50)

Discuss :)