Re: RS string

From: Kate Distin (
Date: Mon 24 Apr 2006 - 19:25:58 GMT

  • Next message: Robin Faichney: "Re: RS string"

    Dace wrote:
    > As Katie would point out, only the rules, taken as an abstraction outside
    > the context of any given game, would constitute an RS. If you learn
    > baseball from a rulebook, then the baseball meme has been transferred. But
    > if you learn baseball merely from watching and participating in games, then
    > it's mere imitation. My point is that there's no more information contained
    > in the rulebook than there is in the game itself, that in neither case is
    > there information, which exists strictly within the mind as we *interpret*
    > the relevant material. However, whether we learn baseball from a rulebook
    > or from watching it, the relevant memes are still transferred from mind to
    > mind. So I agree with Katie that no information is contained in the act
    > itself but disagree that this denies a memetic transfer via imitation of the
    > act. Furthermore, and this was my original point, RSs exist only in the
    > mind, not physically, whether in the brain or any other object, including
    > rulebooks. Once one person's RS has been reproduced in another person's
    > mind, the meme has transferred, whether the intermediate material involved
    > is a baseball game or a baseball handbook, a piano sonata or a musical
    > score.
    > While it's convenient to refer to a game as concrete and a handbook as
    > abstract, in reality both are concrete, material items, and the abstraction
    > exists only in our imagination. Indeed, without this tendency to endow the
    > concrete with abstraction, games like baseball would lose their magic.
    > After all, it's just a ball going over a fence. The home run is not on the
    > field but in our own field of dreams.
    > For a thing to exist physically is to be presented (ball over fence). For a
    > thing to be represented is to exist mentally (home run).
    > ted

    I've been backing off from this discussion, for various reasons including just not having time for it at the moment. But I have to make the time to ask you to stick with 'Kate' not 'Katie'. This isn't very significant to the memetic subject under discussion (although it could be tangentially memetic, under the heading 'Mutation', I suppose), but please. All of the other people who call me Katie are elderly female relatives with names like Gladys and Ada, and I might be tempted to call you Great-Aunt Ted if you persist.

    Anyway. I'm not convinced that baseball rules do constitute an RS. A representational system is a system for representing information, and my
    (limited) understanding of sports leads me to believe that their rules would be a chunk of information which needs somehow to be represented, not the RS itself. I know you'd say that they aren't information either, but I'm pretty sure they aren't an RS. An RS is something like an alphabet, or a numeral system, or a system of musical notation, or the conventions of engineering drawings. It is a way of representing information.

    I'm finding it hard, I have to confess, to get a grip on your understanding of information. On the one hand, of course I agree with you that information is purely the product of the human mind. Without the mind, without understanding and interpretation, information is lost. I see ball over fence, because I don't have the baseball information. You see home run, because you do. I see some words on a page, because I can read English. A monolingual Punjabi-speaker, or a pre-literate child, sees bits of ink arranged in a particular order.

    BUT the words do also exist on the page. There has to be something for me to interpret. I don't just make up what I see. The words hold the information until the next person comes along and interprets them. Extracts the information from them, if you like. Memes (which are chunks of information) need the human mind in order to be active, to replicate and exert their effects. But written, or other concrete, ways of representing them, are very good ways of passively preserving their content until they're needed again.


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