information transmission

Thu, 4 Mar 1999 12:30:57 GMT

Date: Thu, 4 Mar 1999 12:30:57 GMT
From: UEA <>
Subject: information transmission

Mark wrote:

I'd like to propose that it is impossible to 'transmit' information. In
the above case, Paul found it impossible to 'transmit' his information to

When one gives another person a phone number, is information transmitted?

I say no. Information is recreated, not transmitted. The source
provides data and counts on the receiver to 'recreate' the proper
meaning. The information that 'when I see the symbol '7', it means
seven' is entirely locked up in a person's brain.

Thus, we have situations like that mentioned by Paul. Paul is frustrated
by the impossibility of 'transmitting information.' Actually, he is
hoping Aaron can 'recreate' his perspective, but we like 'transmission'
because it sounds like the receiver has no choice in the matter. It is
more clear cut.

There are a wide variety of situations were the illusion of
'transmission' falls down.

A mother cannot convey what it feels like to burn your finger to her
A parent cannot communicate why a teenager should be home on time.
A victim of an atomic bomb blast cannot transmit the horror to a

If everyone agrees with me on this, the Journal of Memetics should
probably change its name to 'Journal of Memetics, Evolutionary models of
information recreation.' 'Information creation' might be better.



I think you could not do without the concept of transmission. I agree in a one on one conversation, where one party is trying
to get across their idea to the other, it might be appropriate to talk about recreation of an idea in that persons head (especially
for considering *mental states*). But transmission per se is (an inescapable) part of the exercise whether it is salient or not in a
certain instance.

For example, imagine I go to speakers' corner (a place for soap-box preaching of politics for the common man in London's
hyde park) and start to try and proselytise on some subject (we'll call it Roussoism!). If 50 out of the 100 people listening to
me leave with the Roussoism meme in their head, your model might say that the meme had been recreated 50 times, but it
leaves out all the questions of why (in my opinion, the interesting stuff in memetics).

1.Were more people in the front than in the back *converted*?
2.More men than women?
3.More English-speakers than Swahali-speakers?
And so on

Empirical memetics is concerned with all these questions. And question 1 is inescapably a question of transmission (think, for
example, of how fads that are broadcast by television are less likely to *promulgate* and proliferate in areas with little or no
TV reception). Questions 2 and 3 are less obviously about transmission, but think about modes of transmission: shall I say it
in swahali if I want to get through to certain people from Africa? Shall I get a sports personality to endorse it if I want to get
through to men?

If memes are still about fecundity, longevity and copying-fidelity (hello? anyone remember these terms?), I suggest
transmission has a lot to do with at least two of these attributes.

cheers, alex rousso.

This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)