Receiving wheels vs recreating wheels

TJ Olney (
Fri, 5 Mar 1999 16:20:12 -0800 (Pacific Standard Time)

Date: Fri, 5 Mar 1999 16:20:12 -0800 (Pacific Standard Time)
From: TJ Olney <>
Subject: Receiving wheels vs recreating wheels
In-Reply-To: <>

The "standard communications model" nicely posits the enfolding unfolding
but calls it encoding decoding the medium carries the message.

The sender of the message transmits encoded data through a medium subject
to the mutagenic properties known as "noise". The decoding of the message
necessarily proceeds according to the pre-existing state of the mind of
the receiver. The receiver either "gets" the message (acquires the
meme(s)) or does not. Usually, there is some mechanism for feedback to
the sender that will inform the sender whether the recipient has
1)received the message, 2)properly decoded the message, and 3) "got" the
message. There is no contagion from merely receiving and decoding, only
from "getting".

Information, meaning, and data should indeed be kept as distinct
concepts. Data are counts, on/off categories, differences, or ratios.
They convey information to the extent that they carry a news of a
difference to an observer for whom the difference matters. Bateson.
"Information is a difference that makes a difference" or alternatively,
"Information is news of difference."

Meanings are the big conceptual constructs that we struggle with. They
can be communicated in myriad ways. They are an emergent property of the
interaction of mind and data mediated by the perception of information.

While the distinctions between transmitting information and transmitting
data might appear to be irrelevant, they are in fact crucial. On the
other hand, the distinction between receiving data and recreating data
appears to my perceptual apparatus to be moot. It is a nice distinction
in the British sense of the word, but fails to convey any information to

Of much greater concern is the question of whether the same patterns exist
in the receiver as in the sender or, as Fog reminds us, as were intended
by the sender. At this point patterns must be understood at three levels
simultaneously. 1) the pattern of data; 2)the pattern of information; 3)
the pattern of meaning. Each of these exists as different logical types
within mind.

p.s. last time I looked, was selling Bateson's
posthumously published "A SACRED UNITY: Further Steps toward an Ecology of
Mind" for a mere $2.95. If you've never seen it, you should get it. It
is not as accessible as his "Mind and Nature" but that is long out of

--  TJ Olney  Western Washington University - Not all those who wander are lost.

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