Warm up of 2002 11 02
Level 0: Difference
Foreground is significantly different from background.
Speech is notable from ambient sound.
To be legible, print must contrast with the color of the window open on the monitor-desktop.
Level 1: Data
First order differences establish data. “0” is perceptible from “1.” The phoneme /a/ is distinguishable from the phonemes /i/ or /b/. The character “!” is perceptible from the character “z.”
A blank sheet of paper bears no data. There’s background, but the foreground is judged to be empty. That fact in itself bears information, but it’s not information on the paper; it’s information not on the paper.
Note: close examination of the paper would show that the background is not perfectly homogenous. There’ll be non-uniformities in the rag content, random accumulations of dust, or airborne chemicals … But we do not judge these differences to be marked. They are differences, yes, but they do not make a difference. We judge that no information was intended. And here we may make the pun forbidden above: Intention is always intensional. Will does not map physically. (Though the results of will may.) (Intension is irrelevant to intention.)
Level 2: Meta-Data
Information about the data assumes a new meta-level. The difference between “0” in 12 pitch and “0” a couple of pitches larger we designate as “meta-data”: that is, pitch size, for example, is information about the information. If I align the latter
in the center, additional information about the information is given which we nevertheless regard as meta-data. There may be many levels of information within one level. We could code “put a large “0” in the center and color it red” and additionally prompt the reader to
XML may be logically orthogonal to HTML, but for my purposes it’s orthogonal within Level 2: they may be two “species” but they are of one “genus.”
I intend to return to the neighborhood of this point in a future file to ponder any importance in my left-to-right order of informational abstraction. Above I noted that my positioning of length before width before depth was arbitrary. I imply that my order of data, meta-data, meta-information is not arbitrary. I invite feedback on the issue and hope to receive some prior to any final draft.
Level 3: Meta-Information
Macroinformation notes another level of information logically orthogonal to both data and to meta-data and I designate it meta-information. I illustrate first and will attempt a definition later. A spoken “word” is significantly different from a phoneme: as it is from a random assemblage of phonemes (a theoretical possibility clearly absent from normal speech). Furthermore speakers of a language recognize different kinds of words where the kinds have different functions: whether or not we have names for them. “Throw” is a different kind of word from “ball” whether or not we have been trained to say “verb” or “noun.” These differences make new kinds of differences possible: “the” “round” “ball” makes a “phrase.” “The round ball” “bounces” makes a sentence.
In this context of meta-levels of information, meta-information emerges as significant patterns in data as recognized by members of a language group. My hearing of Urdu could not be trusted to distinguish either noun from verb or phrase from sentence or even phoneme from phoneme: if indeed Urdu has nouns and verbs. (It MUST have phonemes.) A “Martian” might not know my blank paper from my marked paper.
Without this meta-level of information, data however margined, aligned, or pitched would have no meaning. The meaning of information is minimally significance of significance. Level 2 can be skipped but not Level 3. We could hear “full fathom five” as speech snatched by the wind: where we can’t see or identify the speaker, see no beginning to the sentence, hear no end to it, have no margins, no bold type … and experience Level 3 directly from Level 1: the fragment exhibits grammar.
See? “Grammar.” We already have a word for that latter set of meta-phenomena in English. Now I add that, as I said above about “irony,” grammar is a primitive concept compared to meta-information in the context of meta-levels of information leading toward macroinformation. Grammar brought us here: Macroinformation may take us much further along toward understanding information in all its varieties of function.
I note that I have worked on my theory of macroinformation at the sacrifice of my theory of meta-information. Anything I say about Macroinformation will have to be reviewed in the light of a theory of Meta-information once such exists.
Level 4: Macroinformation
Macroinformation. Macroinformation emerges from interactions among information of more than one informational type. The information which emerges from complexities between melody and harmony and among melody, harmony, and rhythm we call music. All music is macroinformation; not all macroinformation is music. The information that emerges from interplay among form, shape, color, line, texture … we call painting: or sculpture: or dance. All dance is macroinformation; not all macroinformation is dance.
Level 5 and Beyond
Macroinformation. Macroinformation. Macroinformation. I designate all types of meta-information beyond level-3-meta-information to be macroinformation. As additional distinctions become necessary we may add them as required.
Note: All religion is macroinformation; not all macroinformation is religion.
Note further: Not all macroinformation is sane. A good theory of Macroinformation would help the “people” (and not just the “priests”) to sort sane from un-sane, survival from extinction.
Essential: for Information Levels 3 and Beyond
Data assembles datum after datum: additively. Meta-data adds a dimension, but it too adds datum on datum. But by Level 3 something different happens which is not additive. Data is based on datum plus datum … meta-information to macroinformation is based not in any datum or data, but in interactions among what I shall designate as informational events: a word pair I forge into the portmanteau abbreviation “‘fo-vent”. Fovent.
Data accretes from this and that datum. Meta-information and macroinformation emerge from fovents: just as the physical universe emerges from energy events. (Noun butting up against verb produces at least one fovent. Captain Renault’s words in Casablanca impact against his behavior, sparking a series of fovents.
1999, 2000 … I wrote a fair amount about informational dimensions: and about familiar spatial dimensions as well, in that connection. I’ve got to get back to it, update those remarks. Here’s a note toward that effort:
It’s easy to see that there is a different between Lineland and Flatland, between Flatland and 3Dland … We are not equipped to appreciate the extent of the differences. Macroinformation may help: a step or two.
Think of a length of thread, or of yarn. Wrap it on a spool or into a skein for convenience — we are in the macroworld after all. The bulk of the thread is in one dimension: length. Wound on its spool it doesn’t seem like much. Now, make it into a dress. As a dress it can encompass volume: hold trunk, belly, arms, legs. A dress does a great deal more than that too, but right now we are only considering dimension.
Look at the spool. Look at the dress. Think of the woman in the dress dancing at a party. Wow.
Continue to a few words on why I call meta-information of the fourth level and up Macroinformation.
More on fovents will follow that piece unless I blend some there in a rewrite.
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