Information by Setting

Recreating (and advancing) pk’s censored domains: Macroinformation.org &
Knatz.com / Teaching / Thinking Tools / Information / Macroinformation / Views
@ K. 2002 06 11

Macroinformation emerges from discrepancies between types of information. The juncture is the hot spot. There’s an analogy here to the tendency of some forms of wildlife to gather at the threshold between environments: deer at the edge of a clearing for example. Systems of thresholds can accrete as settings.

American artist Abbott Thayer (d. 1821) [see Smithsonian, April 1999] noticed that dark backs and light bellies allow diurnal creatures to seem to disappear into their surroundings: fish and birds evolve as “naturally” camouflaged. I notice analogously that settings not only can highlight or conceal information but also create information: or obliterate it. Whereas contrast may highlight in one context, contrast may conceal in another.

It matters greatly that the wolf in the story of Little Red Riding Hood is male: the more so since it’s so clear that Little Red Riding Hood is female. The story would diminish, change character precipitously, if the talking “wolf” asked, “Well, Little Red Riding Hood, what do they call you when you’re at home?” And Little Red Riding Hood answered, “Jack.” The story would further diminish if the wolf then added, “You can call me Mable.”

The differences of data are trivial; the meta-differences, the differences of macroinformation, are enormous.

Similarly, EC Publications put this principle to comic use in its Mad biography of Don Martin, telling how the artist while in the army and stationed in Europe blew up two German bridges and captured three German generals. “Unfortunately …” the narrative continued, those events took place after not during World War II. Real artist Don Martin forthwith went fictionally to the stockade: according to the joke biography.

Standing with my fly rod in water barely to my knees, I released the largemouth bass. The terrified creature streaked for the nearest patch of lake weed and, right between my feet, went instantly invisible. Upon taking him from the water that bass was iridescent silver. Nothing could be more clearly distinguished than the bass itself and the water that shook glistening from it. Once swimming freely (or settled suspended, just above the bottom), the bass could not be discerned from the water-sand-weed background: not by me, even though I knew exactly what and where it was.

For one thing, though the day was calm, the water surface only gently rippled, everything was actually moving. Trees blow in the wind; the lake weeds undulate with the lake’s many forces. However still the bass remained, it’s gill fins would have been a-blur with motion. The bass hid amid the patterns of the movement …

The bass was there. The bass broadcast no information that would identify it. That’s macroinformation!

On another occasion, one with far more time, I would like to compare information between ordinary contrast in art, say black and white in a Franz Klein painting (or reddish and greenish in a Rothko) (or red and black in a Gottlieb), contrast with literary to cosmological implications such as heaven and earth or light and dark in Genesis, and the biologically-evolved, creature-camouflaged-in-a-setting contrast of my bass on the lake floor. The black and white differences in the Klein are impossible to miss so long as any light reaches the painting. The black and white contrast of the bass (in contrast) (between its dark back and its light underbelly) is impossible to perceive once it’s settled into its proper setting.

(Some of) the macroinformation of the Klein painting is very different (macroinformationally) from the macroinformation of the Rheinhart painting where at least a half dozen distinct blacks can be distinguished by the casual observer (while dozens of blacks can be distinguished by the careful observer) and both those macro-differences are very very different from the obscured contrast of the bass (or the duck) (or the soldier).

Of course any reader is welcome to develop these points in independent collaboration. I’ll report such contributions whatever I think of them and will publish those I find most useful.


The differences between how Word: Mac 2001 and Word 6 process plain text for HTML code just “caused” me to lose a morning’s work. Grr. I hope I say this half as well the second time:

Setting relates to context. How we reap macroinformation from the daily kaleidoscope of contexts is enormously complex. Our heretofore reluctance to address macroinformation renders us all but helpless among our “own” communications.

What I am addressing here is not a single phenomenon but a not-yet classifiable cascade of phenomenona. I nevertheless here address one branch.

Take the word truth. What we understand the word truth to mean differs enormously according to whether it’s uttered or written, who’s uttering or writing it, and how that so-and-so is “registered” with the society. Any two speakers of English will pronounce the word differently: but those differences are insignificant: non-phonemic. The word may be spelled the same by all: but that’s misleading: in the extreme. Consider the macro-differences among a sample of possible users.

  • The street braggart says “I ain’t lyin”” every other minute if not every few seconds.

  • The missionary tells the native she brings her the truth. (Or this sect says the other sect has missed the truth.)

  • The judge, the lawyer …

  • The scientist …

  • Now: notice further: the street braggart may actually be telling the truth; the “scientist” may be mistaken.

    (If “God” tells you the “Truth” — in Person! — how could you tell whether he’s right or wrong? What if what God tells you contradicts your senses?) (What if what the scientist tells you contradicts your senses? Your Common Sense?)


    Still further, notice: different cultures certify similar categories differently. In a modern “democracy” like the United States, officials pay at least formal respect to the credibility of the accused; in China traditionally the officials utterly disregard the defendant’s version of things: of course he’s lying. In that same United States, fisherman hear each other’s stories with celebrated skepticism.

    Etc. I’ll develop all this further another time. Collaborators may volunteer to assist in the meantime. But notice: philosophers have addressed these issues before: philosophers, linguists, semanticists, semioticists … But all (!) have been handicapped by a lack of a theory of Macroinformation! We’ll mix gun powder less dangerously once we can distinguish “ammonia” from a “sulphur atom.” Thus far we’ve been too dull to notice that we need a “chemistry” of information: or that information would suit such a science, that a chemistry might be precipitated from a study of different constructs emerging at different junctures.

    After forty years of thinking about this and more than four years writing about it, I have still not found one reader to step forward and diagram for me a macroinformational quark let alone a macro-molecule.
    2011 10 28 Same holds these nine years later!

    Related: Context

    Thinking Tools Information, Macroinformation Menu Mi Views

    About pk

    Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
    This entry was posted in information, pk Teaching, thinking tools. Bookmark the permalink.

    1 Response to Information by Setting

    1. Awesome! So much learn about you in one post… Keep up the creativity dude. God bless you @Shaik

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