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The concept of communication

Leitung: Nina Ort

Nina Ort
The concept of communication

Before talking about (and operating with) the idea of communication in a systems theory manner, I will take a look at the conceptualisation of communication itself.

Probably the question of communication has not been put precisely enough yet.

Systems theory employs the conception of consciousness and communication as a basic distinction (like the first distinction in the Laws of Form by G. Spencer Brown). This distinction derives from the idea of society as an autopoietical system that develops itself and its own structures communicatively (in communication and by communication). Consciousness, as the complementary system, is not a part of society. It belongs to the environment of society. (In the environment of society there are individuals, human minds - and likewise "consciousness" )

Consciousness and communication as autopoietical systems are structurally linked with each other. The idea of consciousness and the idea of communication are invented as axioms in systems theory.

In systems theory a paradigm change has taken place in the last few years: systems theory doesn't start with the supposition that "there are systems" anymore, but with the supposition that there is always a distinction at the beginning of any operation. Any operation and any observation is based on a distinction.

Systems theory is operating with similar distinctions (as there are medium/form, identity/difference etc.) The point that is striking me, is the fact, that systems theory is working (both: observing and operating - which is, by the way, another similar distinction) with distinctions that are built symmetrically: both parts of those distinctions are constituting each other, are the surrounding of the other. Another striking thing is: you can easily translate one of those distinctions to another: for instance you can call "consciousness" the "medium" of "communication" as a "form" and so on.

This is the way how systems theory is interpreting the thoughts in Laws of Form by Spencer Brown. Systems theory doesn't recognize, that there is no symmetry demanded of the marked and the unmarked state in Spencer Browns concept of form.

In my work I'm trying to show that differences such as consciousness/communication are at least just postulated (just so called) differences, when drawn at the systems theory level of structural symmetry. There is no positive criterion, no (semantically) positive value to differ between both terms. I think this is a general problem of 2-value-logics: both values are at least the same, identical (because they are conceptualised as complementary).

In the concrete case of consciousness/communication: you can communicate everything - as well consciousness. But in a certain respect you won't ever "reach" consciousness - anything you can say about consciousness you will say in (the system of) communication (communicatively). In the terms of Spencer Brown: you will not be able to cross the boundary between communication and consciousness.

I'm then trying to draft a heterarchic model of basic distinctions that build a polycontextural "sediment" for systems theory. I'm trying to point out that the basic axioms of systems theory (as used in the presence) are radically contingent. Such terms (like consciousness/communications) cannot be "filled" with any positive-semantically meaning. I'm also trying to follow Gotthard Günther, who is speaking about the possibility of a "double-negative" conceptualisation: not only to negate the affirmation (such as - at least - Hegel does), but to negate the whole complex of negation/affirmation. Günther elaborates a "Kenogrammatik" ("keno-grammar") that is working exclusively with (semantically) vacant spaces to avoid rash attribution. (you may for instance write "3" as an iteration of the symbols *oo, *o*, as well as *o+ and so on) Maybe one could distinguish between operation and reflexion in the same way as between categories and classes?

Dr. Nina Ort
Universität München
Institut für Deutsche Philologie
Schellingstr. 3
D-80799 Deutschland

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