(8) The Generation and Communication of Meaning in Social Systems

Windows Program ( 1.5MB / .EXE )
Loet Leydesdorff
University of Amsterdam
Amsterdam, North Holland

Description: The program simulates the recursive, incursive, and hyper-incursive development of a representation (in this case Van Gogh’s painting of the bridge of Arles). It can be shown that the incursive formulation of the logistic equation models not only the generation of an observer (Leydesdorff, 2005), but also the operation of a social system (Leydesdorff & Dubois, 2004). In addition to the communication of information, social systems also communicate meaning. Meaning can be generated incursively, but cannot be communicated without hyperincursion.

Scientific Value:
The sociological domain is different from the psychological one insofar as meaning can be communicated at the supra-individual level. The computation of anticipatory systems enables us to distinguish between these domains in terms of weakly and strongly anticipatory systems with a structural coupling between them. Anticipatory systems have been defined as systems which entertain models of themselves. The model provides meaning to the modeled system from the perspective of hindsight, that is, by advancing along the time axis towards possible future states. This can be modeled using incursion: unlike a recursive routine, incursion operates both on the previous and the current state of the system. Strongly anticipatory systems use expectations for constructing their current states. The dynamics of weak and strong anticipations can be simulated as incursion and hyper-incursion, respectively. Hyper-incursion generates “horizons of meaning” among which choices have to be made by incursive agency. The simulations show this for x(t) = a x(t+1) (1 - x(t+1) → x(t+1) = ½ ± ½ √[1 – (4/a) x(t)] The choice between the plus and the minus sign in this simulation is random.

Educational Value:
The simulation makes the abstract concepts of the (Rosen’s) mathematical theory and (Dubois’s) computation of anticipatory systems accessible for a visual appreciation. First, for values of the bifurcation parameter smaller than four, oscillations and chaos can be generated using the logistic map. Second, one can understand that providing meaning to the representation means a specific selection (using the incursive equation). The strength of this incursion becomes clear at the receiving end when the picture is communicated by the social system hyperincursively. The receiver is able to reconstruct the original representation, but only in the case of one of the two possible solutions of the quadratic equation.

References to Publications:

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