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Wed Dec 14 14:22:51 EST 2011

(I've already mentioned an interface is always required) nothing is
arbitrary. I don't agree that a symbol that requires interpretation is
arbitrary, but I do agree that it may be slippery (at least for the
human interacting with the system).

The reason why I'm looking so closely at this is because of the
importance of computational conceptions in cognitive and neurological
science. The brain is often considered a "physical symbol system" where
the state of activity in all neurons is a representation. Decoding this
representation involves reading the representations in the brain. This
is the basis of almost all fMRI work, which is about reading
representations by reading the activity of neurons (see Gallant). Are
these representations also arbitrary according to Peirceian semiotics?

I completely agree that critical engineering must go beyond the
materiality of the hardware and also engage in the aspects of meaning
and social context. I think Julian Oliver does this well, and I think
reasonably described in the manifesto.

Thanks for your comments Lasse,
B. Bogart

On 12-02-15 04:18 AM, Lasse Scherffig wrote:
> The problem here is the one highlighted by Magnus Lawrie quoting
> Andersen and Pold. However, it is not just Sutherland's separation of
> data processing and visual representation creating that problem but it
> directly follows from digital computation: While in analog computing,
> movement, voltages or whatever have a direct causal and indexical (in
> terms of Peirceian semiotics) relation of processing and representation,
> digital computation is different. You cannot read a digital memory by
> merely looking at it (as Pias has for example shown for the William's
> Tube [1]), whereas computation of the analog differential analyzer by
> Vannevar Bush was described as giving "the man who studies it a grasp of
> the innate meaning of the differential equation" [2]. The only way to
> read a digital representation is to use an interface attaching signs to
> it. And because the relation of these signs to the digital is arbitrary,
> they are Peirceian symbols.
> It is because of this problematic (symbolic) relation of computation and
> representation in the digital realm that computation today not only
> presupposes an abstraction reducing phenomena to descriptions,
> descriptions to formalisms and formalisms to algorithms [3] (which is a
> huge problem in itself). But at the same time it entails a concretion of
> digital processes that by necessity is symbolic and thus "dishonest".
> That's why I use the term "Feedback Machine" to denote the combination
> of "worldless" digital computation with a Cybernetic coupling to the
> world the digital is devoid of [4]. Critical engineering thus cannot
> stop at understanding some essential "inner workings" of computing
> machinery (which is important but of course yields the problem of where
> to stop -- do you need to know logics, programming or building a
> computer from raw materials?) but also an understanding of the processes
> of abstraction and concretion that constantly couple the phenomenal and
> formal world -- or signs and signals (a concept originally by Frieder
> Nake [3]) -- is much needed.
> Best,
> Lasse.
> [1] Claus Pias, Computer Spiel Welten, Dissertation: Weimar, 2000,
> p. 55
> [2] Claus Pias, Computer Spiel Welten, p. 45
> [3] Frieder Nake and Susanne Grabowski, Human-computer interaction
> viewed as pseudo-communication. Knowledge Based Systems 14 (2001), 441-447
> [4] e.g. p. 4 on "(ping) pong" in the in/compatible world of the news

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