Book Review: ŞTEFAN VLĂDUŢESCU: An essay on the theory of information, by Mirela Teodorescu

 

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Ştefan Vlăduţescu: An essay on the theory of information

by Mirela Teodorescu

 

On the last decades, more and more scientists have been preoccupied with the manner in which we communicate: what, how, with whom and why we communicate. What are the differences between communication, information and message, what are their similarities? Is it necessary to interpret/decode the messages to reach the information? Do codes really have a role in transmitting/receiving the information? Many of the answers to these questions can be found in the book: “Information from theory to science”  (Editura Didactică şi Pedagogică, Bucureşti, 2002)  by Ştefan Vlăduţescu,with an excelent CV, associate Professor at the University of Craiova.  He asserts: “Information much like the native language is learned in theory after we already know it. In order to learn the grammar of the native language we indubitably can assume that we  are able to use the “grammar” language beforehand as the language itself we speak it already. Thus the grammar appears as a theory of the act of speaking. These features concern also the information as do any current activity. First of all, we know how to do something without a clear theoretical consciousness of it and barely after do we learn the theory such as a “learning by doing” process”.

Therefore the information relies on laws, axioms, standards, methods, principles and such being a “coherent, cohesive and unique ensemble of gnosis meanings, defined by novelty, relevance and utility and which refers to moods, situations, objects, phenomena, facts, problems, events or persons. This is not a simple notion”  (p. 21).

As in any field that requires a theoretical base, the field of information admits also that “logic comes before any experience of the fact that something is such or such.” (L. Wittgenstein, 1991, p.100). The author develops the idea that: “Logic models the spirit and, in turn, this models the cognition. The difference of size and finesse between the naïve representation and the scientific one does not come from the fact that the naïve human would refer to a naïve reality, and the scientist to a scientific one. That is not the case. The innocent sees reality as does the scientist, but the latter has the considerable advantage of a different perspective. He who knows what he perceives has a better perception that relies on the idea and the conscientious perception.” (p. 23). The concept from the naïve perspective is inconsistent, the one from the scientific perception is lucrative and offensive. Knowledge through concept is the “royal way to science”  (Hegel, 1965, p.46) and must be followed.

After a rigorous analysis of topics and ideas that refer to communication, the author asserts: “communication is born out of the process and the result of interaction with a purpose, is taking place directly or indirectly, synchronous or asynchronous, between two or more persons, it is defined by the exchange of messages that targets the transfer of meanings in the shape of ideas, information, thoughts, feelings etc.” (p. 29).

The separation of information from communication is not possible and the author thus presents in his paper arguments of a few researchers: “When we talk about the technical information in particular, a certain shocking piece of information is valid “a delineation between communication and information is impossible” (Cuilenburg, Scholten, Noomen, 1998, p.44). Henri Wald said: “Information forms within and through communication.” (H. Wald, 1983, p.8). Much like “an idea crops us when speaking”, it can be admitted that information crops up during communication: “communication implies indubitably a certain piece of information.” (R. Jakobson, 1973, p.82). Generally speaking, whoever says “communication” refers actually to “information” – or so assert the authors of “Science of communication”. (Cuilenburg, Scholten, Noomen, 1998, p.25). The two concepts are so related that no consideration on “communication” cannot be completed without an explanation of “information” (p. 34).

A serious research must start from a model, a structure that would confer meaning to scientific investigation. In the history of communication and information a few examples have been identified. Starting from a practical problem appeared in communication on telephone lines, Claude Shannon and Warren Weaver have defined a “communication model” by which any system of communication could be illustrated.

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This model has been processed by linguists like this:

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“A certain source has to transmit a message. Therefore it must encode the message (to give it a perceptible, objective, form that can be transmitted) – an action which is performed by the sender. The signal, the encoded form of the message, is transmitted to destination through a means. Here it is exposed to the peril of being distorted by the influence of parasites and noises. Finally, the signal is decoded by a receiver and it reaches its destination as a message” (p.39).

Information is a product designed for consumption. “Nothing happens by chance. The restraints that are considered in producing information talk themselves about the “conformist side” of the product and the production, about the traffic of which information is destined to arrive in the consumption area: that of intended receivers (receivers, archireceivers, targeted observers) and that of involuntary receivers (observers not approved by the producer)” (p.60).

To be treated as a science, communication/information needed rules, the author explaining thus: “the essential speeches will be welcomed with distrust and treated with an autotelic sufficiency which is very close to carelessness and a way to escape to denial. These need for plenty of gnosis resources of processing and compel to a concentration that we can almost never allot time for. Nonetheless, the essential elements such as laws, axioms, postulates, theorems and principles, ease the logical thinking and set the base for a significant saving in intellectual effort. If in exact sciences an essential uttering is a common place, in humanities the conjuration or evocation of one constitutes an attack on the trust reservoirs of common sense.”(p. 95).

The idea of axiomatization in communication belongs to Palo Alto School which became a symbol. The intention of creating a “logic” or “grammar” of communication based on rules and strict concepts, but also the presentation within systematic study, Pragmatics of Human Communication (developed by Paul Watzlawick,  Janet Beavin Bavelas and Don D. Jackson) of a definition of communication through a system of axioms, through a set of 5 general laws constitutes supportive assertions regarding an approach that is mostly rigid at its beginnings, but these open the perspectives of a general approach. The axiomatically model of communication developed by members of the “invisible council” must not disregard the context, and this context is the one of a pragmatically perspective, of the interaction between “communication” and “behavior”. The first of the five axioms, developed by Watzlawick, Beaven and Jackson represents in fact the base of the entire theoretical scheme of the “new communication”, developed by the representatives of Palo Alto School: “One can not not communicate”.  With a view to Bateson’s perspective who considers communication as “the matrix in which all human activities are caught”, or, more like a layer of the “bios” where apparently different disciplines can be brought together, Watzlawick sets the premises of a perspective on communication as a whole.

“An informed man – says Ştefan Vlăduţescu, is a strong man. An informed society is a free and open society, whose energy comes from information, appears as democracy. This society is a strong one and a well-defended one, stable and reinforced. The explanation is simple: information is a force” (p.36).

The book “Information: from theory to science” – by Ştefan Vlăduţescu, reveals a strong analytical power of the theory of information and communication but also a deep understanding of mechanisms, processes that generate information, that select, process, transforms and consumes it.

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