My best friend just sent me a text message about her day. The perceptible text in this text message, i.e. the information, is encoded as bytes, transmitted in data packets, and then interpreted in software for rendering on my phone screen. When E-information is transmitted and received, it is being used as a symbolic medium to encode and decode information to be interpreted by my best friend and me. We are simply observing and contextualizing representations in and representations out. Messages like the text my friend sent and assumed background knowledge cannot be represented in E-information. Rather, E-information is a sublayer in the technical design process that is all about encoding and representing interpretable representations. Behind the scenes of this text message are interconnected modules from wireless receivers to pixel-mapped screens. As I am reading this text message from my friend, I am able to gather meaning from it because I am a cognitive agent that understands material sign structures in living contexts of interpretation and understanding. electrical signal patterns are designed to be “communicable” “internally” (unobservably) throughout the components of a physical system (transducers, processors, memory units, digital network connections, interfaces), and “communicable” “externally” to the human users of meaningful signs and symbols through the system channels for “outputting” perceptible representations (usually patterns of pixels, and sound through audio interfaces).
I quite like this example:
Consider the parallels with the way we perceive and “decode” symbolic units using “natural” energy (light and sound) as medium. What we observe are effects and inferences from detected information: the light waves hitting our retinas from these text characters with features that we map to patterns, the acoustic waves of speech sounds and musical notes, the patterns of light registered from all the ways we use meaningful visual “information.” Using E-information-designed electronic devices like radios, TVs, and computer screens, we observe the effects of information shaped and “communicable” for internal processing in the systems. Meaning-making, the act of creating, expressing, and understanding meaning, is likewise unobservable (we can’t probe our minds or find the neural structures in our brains at the precise milliseconds we engage in conversations, interpret a page in a novel, recognize a song, or navigate directions along city streets with a GPS map), but we make reliable inferences from all the symbolic representations that we use every day.
As stated above, E-information is simply a layer in the process of sending and receiving text messages. But once those messages are received, it is up to the human brain to connect these symbols, whether they be pixels that make up images, letters, emojis, or however we beings define and practice communication. For humans to be able to interpret these representations, we require a method of creating recognizable patterns with perceptible distinctions among the symbolic system being used (in this case text). If the states are randomly fluctuating in a substrate, humans cannot recognize patterns needed for interpreting and contextualizing.