Information Theory Model and Symbolic System

In the theory of Information, Shannon defines a message as a choice. In this term, Information separates from its semantic content; that is, Information transfers to the physical environment from the psychological one. To interpret the signal transmission in the theory of Information, according to Floridi, how Shannon deal with signals needs to be understood first- “he treated the signal as a string of discrete symbols.”  Combining with features of Information- Information is closely associated with uncertainty; there are probabilities in conveying Information; it’s difficult to transmit information from one point to another, and Information is entropy- a sender can overcome noise by using extra symbols for error correction instead of boosting the power. In addition, in the transmission, Shannon focused on how much of a message influences the probability of the next symbol on the base of statistical language structure so that it will allow for a saving of time or channel capacity. Relatively, he gave the formula and a new unit of measure- bit, and worked out how to calculate the redundancy in a piece of Information. Based on that, signal transmission (encoding) could be more effective.

According to Professor Irvine in Using the Principle of Levels for Understanding “Information,” “Data,” and “Meaning”,”  ‘information’ in electronic systems are designed as units of “structure-preserving structures,” which use the physics of electricity as a medium.” Information is encoded to the electronic signals that are communicable in the transmitting channel but unobservable. The traditional cultural or social meanings are not embodied in messages but shared by the group of people communicating. Therefore, those meanings (meta-information) cannot be represented in signal information.

In the theory, information is not content (it technically has no meaning). What we do with it is to utilize it to achieve more and faster communication (in our symbolic system). It cannot extend since it only occurs in the sender, channel, and receiver. Also, since it happens with the assistance of energy fields, electronic pulses, and signals used as binary representations, which we could not observe, so it can only be regarded as tools. “A fuller semiotic systems model provides a model of other levels of abstraction that explains how we use, express, perceive, understand, and interpret instances of tokens (physical-perceptible instances) of all our symbolic structures and media (language, writing, abstract symbols, graphs and diagrams, images, sounds, music, and video/film).” To be more specific, the information theory model is a subsystem of symbolic systems, which provides a level of abstraction for discrete symbols. It could not be interpreted in daily communication and become a new model for the symbolic system.


Is token an observable unit in our symbolic system that is not discrete? And is this drawn to become the counterpart of signal in the information theory model?