Category Archives: Week 6

Week 6: Qasim

Broadly conceptualizing code, delves into multi-dimensions in how we interpret information. Translating this is to transfer information through on/off switches (also known as binary code) are the catalyst of signaling data. But as we gather more information these items need more “gray” items to translate information. With this, we add more binary and in narrowing meaning.

Information is architecturally designed in the layers of it being the imperative, substrate layer for symbolic systems. This includes but is not limited to texts, graphics, images, audio and video.  It is not always flawless, but it is impressive how we are able to process communication in so many ways with the E-Information package being one of the main levels of data processed over the internet. It is easy to identify the difference between message via platforms. Before any data you send or receive, it is likely to have gone through a process which the data is split into 15 different ways, is processed and then successfully sent. Say you are sending a picture of your dog to a friend. First, it will be broken into small packets, then will go through the router (TCP), then the router (IP), to the local ISP, the lon mail provider, to the border gateway protocol, then from here will be further verified, especially if it is sensitive information (I.e. government), then further processed into the long-haul provider, into the local ISP of the receiver, and makes a full circle which will at the end reassemble the packets before it is displayed to the receiver. 

Everything you type on Facebook, even if deleted is collected data and will be used in categorizing the ad content you will see. Importantly we use these servers like Facebook, Apple, Verizon, etc to be able to access the internet. The internet which no one owns but we all use.

“We didn’t invent electricity, we designed it” 


The word that comes to mind when talking about the translation of the physical to a symbolic system or structure, to a signal whether in a more physical or a more electronically digitised form is, representation. From weeks 3 and 4 we discussed and saw the role of symbology especially in terms of the depiction of a spoken word or meaning through a specifically assigned token. Similarly, these physical components i.e. a photo, is an actual tangible screenshot of time, a single moment captured. However, that photo might look like a family member laughing, or a dog mid-jump catching its ball, or a scenic cliff view but in reality it symbolises what we aren’t really seeing. Its electronic and digital form will be that of pixels, colored and encoded by a software/computer/system/ to holistically portray what appears to us as that family member, dog, vista, etc. The digital/electronic versions of what is symbolised can be shared, transmitted, distributed and recomposed in a completely different place and time on/in another physical piece of matter i.e. smart phone, computer, etc. 

    • Semiotic System: “a physical electronic medium is used to represent something not physical, but abstract  patters from our human symbolic, conceptual repertoire” (Irvine, 2) 

This kind of movement and transmission-recomposition is possible because of the assigned symbolic meaning and reasoning we have given to each of the things that are being transmitted. Symbolically mapping their path from the physical/perceptible components through the unseen layer of metamorphosing into the physical signal unit in another place and time.  The representation of the actual living relative, to their representation on a captured instant of time, in which in its own right represents the whole of a coded patter composed of binary, pixels, colors, etc., taking it as far as to; what it represents (after it has been transmitted and recomposed in another) place/time to the person or even computer, that it has been received. 

    • “representations as stable patterns in and through a physical medium in space and time” (Irvine, 6) 

I’d like to take it a step further and —if i may— question the existence of these digitised representations and symbols. Let’s say a word document: it can be printed so I have an actual physical copy of it (without going into what that symbolises i.e. language, letters, etc.) but it can also remain in its electronic form. But what is that form? Where does it exist and how? Is it a composition of bits and pieces, a physical signal unit, taking up binary numbers on a hard drive? If it’s “on the cloud” is it taking up some sort of electronic matter of digital space? What does it constitute, what does it represent as part of the digital world? 



Daniel Hillis, The Pattern on the Stone: The Simple Ideas That Make Computers Work (New York, Basic Books: 1998; rev. 2015)

Denning and Martell. Great Principles of Computing. Chap. 3, “Information,” 35-57.

Martin Irvine, “Introduction to the Technical Theory of ‘Information’ (Information Theory + Semiotics)



Qi Wang Week6

Our human has the capability to correlate physical objects with symbolic patterns(Irvin).In the binary system, we use 0/1 (on/off) to represent symbolic ideas. Switches can do much more than control current through circuits. They can be used to evaluate any logical statement we can think of (Hillis). As Shannon said: “message is one selected from a set of possible messages.” (Irvin). Information theory focuses on the phrase, which happens after the source is sent before the receiver interprets it. During the system, the transmission of information is a code or a signal, which has nothing to do with meaning and the real world. One thing noticeable here is that this signal doesn’t contain meaning or implication. Meaning is a motivation to promote signal transmission. That is interesting, in this perspective, the information, no matter what form is it, can be measured and translated into quantitive form. I have a question here, when we transform information into binary form, dose it help to maintain the quality, reliability of a message? In reality, people do not want signals but meanings. But once the meaning is involved, the correctness and accuracy are impossible to be completely consistent. And the lack of meaning feature contributes to further functions, such as encryption or encrypted system? Because according to the Information Transmission Model, this linear signal path has a noise source with it. If a sender adds some noise intentionally during the signal transmission, and the receiver knows how to remove this noise.

Information always existed there before Shannon, just as Newtonian mechanics. But before Shannon, almost no one thought that information can be a measurable quantity and a subject that can be adapted to mathematics or science. People believe that information was a telegram, a photo, a paragraph, or even a song. After Shannon, information was completely abstracted into bits. The sender is no longer important; the intention is no longer important, and even its meaning is no longer important: a phone call, a speech, and a page of novels can all be represented by bits. In a sense, it is not the meaning itself, but it contains meaning and social use.



Martin Irvin. Introducing Digital Electronic Information Theory: How We Design and Encode Electrical Signals as a Semiotic Subsystem

Hillis, W.D. (2015). The patterns on the Stone the simple ideas that make computers work. 

Fordyce, Week 6


The week focuses on ‘information’ more broadly. What is the technical meaning of information? What are structures of information? The understanding is essential to the meaning of code. Irvine’s introduction helps to delineate some of these topics; information, once simply shared through on/off switches, is now so readily and easily transferred that there is overload of consumable information made available through computation and electricity (Irvine).

Bits are one of the foundational concepts of information transfer that allow electronic and digital communication to take place; bits represent two possible states (1 or 0) and a byte is made up of 8 bits (Irvine, 2). A bit represents a single unit of information, a byte, therefore, offers 8 units of information – a byte is referred to as a ‘word’ (Irvine).

We make sense of digital representations of information because the media system allows us to convert signals to make sense in a symbolic system. A text message, for example, is an electronic transfer of language that we understand through our symbolic systems of communication.


How has social media altered the fibers of digital information transfer?

At what point does information overload become problematic?



Martin Irvine, “Introduction to the Technical Theory of ‘Information’ (Information Theory + Semiotics)


Week 6 – Yanjun Liu

  • From what you’ve learned about symbol structures so far, can you describe how the physical/perceptible components of symbol systems (text, image, sounds) are abstractable into a different kind of physical signal unit (electronic/digital) for transmission and recomposition in another place/time? (Hint: as you’ve learned from Peirce and semiotic theory, meanings aren’t properties of signals or sign vehicles but are relational structures in the whole meaning-making process understood by senders/receivers in a meaning community.)

The physical/perceptible components of symbol systems are abstracted into a  electronic/digital units by using 0 and 1 (bit) to construct And / Or questions (true/not true)to narrow down a question until there are no more decisive questions and therefore gets the answer, which is the physical components we refer to. 

According to Hillis, bit is “the smallest ‘difference that makes a difference’ ” — “A signal that can carry one of two different messages (like 1 or 0) is called a binary signal, or a bit.  Bits are designated by 1 and 0. “The computer represents numbers, letters, and everything lese with patterns of bits.”

“Computers can use combinations of bits to represent anything; the number of bits depends on the number of messages that need to be distinguished.” (p28)

The meaning-making process of computing is represented by how logical decisions are made in the And / Or (true/not true) questions.  Since every object (physical existence) can be “translated” into bits that can construct questions above, bits can represent basically anything. 


I have read the meanings but I am still lack of a procedural understanding of how physical presence can be translated into computing language and digital units, therefore I don’t know how to literally answer this question. It’s like the information I have are all fragments (“entropy”/logic gate/true or not true questions…) but I don’t know how to install all of them in series. 



Daniel Hillis, The Pattern on the Stone: The Simple Ideas That Make Computers Work (New York, Basic Books: 1998; rev. 2015) 

Martin Irvine, “Introduction to the Technical Theory of ‘Information’ (Information Theory + Semiotics)

Chutong, Week 6

Meaningful symbolic signals are transformed by a transmitter into electronic signals that can be read by a machine, and then transformed by a series of programs into symbols displayed on an interface which can be perceived by humans. 
Since our devices are binary based, we need to convert all physical information into machine-readable signals for transmission and storage. A single binary value has two states, which can be called as 1 and 0, or true and false or etc. And if we want to represent larger things we just need to add more binary digits to form more complex logical relationships. 
And to transmit and recompose these signals units in another place or time, we need to connect devices in physical layer (through mediums like fiber optics, cables, etc), datalink layer (Ethernet protocol, MAC address), network layer (IP) and transport layer (port). And for these information signals can be expressed on the device in human perceptible way, we need to specify the formatting rules for these data before we can interpret the rendering.Eventually, these signals will be restored and presented on our interfaces. 
In the whole transmission process, meaning is not transmitted as an essential property. For example, in ASCII, each letter and symbol has a corresponding token for “correspondence mapping”. The machine does not need to understand the meaning contained in a piece of information, it only needs to faithfully execute the program corresponding to each symbol.
Now our devices are full of complex symbols, and this brought to my attention some problems that were not present when electronic devices were not so developed. For example, I’ve noticed that people may have different understanding of how an emoji should be used. Some see 🙏 as a high five, some regard it as a prayer, and in some cultures it is used as a blessing or greeting. I don’t think the developers of emoji anticipated every meaning. And the device itself doesn’t convey exactly what the emoji means. It’s all based on human interpretation – we can have different interpretations of the same symbol and disaggregate different information. This is the ambiguity of the symbol, and the reason why it is so powerful. I believe all the communication behaviors involving people are symbolic, rather than pure signals. 



Martin Irvine, “Introducing Digital Electronic Information Theory”