Flatland retweeted

Flatland retweeted


Jan van Til




A short twitter conversation illustrating the paradigmatic emptyness between meaningful-information-for-people-thinking and information-technology-thinking.


There we go:


My idea is that people are only interested in situationally meaningful information. IT should be interested in supporting that! That’s what their (business and IT) ‘equal agendas’ should look like. Instead IT only succeeds in supplying people with a multitude of data :(


Response: In practice this leads to increasing suboptimalisation, and solutions with ever increasing complexity.


NO! It’s just the opposite. The least complex! The most optimal. And… Very Meaningful!


Response: Yes but how are you going to combine these situational parts into a flexible & effective information infrastructure?


You don’t! The parts are part of the infrastructure. Combinations are made at the last possible moment: the situation.


Response: IT is a channel for exchange of info / communication. How can one communicate if everyone can choose own semantics?


Every individual creates his own meaning from the signs he encounters (by definition). IT should optimally support the construction (by the receiver) of the intended meaning of the sender of information.


Response: How can we understand each other when meaning of words may differ per situation? Is communication still possible? Meaning of sender in each message? Creates immense overhead. When I say employer you must read my definition first?


From time immemorial words do have situational meaning for people. Really nothing new here. Did I miss something? IT only has to support this variety in meaning – if it wants to stay meaningful for people.


Response: Well if you’re going to use less time immemorial tools like IT you’ll have to adjust because you’ll reach other people. Maybe for individuals, not for organisations. YouŽll be unable to create an effective and agile info infrastructure.


Especially for individuals that populate organisations! Its the only way to create an agile & effective information infrastructure.


Response: Sorry can’t agree. You cannot allow individuals to create their own universe in an organisation. Organisations need working together to realise objectives, and having different languages prohibit this.


They don’t have anything else but their own ‘universe’. From that universe they relate to other universes e.g. organisations. That’s why IT support is so important! IT must serve people in establishing the intended meaning!


Response: A Universe of Discourse, as ISO calls it, can have any size. It is very wise to have a UoD for an organisation. You cannot establish meaning by introducing technology. Must be the other way around because IT ought to support.


Does ISO recognise situationally determined meaning with respect to UoD?


Response: Of course. Situational is a way of using the same concepts. Bottom-up also fits. Sorry people may, organisations don’t. Have seen results and the confirm this view. The organisations I worked with are created for purpose. People work together for that reason. What would be the reason for people working together to realise the same objective to keep their own semantics?


In my organisation people work together to transport gas. A pipe – it’s only one example – has as many meanings as there are people that work with that pipe: dispatcher, constructor, asset manager, cathodic engineer etc.etc.


Response: You think that’s as it should be? We’re talking info, not piping: isn’t it better if they know what the other means?


Bingo! That’s the way each piping professional contributes to one and the same pipe. There are similarities and there are serious differences in meaning annex behaviour. Otherwise one type of professional would be sufficient!


Response: That is much too simple. Again: we’re talking information & semantics not piping. Different view with other problems.


We’re interested in information about the behaviour of (the professional with) X (e.g. pipe). The meaning of X to the professional depends on the situation at hand.


Response: Different pipes (X), different info about different pipes. René Magritte painting “Ceci n’est pas une pipe”. Are we interested in a pro handling a pipe, or in info about the pro, the pipe and the handling/behaviour? Or: are we pipe/X-pro’s or info-pro’s? I know little about handling pipes/X, but a lot about information.


The same pipe… different meanings annex information for different professionals and… different behaviour. Irreducible semiotic triad! Reality (pipes), information and interpretation (meaning). I’m interested in all three!

Is that useful? Knowing lots about information, but not about reality and meaning for which information counts as intermediary?


Response: Standard definition of information is data that has meaning in a chosen Universe of Discourse.


I know… but… the world is changing. Wittgenstein was not all right….


Response: It was the ISO definition. I’ve seen a number of analyses in your line and these are a recipe for real problems.


That standard IS Obsolete, I’m afraid. I’ve seen a number of practices in your line and these all show failure!




December 2010, 2010 © Jan van Til


Note: “Flatland” refers to the book Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions. See also Wiki or Youtube.