Book review


Information Cultures in the Digital Age

Editors: Kelly, Matthew, Bielby, Jared (Eds.), Springer Verlag

This publication in honour of our colleague and master Rafael Capurro is for BITrum a remarkable opportunity to celebrate his patient work, dedication, inspiration and always ready friendship. The publication in itself represents a major contribution to the confrontation of problems in which BITrum is engaged since its origins.

Mundo digitalFor several decades Rafael Capurro has been at the forefront of defining the relationship between information and modernity through both phenomenological and ethical formulations -as we can see for instance in our glossariumBITrum-. In exploring both of these themes Capurro has re-vivified the transcultural and intercultural expressions of how we bring an understanding of information to bear on scientific knowledge production and intermediation. Capurro has long stressed the need to look deeply into how we contextualize the information problems that scientific society creates for us and to re-incorporate a pragmatic dimension into our response that provides a balance to the cognitive turn in information science.

With contributions from 35 scholars from 15 countries, Information Cultures in the Digital Age focuses on the culture and philosophy of information, information ethics, the relationship of information to message, the historic and semiotic understanding of information, the relationship of information to power and the future of information education. This Festschrift seeks to celebrate Rafael Capurro’s important contribution to a global dialogue on how information conceptualisation, use and technology impact human culture and the ethical questions that arise from this dynamic relationship.

The Editors

Matthew Kelly is a scholar at Curtin University’s Department of Information Studies and at the International Institute for Hermeneutics.

Jared Bielby currently serves as Co-Chair for the International Center for Information Ethics and Editor for the International Review of Information Ethics.

How to Purchase the Book

The E-Book will be available in July 2016 with print to follow shortly after.

Go to Springer’s site to purchase

http://www.springer.com/gp/book/9783658146795

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Rainer E. Zimmermann-Metaphysics of Emergence. Part 1-On the Foundations of Systems

Rainer E. ZIMMERMANN

METAPHYSICS OF EMERGENCE

PART 1: ON THE FOUNDATIONS OF SYSTEMS

Published in 2015 by Xenomoi Verlag, 272 pp.

This constitute a first part of what our colleague Rainer Zimmermann has been teaching us regarding the understanding of complexity, networks, systems, space and, of course, information as key concept of the dynamics of emergence. Among his reflections we can find relevant conclusions to the interdisciplinary conceptual and theoretical elucidation we are striving for through our glossariumBITri. You can find in this work a further elaboration of seminars, articles and contributions to congress in which BITrum has been involved for the last 5 years.

In fact, the theory of (emergent complex) systems as a recently more forthcoming (and somewhat reformed) discipline in its own right has been object of acute and intensive discussion and of a rather dynamical evolution, respectively, for quite some while. Unfortunately, this still ongoing discussion has not been very successful so far as to clarifying the most elementary and fundamental issues of definition and the consequences derived there-from. This is mainly because the otherwise welcome interdisciplinary discourse has been dominated originally by protagonists from the fields of economics, management, and the social sciences, in the first place, rather than by those of the more formalized sciences such as physics. However, the degree of universality of a theory is likely to increase with its connectivity to mathematics. Hence, in order to obtain a self-consistent theory of systems that displays a sufficient coherence with a view to its respective lexicology, syntax, and semantics, it is necessary to perform an explicit embedding into available formalisms of mathematical type such that its specific contextuality can be immediately reflected within the given frame of what is already known about the structure and evolution of nature. This motivation underlies this present project which can be understood as a survey on systems in terms of a suitable metaphysics of emergence. The mathematically based explication of systems is the first step (and thus constitutes the first volume) of a panoramatic approach to what we euphemistically call the world. But we shall bear in mind what the important point is after all: To look for the possibilities of grasping experience whilst recognizing that experience is always more than what can be said about it.

In XenomoiX

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Wolfgang Hofkirchner

EMERGENT INFORMATION: A UNIFIED THEORY OF INFORMATION FRAMEWORK

Hackensack, NJ, World Scientific Publishing (Hardcover: 274 pp, 70$)

The 3th of the World Scietific Series in Information Studies edited by Mark Burgin

At the dawn of the information age, a proper understanding of information and how it relates to matter and energy is of utmost importance for the survival of civilization. Yet, attempts to reconcile information concepts underlying science and technology with those en vogue in social science, humanities, and arts are rather rare. This book offers a new approach, departing from fragmented information concepts.

Many academics refrain from undergoing unifications, as most undertakings are reductionistic. This book contends that it is the noble task of an as-yet-to-be-developed science of information to go one step in the direction of a unified theory of information without falling back into neither reduction nor anthropomorphisation.

To be able to succeed in an ambitious task like this, the book advocates the application of complex systems theory and its philosophical underpinnings. Information needs to be interpreted in terms of self-organisation to do justice to the richness of its manifestations. The way the book does so will provide the reader with a deep insight into a basic feature of our world. (more…)

Cover-Digital WhonessRafael Capurro, Micharl Eldred, Daniel Nagel

DIGITAL WHONESS: IDENTITY, PRIVACY AND FREEDOM IN THE CYBERWORLD

Heusenstamm, Germany, Ontos Verlag (Hardcover: 310 pp., 69€)

The first aim is to provide well-articulated concepts by thinking through elementary phenomena of today’s world, focusing on privacy and the digital, to clarify who we are in the cyberworld — hence a phenomenology of digital whoness. The second aim is to engage critically, hermeneutically with older and current literature on privacy, including in today’s emerging cyberworld. Phenomenological results include concepts of i) self-identity through interplay with the world, ii) personal privacy in contradistinction to the privacy of private property, iii) the cyberworld as an artificial, digital dimension in order to discuss iv) what freedom in the cyberworld can mean, whilst not neglecting v) intercultural aspects and vi) the EU context.

CONTENTS: 0) Introduction, 1) Phenomenology of whoness: identity, privacy, trust and freedom, 2) Digital Ontology, 3) Digital whoness in connection with privacy, publicity and freedom, 4) Intercultural aspects of digitally mediated whoness, privacy and freedom, 5) Cyberworld, privacy and the EU, 6) Brave new cyberworld.

An abridged version of this book was published as “IT and Privacy and Ethical Perspective – Digital Whoness: Identity, Privacy and Freedom in the Cyberworld” in Buchmann, J. (ed.): Internet Privacy – A Multidisciplinary Analysis, Berlin: Springer, 2012, pp. 63-141.  Accessible here

Luciano Floridi

THE PHILOSOPHY OF INFORMATION

Oxford, UK, Oxford Univesity Press, 2011 (Hardback, 360 pp. $55.00)

As the author declares at the beginning of his book, it “brings together the outcome of ten years of research”. A project arisen by the intention of “looking for a philosophy that could be free from the anthropocentric obsession with the knowing subject, and from commonsensical introspection.” The result is a Philosophy of information (PI) that can be articulated in three fundamental questions: What is really information? How is it understood, investigated and manipulated? How can information be used to cope with philosophical problems? Though obviously not all these broad and open questions can be fully answered –and particularly not in the extent of a book– this work can be regarded as a first serious attempt of laying down the principles and conceptual foundations of this new area of research, named Philosophy of information. Following Floridi, PI can be “defined as the new philosophical field concerned with (a) the critical investigation of the conceptual nature and basic principles of information, including its dynamics, utilisation and sciences; and (b) the elaboration and application of information-theoretic and computational methodologies to philosophical problems.”

In order to settle the principles of PI, Floridi pursues three goals, which are metatheoretical, introductory and analytic. Its metatheoretical goal is to describe what the philosophy of information is, its problems, approaches, and methods. Its introductory goal is to help the reader to gain a better grasp of the complex and multifarious nature of the various concepts and phenomena related to information. Its analytic goal is to answer several key theoretical questions of great philosophical interest, arising from the investigation of semantic information. However, it is in the analysis of meaning and his proposed General Definition of Information (GDI) where we found unnecessary the requirements of meaningfulness (as well as truthfulness for semantic information) as proposed by Floridi, if the final intention is to grasp the universality of information; though it might be of course relevant in human contexts. In other words, we consider unsatisfactory the given approach to “the symbol grounding problem”, i.e. “how can data, constituting semantic information, acquire meaning in the first place?” To this respect we have elaborated a “GDI revisiting programme”. (See: Emergence and evolution of meaning).

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Rainer E. Zimmermann

NEW ETHICS PROVED IN GEOMETRICAL ORDER: SPINOZIST REFLEXIONS ON EVOLUTIONARY SYSTEMS

“The order and connection of ideas is the same as the order and connection of things.” states Spinoza in the 7th proposition of the second part of his Ethic, and we might consider this principle as a backbone of his entire work. It helps us to understand why Spinoza’s main work was an Ethic proved in geometrical order instead of having writing, for instance, a Physics proved such way… “If Spinoza had at hand the conceptual methods developed today in mathematics and physics, he would for sure take advantage of them and he could arrive to a much better end of his intention”, Rainer Zimmermann explained to me once talking about the possibilities of contemporary mathematics in relation to the understanding of complex systems. This thought also helped me to understand why Professor Zimmermann, mathematician, physicist and philosopher himself –author of the so called “transcendental materialismus”–  have also devoted part of his extensive work to ethical problems recruiting conceptualizations that takes explicit account of current physics and mathematics. His philosophy does not pretend to be a “prima philosphia in the Aristotelian sense” but rather a “suitable ultima philosophia of considerable heuristic value” as –he considers- to be offered by the line of “systematic philosophy” represented by Schelling, Bloch and Sartre.

This book of Prof. Zimmermann explicitly shows the potentiality referred to in his comment concerning Spinoza’s intention and brings to the fore a contemporary mathematical machinery (based on a strict logical structure for a progressive perspective, as well as on a not so strict hermeneutic structure for a regressive perspective) in the solution to the ancient problem of the relationship between human beings and the rest of nature. Zimmermann’s book recontextualise Spinoza’s approach and proves how the theory of evolutionary systems is a prime candidate for a conceptualization that might be useful in order to concretely develop this new insight.

Concerning the interdisciplinary methodology as proposed by the author and needed for a proper investigation of information in its broad variety of mathematical, natural, social, technical and humanistic aspects, Zimmermann’s approach offers a promissory path that is worth to be considered by those trying to find proper foundations for an interdisciplinary Science of Information.

CONTENTS: 1. Introduction—Spinoza Today; 2. Spinozist Traces in the Theory of Evolutionary Systems; 3. The First Conceptual Triad (Concerning the Nature and Origin of the Mind I); 4. The Second Conceptual Triad (Concerning The Nature And Origin Of The Mind II); 5. A Game-Theoretical Viewpoint (On Human Servitude, Or The Strength Of The Emotions); 6. Artificial Life Revisited; 7. Ethics And Design (Concerning The Power Of The Intellect, Or, On Human Freedom); 8. Conclusions; Appendix I: A Very Short Introduction to Categories; Appendix II: A Not So Very Short Introduction To Evolutionary Game Theory.

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Rafael Capurro & John Holgate (eds)

Messages and Messengers /

Von Boten und Botschaften

Angeletics as an Approach to the Phenomenology of Communication /

Die Angeletik als Weg zur Phänomenologie der Kommunikation

Munich: Wilhelm Fink, 2011, 351 pp.

As we can read in the Glossarium BITri, “’angeletics’ derives from Greek angelia, meaning message”. But this approach, proposed by our colleague Rafael Capurro since the 1990s, does not refer to angels or divine messengers –as in the angelology–, it aims instead at studying “the social phenomenon of messages and messengers”, which “is a vast, old and complex phenomenon”. In our digital age, the question is “to what extent the internet creates a new angeletic space giving rise to new synergies of messages and messengers beyond the hierarchical structure of mass media” (p.13). Or considering the global transformation of our communicational means and our cultures as a whole, we may even ask more dramatically: Are we moving towards an “angelical” world or rather towards a “dysangelical” one (i.e., “a time of empty angels” using Sloterdijk’s expression)? (p.13, 195)… Although these questions undoubtedly move in the territory of the very complex human systems, the analysis of messages –as we can see in the book– also reaches the field of natural sciences and technology (for instance, the physical constraints of messages and the rise of meaning through the growing complexity of biological systems). This book –the first one entirely dedicated to angeletics– is structured in two parts: fundaments, where former and new texts stating the principles of Angeletics are compiled, and applications, where the analysis of messages and messengers is extended to different fields.

 

CONTENTS: Foreword (R. Capurro); Introduction (J. Holgate, R. Capurro);  I. FOUNDATIONS: Angeletics — A Message Theory (R. Capurro); Theorie der Botschaft (R. Capurro); A Dialogue on Intercultural Angeletics (R. Capurro, M. Nakada); The Hermesian Paradigm (J. Holgate); Circulating Messages to Every Body and No Body (M. Eldred); Plotinus’ Angeletics: A Neoplatonic Message Theory (G. Stamatellos); Anmerkungen zu einer Theorie der Botschaft (M. Knödler-Pasch); Political Economy and the Double Dialectic of Information (R.E. BABE); Beyond Humanisms (R. Capurro); II. APPLICATIONS: Botschaften ohne Botschafter — Botschafter ohne Botschaften (K. Wiegerling); Messages in an Open Universe (J.M. Díaz Nafría); Systemtheorie — Von der Hermeneutik zum Konstruktivismus (H.H. Diebner); Communities of Action and the Message Society (W. Hofkirchner); Orts-Botschaften. Orte in Jordanien und Syrien (G. Grossklaus); Marginalien zur Angeletik (C. Coenen); Angeletics and Epistemology — Angeletics as Epistemology (P.-H. Wong); Carbon Atoms as Prime Messengers for the Origins of Life (K. Matsuno); On the Relevance of Angeletics and Hermeneutics for Information Technology (R. Capurro, T. Takenouchi, L.M. Tkach-Kawasaki, T. Iitaka).

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