We need codes to make information more manageable. Binary transmission of information produces “an extremely large number” (p43) of possible messages, the transmission of which would require an impressive expense of time and energy. Binary transmissions are what Information Technology is concerned with.
So in the case of the watershed and the engineer without the s-code there would have been an infinite array of events that could have taken place. The engineer needed only to understand if the system was stable or in danger. The latter would require a response. The s-code regulates and in the Watershed example is a ‘reductive network’ that isolates a ‘few pertinent events’ (p43).
Eco uses the example of a typewriter to illustrate the difference between transmitting information and transmitting messages. The number of binary choices of information on a typewriter is ‘extremely large…with an astronomical number of combinations possible’. The information, although possibly informative, would require too many binary choices to make the transmission of messages possible.
Shannon, (1949) defines the information of a message as N choices among h symbols: 1 = N log2 h
In order to make it possible to form and transmit messages, one must reduce the values of N and h. It is easier to transmit a message, which is to provide information about a system of elements whose combinations are governed by a system of established rules. The fewer alternatives, the easier the communication. (p44)
[OS Hang on. Then what gets lost if possibilites are reduced?
The limitations of language. You can feel it.
The endless possibilities of information. You cannot understand it.]
“Although the original information diminishes the possibility of transmitting messages increases.” (p44)
Therefore, Semiotics the ‘lower threshold’ at least is bringing ‘bits’ of information under control using a structure. Grammar in language provides such a structure.
[OS I am going to the pub now to see if I can explain it to someone else.
SS You are only going to the pub because you want to explain what you have learnt about semiotics?
OS/SS – Yeah, Right!!]
Chapter One/forty-seven pages over. [Phew!]