“Information contents” is intended to be a new ‘topic’ IN THE EMBCOG postings. The writing icon at the top right of PAICS has been clicked after opening the EmbCog category on the right (which gives past posts only). Ron, is this right? It’s the only way I can find to put a new title into EmCog itself. — David
[David, all you have to do to make a new EmbCog post is click on the writing icon and then after writing your post, remember to tick “EmbCog” under the “Categories and Tags” menu (and untick “Unclassified”) to the left of the edit screen. I have done this for you now, so this post now appears under EmbCog — Ron]
Many thanks, Ron. I’ll try both of those clicks next time. – David
Your paper on information theory for the Embodied Cognition reading group is excellent. What about putting it on Wiki Psychology?
I’m puzzled though why “Chemero’s discussion of information in chapter 6, and dismissal of Shannon information theory, irritated [you] so much” that you wrote this paper for the group. Chemero indeed wrote: “Information for perception is not Shannon-Weaver information” (p109) but this was in the context of discussing the contents of information delivered by affordances to the organism. At the end of your paper, you yourself emphasise that Shannon’s reductions in entropy ([tera]bits) do not deliver information content.
I wonder if the irritant is Chemero’s invocation of dynamic systems without pointing out that it is Shannon info which is generally used in that approach, whereby he contradicts page 109. I’m finding Chemero’s treatment increasingly irritating myself, as he keeps missing most of the point of what he refers to and even resorts to mere name-dropping. The most blatant is his glowing praise for neuroscience without specifying what’s so good about it, as a response to the charge that he is a “no-brainer” because he shows perception is performance of the animal while acting on its environment and so can’t be solely a brain (and body) process. The reduction of the animal’s long-term memory to long-term potentiation of some synapses does nothing to account for the content of memories (as I pointed out from Sussex in Psychological Bulletin 1967!).
This case against eliminative physicalism (of brain, with internal (bodily) and external environments – me again in Brain & Behavioral Sciences 1978) is what’s most important about the book. (Representation by bits of the system is a side-issue about more or less wise uses of that word, for Chemero as well as for you and me.) Yet Chemero makes a mess of key points in his Situated (not Embodied) Cognition.
Chemero’s section on the social environment is crucial because his detailed examples are about physical processes such as optics, skin contact, muscle contractions, stairs and blocks of varied shapes. Unfortunately, he does not seem to understand the hard causal structure of information in society: he even writes that affordances in society are “merely [sic!!] conventionally determined”. The ecological biologists are becoming very clear how powerful the traditions of successful activities are in primate groups. Physics itself (for Kuhn or Lakatos) is an extremely powerful and precise set of ‘conventions’ for effective handling of any environment (in its material aspects).
All the stuff about ecological optics, haptic touch and supposed extensions to other “energies” (a most eccentric idea for taste, smell, and hormone receptors in the brain) is far too close to Gibson’s outdated biophysics, materials science and kinaesthetic neurophysiology (and molecular genomics). Chemero’s only source of general theory of the information contents of physical affordances, let alone of social affordances, is “situation semantics” (unexplained). That buries in the deeper oceans of linguistics all the real and sometimes severe scientific problems of giving predictive accounts of the patterns that can be extracted from the stuffs and objects which are the sources of stimulation to sensory receptor arrays.
There’s quite a list also of conceptual moves that seem to me to be based on verbal muddles. E.g., contrary to misleading terminology in foundationalist epistemology and medical physiology, light does not cause sensations, except for dazzle (Hamlyn 1956). E.g., there’s no puzzle whether ‘perception’ (a misused noun) is inside or outside: the perceivING (the verb, active tense) is by the agent and the perceivED (same verb, in the passive) is in the environment.