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Regular version of the site

Article

The Self-Organization of Meaning and the Reflexive Communication of Information

Social Science Information. 2017. Vol. 56. No. 1. P. 4-27.
Leydesdorff L., Petersen A., Ivanova I.

Following a suggestion of Warren Weaver, we extend the Shannon model of communication piecemeal into a complex systems model in which communication is differentiated both vertically and horizontally. This model enables us to bridge the divide between Niklas Luhmann’s theory of the self-organization of meaning in communications and empirical research using information theory. First, we distinguish between communication relations and correlations among patterns of relations. The correlations span a vector space in which relations are positioned and can be provided with meaning. Second, positions provide reflexive perspectives. Whereas the different meanings are integrated locally, each instantiation opens global perspectives—“horizons of meaning”—along eigenvectors of the communication matrix. These next-order codifications of meaning can be expected to generate mutual redundancies when interacting in instantiations. Increases in redundancy indicate new options and can be measured as local reduction of prevailing uncertainty (in bits). The systemic generation of new options can be considered as a hallmark of the knowledge-based economy.