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Article

Toward a Calculus of Redundancy: Signification,Codification, and Anticipation in Cultural Evolution

Leydesdorff L., Johnson M., Ivanova I.

This article considers the relationships among meaning generation, selection, and the dynamics of discourse from a variety of perspectives ranging from information theory and biology to sociology. Following Husserl's idea of a horizon of meanings in intersubjective communication, we propose a way in which, using Shannon's equations, the generation and selection of meanings from a horizon of possibilities can be considered probabilistically. The information-theoretical dynamics we articulate considers a process of meaning generation within cultural evolution: information is imbued with meaning, and through this process, the number of options for the selection of meaning in discourse proliferates. The redundancy of possible meanings contributes to a codification of expectations within the discourse. Unlike hardwired DNA, the codes of nonbiological systems can coevolve with the variations. Spanning horizons of meaning, the codes structure the communications as selection environments that shape discourses. Discursive knowledge can be considered as meta-coded communication that enables us to translate among differently coded communications. The dynamics of discursive knowledge production can thus infuse the historical dynamics with a cultural evolution by adding options, that is, by increasing redundancy. A calculus of redundancy is presented as an indicator whereby these dynamics of discourse and meaning may be explored empirically.