The Cybersemiotic Model of Communication: An Evolutionary View on the Threshold between Semiosis and Informational Exchange

  • Søren Brier Department of Economics and Natural Resources, Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University
Keywords: cybersemiotics, cybernetics, semiotics, information, self-organisation


This paper discusses various suggestions for a philosophical framework for a trans-disciplinary information science or a semiotic doctrine. These are: the mechanical materialistic, the pan-informational, the Luhmanian second order cybernetic approach, Peircian biosemiotics and finally the pan-semiotic approach. The limitations of each are analysed. The conclusion is that we will not have to choose between either a cybernetic-informational or a semiotic approach. A combination of a Peircian-based biosemiotics with autopoiesis theory, second order cybernetics and information science is suggested in a five-levelled cybersemiotic framework. The five levels are 1) a level of Firstness, 2) a level of mechanical matter, energy and force as Secondness, 3) a cybernetic and thermodynamic level of information, 4) a level of sign games and 5) a level of conscious language games. These levels are then used to differentiate levels of information systems, sign and language games in human communication. In our model Maturana and Varela’s description of the logic of the living as autopoietic is accepted and expanded with Luhmann’s generalization of the concept of autopoiesis, to cover also to psychological and socio-communicative systems. Adding a Peircian concept of semiosis to Luhmann’s theory in the framework of biosemiotics enables us to view the interplay of mind and body as a sign play. I have in a previous publication (see list of references) suggested the term “sign play” pertaining to exosemiotics processes between animals in the same species by stretching Wittgenstein's language concept into the animal world of signs. The new concept of intrasemiotics designates the semiosis of the interpenetration between biological and psychological autopoietic systems as Luhmann defines them in his theory. One could therefore view intrasemiotics as the interplay between Lorenz' biological defined motivations and Freud's Id, understood as the psychological aspect of many of the natural drives. In the last years of the development of his theory, Lorenz worked with the idea of how emotional feedback introduced just a little learning through pleasurable feelings into instinctive systems because, as he reasoned, there must be some kind of reward of going through instinctive movements, thus making possible the appetitive searching behaviour for sign stimuli. But he never found an acceptable way of modelling motivation in biological science. I am suggesting a cybersemiotic model to combine these approaches, defining various concepts like thought-semiotics, phenosemiotic and intrasemiotics, combining them with the already known concepts of exosemiotics, ecosemiotics, and endosemiotics into a new view of self-organizing semiotic processes in living systems. Thus a new semiotic level of description is generated, where mind-body interactions can be understood on the same description level.