Notes, January 2016 - April 2019

Pieter Wisse

These notes originate for the most part from my email correspondence.



Thank you for considering me for attendance. I am afraid having to decline. For I continue to be caught up in a dilemma of my own making. About thirty years ago I left my properly salaried job with the government. I set out on my own to develop theory & method relevant for facilitating information exchange under conditions of variety of meaning. Well, I did succeed, theoretically, anyway. Contextualism, or subjective situationism as I also call it, needs to guide our behavior in an ever more varied world, far going beyond a merely analytical (also read: traditionally academic) attitude. At least for myself I am trying to practically live it (and, admittedly, often enough not succeeding :-). However, as a genuine paradigm shift is involved, I am still running against a wall as far as my attempts at gaining even some minimal wider acceptance go. In practice it comes down to struggling against bankruptcy. Yet I hope to be able to persist. But then, I really should stop before I’ve completely used up my pension money. Academia, perhaps? Also not interested. Sure, enough people complain about increasing problems with information systems. They don’t want to be bothered, though, with a request to try out a qualitatively different perspective. And I am not prepared to go along with what I’ve long since come to recognize as a counterproductive approach. I’d rather struggle financially than knowing I’m a fraud.
Indeed, one out of many companies I tried to approach is Microsoft. No, I never made it past some low-level gatekeeper. Well, that’s actually funny. Gateskeeper? If you could get mr Gates interested, and so on to the current powers ruling Microsoft, they’d be positioned for new markets and could generously sponsor Tostan. Of course I realize it’s not that easy.
I’d like to support - your work with - Tostan to the best of my capacity. What I might contribute is a second opinion on IS plans should you feel a need for it. And on and off I am thinking of the so-called theory of change. I cannot yet quite put my finger on it, but I feel somewhat restless about both its contents and title. I am still, however slightly, reminded of directive intervention. If that is what the sponsors like to read, fine, write up such a version for that particular purpose. A ‘field’ version, whatever that is, should be leading. Am I making some sense?
As I remember, I did already ask you for contacts that Tostan may have in the Netherlands. Perhaps they are people I - still - know and therefore easy to contact.
I hope your further stay is equally productive, and pleasant.

Thank you for bringing up formalization. Can I make another statement? :-) I cannot help finding that the concept of formalization is often ill-understood, at best. Many people - unwittingly? - apply the term as a euphemism to promote their favored meaning to become standard, i.e. the norm. They are nowadays greatly assisted by limited understanding - please note, including their own - of digital technology. As I see it, the largely implicit reasoning goes as follows. It is assumed to be in the nature of ‘computers’ to require formalization. So far, so good. However, formalization (in this strictest sense, also read: normalization) is only considered possible when first of all concepts (in opposition to form, also read: contents) are taken as mutually independent. Simplisticly, it serves to establish a one-to-one correspondence between atomist content and atomist form. Of course, logical atomism, naïve realism, et cetera, amount to extending formalization to conceptualization, which might - seem to - make programming a computer easier, but undermines - an appreciation of - real variety. It should be the other way around! Escaping exposure, formalization is a modern colonizing force. (I don’t like the label postmodern.) Regretfully, all over, systems are developed from this faulty idea of formalization. As nobody has a clue why resulting systems necessarily fail, yet another attempt is made, more users get more frustrated (or worse), more money is thrown down the drain, and so on. Most people responsible for those failures even don’t want to have a clue (from a belief that only knowledge builds guilt, or some equally anti-social idea). Any suggestion that a change of paradigm is in order, is immediately rejected. “Don’t you see we have a crisis on our hands! You are interfering, go away!” Meanwhile, managers remain uneducated, IT companies benefit (and their employees also don’t know any better, on the contrary; talking about integrity, otherwise they couldn’t stand the ‘work’). To put it mildly, it is not that difficult to think of ways to better spend money … And such formalization spreads far beyond IT projects.
Should we care? I am not at all an idealist. It would already be a huge improvement when the most stupid mistakes could be avoided. Just one project that takes a balanced approach would already be great. So, yes, I find that we should care.
The proper approach to formalization is to apply it, not as a preordained master, but in the humble service of people and their living variety. It ‘means’ radically doing away with whatever atomist assumptions. For meaning is through and through interdependent, and dynamically so. So, what we need is a qualitatively different formalism, one facilitating interdependence, variable at that, because the world including how each of us pluriformly ‘sees’ it keeps changing. (Didn’t Heraclitus already succinctly express a theory of change? “Everything flows.”) We should not allow formalization to be used as a euphemism to tempt the rest of us into compliance. And it really is nonsense that digital technology can only process atomist forms. In fact, especially computers can be most helpful when a wide variety of conditions (as particular configurations, also read: contexts) apply. Keyword: helpful.
While it must be axiomatically taken that contexts and thereby meanings differ, still a generally applicable method may exist to facilitate such variety. For example, in evolutionary epistemology I find strong support for that hypothesis. The methodic focus, then, is not on some concept by itself. The idea of more or less translating a single concept at the time is, say, the atomist fallacy. Instead, focus should be on how relevant concepts differ from each other. Sufficient context must be added to each term to be able to ‘tell’ concepts apart. In principle, that’s nothing new. You could say it is a kind of structuralism; integral joining of explicit contexts makes it contextualism. It needs to be called subjective, too, as meanings also vary from one individual tot the next. My solution for method is to rely on recursion; a context refers to a concept for ‘entering’ it, leaving less of context to determine, and so on, until an overall boundary condition (Metapattern: horizon) is invoked. This way, formally, there is room for an infinite number of configured conditions, and no condition is presupposed. (And if you want different meanings for context, why not?)
We should be especially careful, I would say, acknowledging subjective situationism when suggesting meaning(s) for concepts termed theory, change, norm … It is still atomist thinking to refer to alternatives in the sense of either-or. So, I do not propose some critical theory with the purpose of replacing the currently dominant idea (after which it would no longer be ‘critical,’ now would it?). Rather, conceptualization should be differential. A method to formalize contextualized meanings, then, is outright anti-formalist from the perspective of - habitually implicit - atomist formalization. With traditional politics closely associated with ruling class, and so on correlated with closely guarded singular meaning and propaganda, it shouldn’t come as a surprise for a relativist paradigm to meet with strong - and mostly subconscious - resistance.
As I understand Tostan’s mission, it is about honoring reciprocally both local community and wider integration. It calls for valuing people as they learn and develop - how about that for a name for a theory? :-) - dynamically differential interdependence. How fitting focus on human rights is!

I believe I can to a large extent sympathize with your experience of meeting with endless difficulties trying to engage donors/sponsors. Perhaps I am wrong comparing it to my own, so far illusive, attempts to acquire effective support for Metapattern (and I am nowhere even asking for any money, at all). Anyway, my idea is that an inevitable (!) correlation is at work. People (and their organizations) qualify as sponsors because they have been materially and/or socially successful. Well, you’re the psychologist. :-) When such success happens, the narcissist in most - and still predominantly male - persons attributes it to himself, to himself being in control, to his own plan having been executed, et cetera.
In contrast, what is Tostan about? From a potential sponsor’s perspective, isn’t it about basically spending his money for helping other people to gain control over their lives, make their own plans, et cetera? How can it possible work? It certainly is not how he’s achieved ‘his’ success (and still does, apparently, otherwise you wouldn’t be at his doorstep). Of course, there is not just a single measure of success, but try telling that to somebody who has become convinced that success can only come from - his - single-minded devotion. Metapattern’s - let me call it - ethical orientation is, I find, quite similar to Tostan’s. It doesn’t set and rule standardized meanings, but offers a space for everybody to design meanings according to circumstances while promoting how they interrelate, too.
To most potential sponsors, merely facilitating, empowering while operating from and as soon as possible fading in the background yourself, must sound like an indecent, even offensive proposal. It also doesn’t help to point out that it is precisely what the best of therapists do. For what happens in therapy is impossible to imagine for someone who cannot even think of himself as a patient.
No, I’m afraid I don’t have any alternative to recommend. For Tostan, you’re after money and contacts of other people (while for Metapattern I would be happy with contacts, only). It is useless to go and request those ‘resources’ from people who don’t ‘possess’ any. Yet, as soon as you address people who do, chances are they want you to comply with their conditions … those conditions most likely/almost certainly being detrimental to what you aim at … with especially the way you are aiming in fact impossible to explain in the manner sponsors demand from you. Labeling it paradoxical intervention could even scare them off right away. It is a paradox that can only be dissolved recognizing - here’s your book, again - The Mind’s We, and so on to its evolutionary correlate, the community’s we.
But, then, there are always exceptions. I am glad to hear that at least some donors are there for Tostan to continue.

I’ve just finished reading your book The Expressive Power of Law (Richard H. McAdams, Harvard University Press, 2015). A copy in a local bookshop (The Hague, Netherlands) caught my eye. For your title immediately suggested an emphasis on what I would call sign exchange. Indeed, from my interest on how the use of digital technologies affects, and will continue to do so as those technologies develop, administration of justice I very much enjoyed your book, and learned a lot from it. Yet I also wonder whether your point(s) might be made even more clearly from a more explicitly semiotic perspective. I hope you don’t mind me elaborating to add my point.
You repeatedly refer to law’s causality. More generally, sign is one of three cause types (as A. Schopenhauer already observed). With any cause, an exchange is assumed for effect. Characteristically, at least two parties are involved. Sign is no exception. One party exhibits behavior intended to be taken up as a sign by another party (or by her-/himself at the next stage of so-called semiosis). For the sake of briefest exposition, let me here assume different parties, A and B. Through signaling behavior, A aims to cause a behavioral effect from B. Its particular cause(-and-effect) type may be succinctly defined by the slogan: Every sign is a request for compliance (explained in my book Semiosis & Sign Exchange).
There is no other way of knowing the law than law-as-expressed. As every (!) sign attempts mediation between A’s goal and B’s compliance, please note, without exception, it simply follows that law is inherently about compliance, too.
And when it is tautological that a sign … signals, law signals by definition.
It is only after becoming aware of behavioral dynamics that what traditionally counts as a sign, is recognized as an overly simplified concept. How can it be explained that repetition of what appears as one and the same sign often brings about quite different behaviors? Is there really a single cause when several effects may be observed? No such magic exists.
The answer is that a sign is always (!) articulated. It is configured by a signature and a context (again, see Semiosis & Sign Exchange). What is habitually taken as sign, is ‘only’ signature. And a signature is only recognizable as such together with a context, vice versa.
From articulating sign, it is reasonable to return to a correspondence theory. I’ve developed its necessarily extended version by starting from the semiotic triad of C.S. Peirce. An ennead resulted, with Peirce’s three original elements now serving as dimensions, and three elements appearing along each dimension. The full correspondence reads:

sign: context- signature - intext

(f)act: situation - object - behavior

interpretation: motive - focus - concept.

Distinguishing between context and situation is ‘really’ crucial. It can now be posited that context informs about situation, requiring a corresponding factor in interpretation to differentiate concepts: motive.
Suppose B experiences a sign. It might seem that s/he notices a particular object. However, s/he can only do so as a figure against a (back)ground, that is, situation. With ongoing semiosis, the ability to recognize a sign in the first place, therefore, comes from B’s already ‘being’ somewhere in semiosis. The - further - course with its dynamics, i.e., from one motivated concept to another, and so on, is - necessarily - driven by influences which always carry B’s - changing - cognitive stamp in the first place.
Considering a sign in the enneadic sense, B ‘knows’ s/he has been sent a request for compliance. S/he will then include her/his assessment of the sender in the motivated concept s/he develops. How s/he sees her/his relationship(s) with the alleged sender is weighed for compliance. Of course, that is where expectations come in. The response from B may vary from complete compliance to all sorts of noncompliance. How B in (f)act behaves, may in turn be taken up as a sign, too. And when it is, A, or whoever, deals with it as yet another request for compliance. And so on …
The efficiency of behavior largely depends on motive - and therefore context and situation respectively - remaining implicit (also read: subconscious). We need to assume it, though, on the basis of differential behavior. Signs taken as atomic (also read: self-contained) fail to explain real variety.
Mostly during childhood, people learn to coordinate their behaviors for a variety of situations. When A comes to depend on compliance, i.e., that it may, or even should, be reckoned with for some class of situations, s/he is invoking a - social - norm. Then, B should experience that beyond A, s/he is effectively addressed by all members of their community. It should affect B’s expectations, et cetera, accordingly.
Another - even wider? - scope for expectations is aimed at for consideration by B when a sign is no longer associated as coming from some individual fellow-citizen A, but should right away be attributed to what is known as government. I find it hard to image that it happens without having learned to do so, first.
These are the kind of “expressions” your book is mostly about, I find. Indeed, there is a growing need for such codified signs where people are still unacquainted - or lack the time for mutual recognition - when they could benefit from coordinating their behaviors. In Dutch, the term “verkeer” has the general meaning of, say, interactivity (likewise in German: Verkehr). Only one of its more specific meanings is what in English is “traffic.” An equivalent English term, similarly general as “verkeer,” I don’t know. So, I’ve merely tried to suggest one by mentioning interactivity.
How I understand your game-theoretical approach in The Expressive Power of Law, is that you start building the case from a single game occurrence, the so-called prisoners’ dilemma, at that. How can players coordinate their respective behaviors under such circumstances? Then, even the slightest clue could prove decisively helpful. A so-called focal point strongly biases players’ interpretations and subsequent behaviors. I find it all highly convincing, as theory goes …
As I said, I thoroughly enjoyed following your explanations. Nevertheless, I find the semiotic perspective promises more consistency. The game types you propose are, in my view, too far from representative for real-life behavioral situations in which people meet, et cetera. People do learn how to cope with situations, including how to differentiate between them to differentiate their behaviors accordingly. Games are useful to optimize learning. But when I am actually riding my bicycle - after all, I am Dutch - and at some point I notice a traffic sign, and by noticing in inevitable conjunction the situation, while being in the mode of participating in traffic, I draw on all kinds of results of learning, including probable attitudes of fellow travelers, not to forget my own attitudes under those circumstances, risks and expectations that may go as far as the prospect of landing in jail, to plan my next moves. I do learn from this particular event, too, while living it, but it is the familiarity of the signature/situation configuration that steers me into complementary behavior. As it goes, for a Dutch cyclist it almost invariably means to ignore the red traffic light … Anyway, it always depends. Articulating a sign into signature and context explains the irreducible situationedness of behavior (and a pertinent awareness should promote learning).
When B is requested to consider a sign as having legal origin, s/he will ‘just’ take add the qualification to what s/he takes into consideration when developing yet another motivated concept. Structurally, semiosis is no different when law is implied. Of course, effects (also read: compliance) should vary, or setting up and applying law isn’t worth the trouble. I believe this to be one of your main points, too, in your case referring to the relevance of game theory.
There is of course much more to be discussed when adding a semiotic perspective. So far, I merely referred to an extended base for semiotics and hope you can already appreciate how it might contribute to further work on law’s expressiveness. I’d be most happy to continue productive discussion.
I apologize for any misunderstanding of your work that you may reasonably find me guilty of, and am looking forward to your reply.

Last Friday we discussed Metapattern. I am happy to take up your suggestion to send you some further information. Here it is … When you are in a hurry, skip to the final paragraph.
Metapattern is a method for conceptual modeling.
Why would anyone even consider using it? The reason should be that the modeling method s/he currently applies, leads to ever-growing problems (including run-away inefficiencies). And why is that? It could be a matter of limiting axioms (also read: basic concepts, principles, paradigm, worldview).
Actually, most people remain largely, if not totally, unaware of the paradigm underlying their working method(s). Then, they wouldn’t recognize an alternative and the idea of a paradigm change seems absurd.
Anyway, still popular modeling methods start from assuming self-contained entities, or objects. It follows that a particular object’s behaviors (in a more static sense, also read: properties) need to be thought of as generally, absolutely valid. Simply put, object equals its behavior.
Such methods are adequate for modeling separate systems, each independently facilitating a narrow set of tasks corresponding with unambiguous behaviors. (Corollary: Make the universe small enough, and whatever discourse stops.)
Through digital networking technologies, the fact is that isolated systems are obsolete, counterproductive. For real variety under interdependence dictates that it is no longer possible to derive relevant behavior from merely identifying an object. Without an extremely narrow scope, there is right away more to determining relevant behavior.
What distinguishes different behaviors of one and the same object, are different situations it engages, vice versa. So, what equals behavior must be seen as the configuration of object and situation. This is Metapattern’s relativity principle.
It lends itself for straightforward recursion. An object and a situation together yield a situational object. In turn, a resulting situational object may serve as either object and/or situation to constitute another situational object, i.e. with yet more differentially detailed behavior attributed to it, and so on. Labeling behaviors as mutually contradictory can now be recognized as a pseudo-problem originating from the limiting paradigm of atomism; there really is no contradiction where an object’s different behaviors are geared to different situations.
Indeed, attempts at modifying self-containment of objects were, and continue to be, made, for example object-role modeling. While offering some improvements, it takes the radical situationism of Metapattern to secure benefits.
With digital technologies supporting human interaction, it should come as no surprise that modeling requires the turn to applied social psychology (and actually adding a rigorously situational logic to it).
The recursive relativity of situational differentiation of objects removes all constraints of scope.
Metapattern assists data integration (for example, what you and I called intelligent big data :-). One of my long-time dreams, too, is to see Metapattern applied to designing a so-called operating system for networking (for modularity can be tightly controlled). Actually, Metapattern should promote methodically unifying all levels et cetera of processing.
Please note, there is no paradox in a unified method for limitless differentiation. It is controlled through an additional parameter. As far as the paradigm goes, that is all.
Regarding flexibility, Metapattern includes a double temporal perspective, one structural and another pertaining to data values (as can be demonstrated with Metapattern’s software platform, KnitbITs).
Above, I have tried providing the briefest of introductions. You are of course most welcome to forward this message to whomever you may think could be interested. On my website www.wisse.cc there is an entry leading to English-language texts which are mostly about Metapattern. As the next step in orientation I recommend Get into the rhythm of Metapattern; it is only slightly longer, with several other specific references supplied in footnotes.
Thank you again!

It is now ten years since I wrote Anatomy of Contragrammar (2003). It was followed the next year by The Relationship between Metapattern in Knowledge Management as a Conceptual Model and Contragrammar as Conceptual Meaning (2004) written together with Contragrammar’s originator John D. Haynes. And Contragrammar continues to intrigue and inspire me. I’ve also found it to provide a most practical conceptualization tool for, indeed, conceptual modeling. In a recent note (in Dutch, Wisse, 2013), I explicitly suggested the use of Contragrammar for inquiring after interdependency. Taking architect Harry Sullivan’s slogan ‘form follows function’ as a cue for illustration, I challenged his implicit assumption of one-dimensional causality. Sullivan seems to make sense, of course, but other perspectives might rigorously - need to - come into (inter)play as relevant, too. Then, a wider interpretational field may immediately be opened by deriving from the original slogan a statement in contragram format: the form of function is the function of form. It invites a synthetic question: Actually, does the additional statement sound more reasonable? If so, as I briefly mentioned in my note, a conceptual model only representative of (a) single causality is clearly still deficient. An already much more pertinent model (also read: far less simplistic) starts form juxtaposing phenomena and subsequently assuming a so-called requisite variety of interrelations.
Here, Metapattern as a method for conceptual modeling is once again called upon to further explain Contragrammar as a method for conceptualization. In the fashion of Contragrammar, an intimate familiarity with its characteristic dynamics (Haynes, 1999) should in turn help modelers to design conceptual models with Metapattern that are both more rigorous and relevant at the scale of our information society. Especially for responsible development and use of increasingly pervasive digital technologies, balancing opportunities against risks, such models are now vitally important.
For getting you acquainted with Contragrammar, I suggest to consider in some more detail the specific preoccupation, or bias, that might be attributed to Sullivan (1856-1924). I would say that he argues as a designer and as such attempts to position design, stipulating that it is nonsense to conceptualize form without a concept of function. In other words, as I interpret Sullivan, for him in such a professional capacity, the design of function should always precede the design of form. It certainly is a formula waiting to be misunderstood by laymen and, given some time, by many fellow professionals.
Now imagine the user of some artifact. His habitual experience of how form and function are related is near totally opposite. For a user’s application of an actual form constitutes an actual function, that is, form in (t)his sense might be said to precede function in (t)his sense.
As a contragram, then, the-form-of-function-is-the-function-of-form deconstructs the concept of a single, static meaning. Instead, it holds the promise of multiple meanings. In this case, starting from the-form-of-function leads to the-function-of-form which might lead ‘back’ to the-form-of-function, yet differently conceived, et cetera. At every pass, meanings may and will change. Interdependency is experienced as productive development of conceptualization. Both form and function are believed to be understood ‘at a higher level.’ What it amounts to is that we feel having escaped from a linear, one-size-fits-all approach to inherently variable reality. Escape remains relative, though. For we can always take up some contragram and find we arrive at yet more meanings.
Representing Contragrammar immediately runs into a difficulty that it at least helps to recognize. Where to start? Does the assumption of a whole qualify, that is, a contragram? Then, are its most elementary parts, such as form and function, parts subsequently identified? Do their assemblages form-of-function and function-of-form come next? Or do those assemblages precede the elementary parts?
There is much to say, though, for the opposite view. Don’t the parts et cetera constitute the whole? Indeed, there is no final … start, for the part of the whole is the whole of the part.

Haynes, J.D., 1999, Meaning As Perspective: The Contragram, Thisone (New Zealand).
Haynes, J.D., and P.E. Wisse, 2004, The Relationship between Metapattern in Knowledge Management as a Conceptual Model and Contragrammar as Conceptual Meaning, in: Proceedings of the First Workshop on Philosophy and Informatics, Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Künstliche Intelligenz, research report 04-02.
Wisse, P.E., 2003, Anatomy of Contragrammar.
________, 2013, Modellering van handelingsinterdependentie.


I’ve recently read, and did very much enjoy doing so, your book Words & Minds, How we use language to think together (Routledge, 2000). How I understand - and share - your enthusiasm for “interthinking” leads me to assume that you, in turn, are most open to explore what I would like to offer as a contribution for strengthening your approach both theoretically and practically. I trust you don’t hesitate to ask me for clarification where I fail to make my ideas clear. For one, my mother tongue is not English (but Dutch) …
From Schopenhauer’s radical concept of will I have derived a radical concept of language: every sign is a request for compliance. Taking Schopenhauer seriously in this respect has meant that Peirce’s concept of sign required elaboration. I have extended the well-known triad to an ennead. Semiosis, then, might be viewed as behavioural output of one cycle being taken as significant input for the next, and so on (in fact confirming, even integrating, Peirce’s pragmatic point he made elsewhere). For my schematic illustrations, see Enneadic Semiotics, axiomatic models; development of theory is reported in Semiosis & Sign Exchange: design for a subjective situationism.
When you care to take a look at - the model of - the semiotic ennead, I’m sure you appreciate how interdependent its elements are. Their so-called irreducibility is the relevant principle form Peirce I have maintained, and continue to emphasize. Context, for example , can best be limited to the moment of sign during overall semiosis, as it corresponds with situation and motive for, respectively, the other two moments (with all three moments corresponding with the elements of Peirce’s triad, which can now be recognised as lacking potential for variety through dynamics).
I strongly agree with all recommendations for education et cetera you offer in Words & Minds. I believe, though, the arguments for making them would benefit from additional differentiation at the axiomatic stage. It makes even more evolutionary sense than what I read as your explanation. There’s advantage in behavioural flexibility, for which a subject has the ability to learn - and unlearn - motives … for distinguishing situations. Context, and sign (also read: language use) in general, supplies necessary and sufficient mediation.
Irreducible as it is, too, including motive in every sign occurrence simply amounts to every sign being a request for compliance. So, what counts beyond variety in signs (always including context) is variety in motives: subjective situationism. You are right to argue (p. 167) “that because [pertinent] research is spread across several disciplines, it lacks coherence.” A model of dia-enneadic dynamics, that is, a through-and-through dialogic model, indeed, promotes interdisciplinary work.
I am only too aware that such a briefest of outlines as I’ve provided you with in this message, is bound to mainly raise questions. I hope that you pursue them in the spirit of your work. I am therefore looking forward to your reply.
Let me conclude by stating that I am not after making an academic career, or anything. At my age, I merely want to make my work available where it might help. That is the spirit in which I’ve written you.

I’d like to start by pointing out that I am not a native speaker, or writer, for that matter, of English. I hope that especially as a semiotician you, of all people, will and can make allowance. What we cannot help sharing, anyway, as I gathered from consulting the ww web, is our year of birth. :-)
I am triggered to contact you having just finished reading Semiotics: the basics (2nd edition, Routledge, 2007). For me, there is irony in your title referring to basics. In my view, you seemed to have overlooked possibilities with Peirce’s concept of … ground, as I believe that in terms of structure Peirce himself already did, I should add. I understand you’re currently working on the 3rd edition of Semiotics: the basics. You might welcome a fresh perspective.
I am hoping to get you interested in results of my close reading of, and subsequent development from, a quote from Peirce that you have also included (Semiotics: the basics, p. 29). My take is that what is involved is actually not, in your words, “a triadic (three-part) model.” As I see it, Peirce’s own qualification that “some respect or capacity […] sometimes called the ground” is always at stake, should lead, and very much in principle so, beyond a triad. In chapter 2, titled Developing the ground of Peirce, of my book Semiosis & Sign Exchange: design for a subjective situationism (Information Dynamics, 2002; dissertation, University of Amsterdam), you may follow how I first considered positioning ground relative to one of Peirce’s - other - three elements in semiosis. No choice seemed satisfactory. A breakthrough occurred when I refrained from attempting to ground a single element. Instead, I allocated to each of Peirce’s three - other - elements a then particular ground, that is, effectively differentiating what so far had looked to readers as Peirce’s general side-remark (subsequently to be structurally neglected). Anyway, what resulted from a sort of reflexive, thereby differentiating, application of the triad on ground is a hexad (Semiosis & Sign Exchange, p. 74, figure 2.7.4). The elements of the triad have become hexadic dimensions, with two elements along its now three dimensions. Aiming at more fully explaining dynamics of semiosis, in chapter 4 of Semiosis & Sign Exchange I extended the hexadic (six-part) model to an enneadic (nine-part) model. A few years later, I modified some of the labels for the elements of the ennead; for the most recent naming version, see Enneadic Semiotics, axiomatic models.
If you would care to spend some time getting acquainted with the ennead, I am sure that quite soon you’ll reach more consistent semiotic explanations for several of the subjects treated in the 2nd edition of your book. For example, you can establish with additional structural precision what Jakobson’s concept of context entails, how it is important (and what it still lacks). By the way, I couldn’t help notice that the Glossary in Semiotics: the basics does not contain a lemma on context. Another example, whatever confusion about denotation and connotation simply dissolves enneadically. For meaning - depending on the semiotic dimension taken for explanation - is inherently situational, contextual and motivated. Indeed, as you wrote (p. 138), “[t]hus denotation is just another connation,” vice versa. Holding such differences together, and facilitating changing from one motivated concept to another, et cetera, requires what I’ve called formally a nil-identity (as part of Metapattern, a method for modelling based on recursive situational/contextual differentiation). So, there it is, a so-called empty signifier.
What you already did make allowance for in Semiotics: the basics, is that (p. 221) “[c]ertainly there is room for challenging ‘traditional semiotics’.” Over the years I made several attempts approaching academically established semioticians, but until now to no avail. Could it be that I am judged as criticizing Peirce, being therefore irreverent, or worse? If anything, when talking about Peirce, I would say that all I have done is emphasizing his work as even more relevant by most careful extension. I am happily making my contribution available to everyone, and now sending you this message. I believe you are in a practical position - which apparently I am not - to make a productive difference helping semiotics develop further by understanding and applying enneadic semiotics for a wider audience. I cannot agree more, and let me slightly change what you’ve written, that (p. 225) “[a] working understanding of key concepts in semiotics - including their practical application - [i]s essential for everyone [for dealing with] the complex and dynamic communication ecologies within which we live.” I am convinced that the subject can and should be taught to children as soon as they enter the school system with a curriculum aiming at their immediate, developing experience; that should be great fun for both pupil and teacher! Please tell me when you find I am getting carried away … :-)
There is of course much, much more to explain form the enlarged perspective of enneadic rather than triadic semiotics. However, I don’t want to stretch your attention.
I am very much (!) looking forward to hearing from you.
Best regards.

Thank you for swiftly replying to my email message! I wish you all the best with getting your third edition of Semiotics: the basics into print and out to readers, apparently now having concluded your manuscript. Of course, there was this possibility that I might just be too late for you to consider enneadic semiotics.:-)
Well, I’ve tried. With previous editions being such a clear academic success, I’m sure there’ll be a fourth edition rather sooner than later. I continue to hope and expect that you’ll make, in your own words from the second edition, “room for challenging ‘traditional semiotics’.”
Please don’t hesitate to call on me for assistance, should you come to recognize the greatly increased explanatory power from enneadic - rather than triadic - semiotics. After all, moving from three to nine basic elements is a huge leap in potential for variety, nearly amounting to a paradigm shift. Or does it actually constitute one?
I would very much like to see such, say, expanded semiotics included in a widely-used textbook such as yours. (I find so-called social media do not sufficiently facilitate the attention span required for appreciating a genuinely novel approach. Frankly, I’ve never wasted my time trying to argue with people who expect to receive enlightenment from about one hundred characters, preferably less. It cannot work that way …)
For your more thoughtful orientation, in addition to the sources mentioned in my previous message, you’ll find a briefest of outlines of enlarged scope in Information metatheory (in: PrimaVera, working paper 2003-12, Amsterdam University, 2003). There I’ve used - the term - significs as synonymous with semiotics. In another paper, Victoria Welby's significs meets the semiotic ennead (2003), I’ve paid tribute to another pioneer.
You are probably aware that Welby contacted Peirce, and they proceeded to correspond. My impression is that Peirce believed he had to instruct Welby, and therefore simply missed the valid points she wanted to make. At the time, Ogden was Welby’s secretary. I don’t think Ogden later was quite open about the debt he owed to Welby for a theory of meaning. Anyway … When you are on the trail of Welby, you should also be interested in Gerrit Mannoury who continued to develop significs; for an introduction, see my paper Mannoury's significs, or a philosophy of communal individualism (2003).
Looking at the enneadic model, you’ll see that one of its elements - along the dimension of interpretant - is motive (originally labelled: background interpretant). From this perspective, sign production is always intentional. My slogan: every sign is a request for compliance. Only such a radical assumption allows for a most general semiotics. Other functions of signs that have traditionally been considered are at most subordinate to using signs as means for coordinating behavior (resulting from reciprocate compliance, please note, both intra- and intersubjectively). In fact, social semiotics is a pleonasm (and so are social-psychological semiotics, cognitive semiotics, et cetera, for that matter). Therefore, presenting basics of semiotics, in my opinion there is a pressing need for an encompassing framework. Starting from the ennead, any semiotic theory developed earlier - as far as I know - can be demonstrated to entail some subset, which is the idea of my paper Dia-enneadic framework for information concepts (2003). A student mastering the encompassing framework will have gained overview, and can accordingly analyze shortcomings according to more limited perspectives.
When I am mistaken to hold you interested in what I am suggesting for developing semiotics, please tell me and I’ll find other uses for my time and effort. However, I greatly favor productive collaboration.

I’ll be most happy to answer the message you’ve sent me earlier this afternoon soon at some greater length, but would for the moment already like to acknowledge my gratitude for your continued advice. Thank you!

I was rather hoping not having to obey to “market rules,” at least not quite so directly, when I approached him with my request for compliance in the sense of suggesting that he take notice of my work on basics of semiotics for some next edition of his book Semiotics: the basics. There seems to be no escaping, though … Apparently, I have been seriously mistaken to urge mutual benefit and, more importantly, the benefit of students.
Of course, I do agree on the need to establish personal contacts, although I don’t on the choice of medium. Again, I had my reason for contacting him the way I did. From reading his book I was under the impression that my goal of seeing my work used - please note, I do not have an academic network, and at my age I really do not see it happen; I’m just trying to be realistic - fitted his goal of increasing relevance of his textbook.
I’ve read and reread his text Icons and Indices Assert Nothing (of which he sent me a copy), his contribution as a short chapter to a collection of essays on Peirce. I find my evaluation confirmed that Peirce’s related developments of sign classification and formal logic are necessarily confused, perhaps somewhat less than with many other theoreticians, but still. Several of his quotes form Peirce’s work indicate, at least that is how I read them, that Peirce himself was quite aware - and unhappy about; yet, he didn’t come to grips with an alternative - of inconsistencies. In fact, Peirce’s mixed feelings can be clearly traced in his quotes from the perspective that every sign is a request for compliance. (One occurrence, of course, is where he explicitly refers to “speech act.” Making an assertion, too, is first of all making a request to be believed, as Peirce quite rightly … asserts.)
According to him, Peirce has “opened up new ways of contextualizing syntax.” From a wider semiotic perspective it inescapably remains a muddle, though, or amounts to the trivial. What is required is radically contextualizing all (!) of semiotics (which is what I believe to have provided, in a formal sense with the ennead, necessary and sufficient axioms for). Indeed, when the publisher for Semiotics: the basics wants his book to be especially relevant for “cultural studies,” a framework is indispensable to explain - cultural, which in turn originates from individual - variety from first principles. And how can, as he argues being now primarily involved in, “commercial applications of semiotics” ever be relevant, other than from recognition of sign exchange to facilitate coordination of ultimately individual/subjective behaviours, i.e., through progression of mutual requests for compliance?
As I’ve already tried to draw his attention to, Peirce neglects to formally operationalize his very own - mention of the - concept of ground. Peirce does point at the key, but fails to properly apply it and proceed productively. And overly respectful followers do not seem to have noticed, even when it has been staring them in the face, too, as it also does with him quoting Peirce on sign (Semiotics: the basics, 2nd edition, p. 29). Charles Morris, for another example of limiting orthodoxy, refers in Foundations of the Theory of Signs (in: Foundations of the Unity of Science, Volume I, The University of Chicago Press, 1971, pp. 77-138, originally published 1938) to a fourth factor in semiosis. However, not ground, but interpreter. I could recognize potential because I had already been independently developing recursive contextualization. When later reading Peirce on signs, I was prepared to properly accommodate ground. I am sure his publisher wouldn’t mind at all to include a more general framework for semiotics from which “the subject as it stands” is far easier to both explain and understand, with analytic comparison of respective theories assured, too.
I am arguing for a, say, reset of semiotics. For genuinely “new ways,” I repeat that such reset should be taken up precisely at the point marked by Peirce’s largely undeveloped insight into basic relativity through semiosis. Through his messages, however, I am under the impression that, in fact, so far he did not look at any of the documents sketching my proposal of the semiotic ennead, and that he has no intention of ever doing so. He should correct me if I’m wrong. He seems to think up front that my work is “specialist,” therefore dismissing it as of no interest for basics of semiotics. I disagree, and strongly so. And I believe I might be able to help.
When he doesn’t recognize relevance, why should anyone else do so, whatever medium I use for trying to establish contact?
Of course it is entirely up to him whether or not to follow up on my request for compliance (as I intend). When he actually doesn’t want to be bothered, he should just say so.

For my research on subjective situationism and compliance, I would appreciate it if you would help me by considering the following assertion and subsequently answering my question about it.

Assertion: From your replies so far I understand that you haven’t looked at any of the documentation on enneadic foundations of semiotics I referred you to, leave alone actually considered their contents, nor that you intend ever going to do so.
Question: Did I understand your replies correctly in this respect? (Please answer, when you honestly can, yes or no.)

After you’ve answered, of course I’d be happy to explain.
By the way, I’ve read your text you’ve sent me attached to your last message. I’ve written down some comments. Let me know if you care to see those.
Thank you for clarifying my understanding.

Your answer has been most helpful, thank you again. Yes, I had already gathered from your previous messages that you qualify my work on enneadic semiotics as specialist, but I couldn’t possibly image why you did. For I totally disagree, and I believe on good … grounds. Well, the only reasonable explanation I saw was that you had dismissed my proposal outright, i.e., without giving it a glance. Now that I know that you did have a look, in fact, even going so far as consulting Jan van Til’s report on the ennead, I’m actually still more puzzled. If an enneadic rather than triadic frame of reference for semiosis is not about - and developing - “basics,” than what is? However, I suppose we have to leave our different opinions about the matter as they stand (for which, I cannot refrain from remarking, you would of course need an ennead including motive as interpretative ground to explain properly :-).
I am sincerely grateful you’ve spent time on offering suggestions to me for further contacts. But how would those other people ever recognize a paradigmatic contribution when even you don’t? (I do mean this as a compliment, and I hope you accept it as such.) As I already mentioned, so far I didn’t have any success. That’s why I thought it might be different approaching you as a recognized, say, specialist-on-basics (which I’m sure is only some part of your work on semiotics).
I am happy to follow your advice and try to contact [...]. Let’s see …

Daniel Chandler has most kindly referred me to you. Recently, I approached him because I thought he might be interested in my development of Peirce’s concept of ground for a next edition of his book Semiotics: the basics. To put it briefly, as you are well aware, Peirce not just saw three elements involved in semiosis. He identified a fourth, i.e., ground. As I see it, he then failed to properly operationalize ground, though. Getting about it methodically as reported in Semiosis & Sign Exchange; design for a subjective situationism, I have extended the Peircean triad to an ennead as a framework for semiotics consisting of nine irreducibly related elements.
Much to my regret, Dr Chandler did not find the ennead et cetera relevant for his work. He did, however, especially suggest to me that I contact you about it. I should add that he qualified my semiotic work as specialist. I really couldn’t disagree more. :-) For I am convinced that from a (dia-)enneadic framework as “basics,” semiotics can be - far - more widely applied productively, and I have also already produced quite varied work to demonstrate it. But then, I’ll be 65 years old next year … Let’s say, with an appropriate metaphor, that I’ve merely done the necessary groundwork. I hope you’re interested. If so, I’d very much appreciate a reply.

For your orientation, [see] a list of my English-language texts.

Upon your specific suggestion to contact Torkild Thellefsen, I right away send him an email message (see below). It has now been two weeks, and I haven’t heard from him. Could it be that I didn’t use his proper email address? Can you, yet another time, please help me out?
Thank you.

Let me start by stating that economics is not my field. That didn’t stop me, however, from acquiring a copy of your book Economics and Evolution (Polity Press, 1993). I recently chanced upon it when browsing the offerings of an antique books dealer. I have two reasons for letting you know that I’ve much enjoyed reading it.
First of all, as you are concerned about “bringing life back into economics,” as the apt subtitle of your book reads, for some decades I am working to (re)establish an orientation at life for information management. As I see it, digital technologies have certainly played havoc; a typical case of mistaking some means for the goal. Yes, I do find information management a misnomer for the discipline that I would like to help develop, but translating from the Dutch I have so far not come up with a better term. (“Informatiekunde” could be described as the art and science of using information, that is, semiotics …) Anyway, especially your first two chapters contain thoroughly sound criticism that I find equally relevant for, say, currently mainstream information management. And this right away brings me to the second reason for approaching you. As I continued reading your book, while trying to discount for my preoccupation, :-) I felt increasingly confident that, in turn, you might be helped by my proposal for reorientation. For what I have done, by extending Charles Peirce’s semiotic framework, is explicitly merge what you are already hinting at. An instance of behaviour is attributed to (also read: results from) the confluence (!) of subject and situation at some moment in time. Please note, what counts for the subject in question as situation is not objectively given, but already results from its cognition, or semiosis. Elaborating Peirce’s triad, with ground only vaguely attached by him, I’ve arrived at an enneadic model of semiosis - with recursion supporting hierarchies as required - including differentiated grounds as three of nine irreducible elements: situation, context, and motive. Such semiotics is suggestive of evolution … evolving, i.e., emphasizing cognitive plasticity of subject, and so on to its behavioural variety. Applying enneadic semiotics, for example you might consider an even more developed differential conceptualization of institution. Should you be interested - shouldn’t we all be basically engaged in social psychology? - in exploring enneadic semiotics for “bringing life back into economics,” I am of course most happy to supply you with further information.

I gladly take you reply - thank you! - as an invitation to elaborate upon - what I’ve named - the semiotic ennead. I am only too aware that Peirce’s work is considered sacrosanct in academic circles. However, in Economics and Evolution you yourself did call for heterodoxy. :-) So, I trust especially you would welcome considering a departure with a promise of improved basic understanding.
As you know, Peirce’s writings on semiosis/semiotics are extensive, too. I’ve apparently committed some sort of blasphemy by not (!) following him in detailed arguments, as for example his classification of signs. Instead, I’ve dwelt over just a few sentences. For I had become most intrigued by his statement that a sign “stands for [an] object, not in all respects, but in reference to a sort of idea, which I have sometimes called the ground of the [sign].” Now to me, including ground would simply mean that semiosis goes beyond a triad just consisting of sign, object and interpretant. As I subsequently couldn’t find any clue with Peirce, or anywhere else then and since, for that matter, where precisely to position ground, I worked out alternatives for myself. If you care, you can follow my, say, design in §§ 2.5-2.7 in my book Semiosis & Sign Exchange; design for a subjective situationism. Preferring being on the safe side, I finally decided not to choose between alternatives, but to fit each and every element of the triad with its separate ground, thus explicitly differentiating the concept accordingly and establishing variety of correspondence (which Peirce in my view had not done yet). Anyway, I now had a hexad. I was not satisfied, though, with how those six elements provided for dynamics of semiosis. Something like hinges was still missing. It is probably where my most-forgotten education as an engineer and mathematician nevertheless kicked in. For that … purpose I added another three elements. For your convenience, please consult the attachment, a single sheet (also available as Enneadic Semiotics, axiomatic models). The first figure is my model of the so-called semiotic ennead. The three elements of the original triad (Peirce) have turned into dimensions, with three elements along each such dimension: nine elements all together. In hindsight I find it obvious that such a system of nine elements offers greatly increased explanatory power. The other figure in the attachment sketches a rough picture of dynamics, as far as I am concerned equally structured both intra- and intersubjectively.
I am sure that you appreciate that I cannot describe the full implications of enneadic semiotics - if only I knew myself - in what for brevity’s sake amounts to little more than a caricature, above. I do hope, however, that you can already somewhat recognize how, for example, a concept such as institution might be differentiated by, and precision benefit from, enneadic analysis. A person learns, and continues to learn, I would say, what to interpret as an institution, and when it occurs as such to him/her in a situational capacity to orient his or her behaviour accordingly. From recognizing - part of - situation as an institution, it follows that behaviour is largely habitual, yet I believe no two situations will ever be interpreted as being completely identical. And where one person is learning, another may be teaching, and learning from that, and so on …
Motive as one of the ennead’s elements points to what I take every sign to be, i.e., a request for compliance. I don’t see how any other interpretation - of sign, language, et cetera - makes evolutionary sense. Indeed, sign is largely institutional, too, it must be for it to be recognized as such. There is some balance with necessary idiosyncrasy on account of the motivated and therefore irreducible singular nature of a particular sign. Please note how the second figure in the attachment indicates how what one participant produces as behaviour is not at all certain to coincide what the other participant (or the same subject for the next cycle of semiosis) holds for a sign. There is and remains room for error all around (and for additional criticism of neoclassical economics :-).
Here, I only want to mention that subjective situationism supplies necessary and sufficient axioms for a method for conceptual modelling (design of digital facilities for information exchange with full recognition of variety of meanings; also read, disambiguating signs at Internet scale). It’s not just theory, but highly practical. The method is called Metapattern.
I can only confirm the genius of Peirce. I feel we do him most honour, not by short-sightedly guarding his legacy, but by critically developing his productive ideas, acknowledging his ‘ground’ work. And of course I would be honoured, too, when you could find application for enneadic semiotics, improving it in the process.
I am looking forward to continued correspondence, should you be interested.

I would say it really helps not to take too seriously what someone tells you … including - or is it especially? - what you say to yourself, this sentence of course included. :-)

How nice to hear from you again! Over the last years, occasionally I tried to pick up traces of your work, but regretfully failed. I am happy to be ‘reconnected.’
What I keenly remember from your work, that is, from my struggles trying to understand it, :-) is that you aim at ‘something’ all-encompassing. You seem to have the mind for it, and the energy to cover what I find is an incredible amount of
- philosophical - ground. As a mere mortal, I simply couldn’t keep up with your pace. In comparison, my goal for Metapattern is quite modest. I just want to make available a modelling method for requisite variety (of interdependence).
I am rather surprised you have taken up domain-specificity as a theme. From my albeit limited understanding of your - previous - work, I would say it runs counter to its development (and please take this as a compliment!). From the idea of interdependence without limit as to the scale of modelling, I find it follows that the assumptions of mutually separate domains is counterproductive. You might, however, mean something else by domain (and, of course, there I start struggling again :-).
I am afraid you are right to expect that so far “uptake” of Metapattern is non-existent. The difficulty lies in the underlying paradigm. It just is … different from what people still believe. Their belief/paradigm being implicit makes it all the more difficult, not to say impossible, to argue for another paradigm. All people? There are exceptions. But then, people such as you and I are less than marginal when it comes to getting ideas more broadly accepted. You are well aware that understanding arguments in favour of - adopting - some paradigm requires having adopted it beforehand. In order to succeed in shifting a paradigm, one must start to be lucky in meeting someone having both trust (in the paradigmatic proposal) and influence (pointing and moving other people in that that direction).
So, as far I know, there have not been “any other Ph.D. dissertations done that referred to [Metapattern].” Apart from your generous references to it and, indeed, application in your work, nobody else “has [...] adopted and written about their use of [Metapattern].” That is not for lack of me trying, but up to now I still haven’t been lucky (and I admit being a poor promotor of my work, continuing to rely on arguments).
No, there haven’t been any changes to Metapattern. And I also don’t expect having to make any, as the assumption/paradigm is already comprehensively covered. As you already know, with Metapattern actual behaviour is methodically considered resulting from an object - or a subject, in case of applying cognition - ‘meeting’ a situation. There simply is no exception allowed; that takes care of interdependence. Yet, ob-/subject and/or situation may be taken as relative, thus lending support to recursivity of behaviour. Together, Metapattern’s method is one of recursive interdependence. There is no limit to detailing behaviour of situated ob-/subjects. For a model, an upper boundary - of behavioural aggregation - is imposed: horizon. What could be added, or changed?
Metapattern is ‘really’ simple … but only from the assumption that behaviour is factored, with ob-/subject and situation being universally suited to be identified as - always two - relevant factors. Of course, the idea of recursion is a bit more sophisticated.
The dilemma with adoption is, as I see it, that a person as decision maker needs to be convinced. The obstacle is that such people deem themselves successful and, worse even, that they owe their successes completely to themselves. There are motivationally blind to credit situations. (Yet they are quick to debit situations when they fail.)
In fact, the last years I have given up writing texts in the English language. Confident about Metapattern’s stability as a method, I have turned to literature from a host of disciplines for more and more supporting arguments. I just can cover more of such sources when I document my findings in Dutch. Quite recently I did, however, still write some English-language texts. You might especially like my suggestion that Niels Bohr’s theory of complementarity is a special case and one of Metapattern’s precursors, see Metapattern for complementarity modeling. And since late 2010 I edit Metapattern, handbook societal information exchange; compared to the
both-Dutch-and-English-languages version, its contents are much less extensive, but still; you’ll find classified quotations from my work, with links to sources.
Thank you for calling me “brilliant.” But as I have just explained, circumstances surely deserve most of the credit. I am not so smart. I do, however, believe that I am in ‘things modelling’ a lot less stupid than most people. At least I seem to keep my eyes etc. open to circumstances to a larger extent than they do. Again, that’s precisely where the problem lies with properly arguing, getting understood et cetera. I try to be over being frustrated with that, and I hope that you are, too, regarding your work. We can only do our best constructively.

I would very much like to acknowledge the sheer brilliance of what you propose as Schemas Theory, :-) but all I am still running up against is my own utter ignorance. I did consult a friend who is also quite open to new ideas, but he seems equally at a loss for orientation.
My hazy impression is that you are pointing beyond both systems and engineering. Yet, you still refer to systems engineering. Does my request for a case study make sense? For example, does a bicycle qualify as a system from the perspective of Schemas Theory? If not, why? Then again, what does? And, in practice, too, what counts as engineering the ST-way? Help!

Statistics compensates for lack of situational differentiation

[Translated from aantekening 67.90.]

I am being asked all sorts of passwords, permissions, etc. Either I don’t even have them or I don’t want to submit them. Can you please just send me a copy?

When you require a formal logic to meet, say, flexibility of identity, indeed, Metapattern is a serious contender. To date, I don’t know of any other candidate. But, then, what do I know? Of course, with currently predominant logics, identity somehow even contradicts flexibility or, as I believe that you would put it, emergence, adaptation et cetera. I very much appreciate your recognition of Metapattern’s paradigm shift, thank you!
Shifting the emphasis for identification to particular(ized) behavior, the question is what makes behavior … particular, i.e., specific, unique. I assume it is where and when object and situation meet (with both object and situation appearing as relative concepts, allowing for recursion). From this assumption of linking particular behavior with identity, and with an object’s so-called nil identity taken for its nonbehavioral base (or, as I believe you might say, core), adaptive, emergent or whatever different behavior simply entails yet another situational identity, and so on. For any object (and, equally crucial, its nil identity to make Metapattern consistently work as a logic of interdependency), there is in principle no limit to adding situational identities: the space for emergence and adaptation is open(ed). Thank you again for pointing that out in so many words in your latest paper.
Again, and regretfully so, I have to admit that I fail to grasp almost everything else that you propose. As you see “the future of systems engineering,” at least that is my impression, it should be about engineering systems that are able to self-adapt (and even much more). However, you’ve immediately lost me on what you bring to bear on it. First of all, I just don’t have the knowledge necessary to apply your references. I even wouldn’t know where to start. Where do I gain the numerous lifetimes I undoubtedly need to properly master, if that be at all possible, all that you mention? Secondly, I seem to take my time horizon very, very much closer. To put it bluntly, I prefer nonself-adaptive systems, that is, tools. When required they should be multipurpose tools, highly flexible and so on, but I am happy leaving the behavioral self-adapting to their human users, that is, to us. Tools should of course facilitate our self-adaptation, but no more. For we already have trouble enough behaving ethically ourselves. I am far from ready to let self-adapting systems loose in and on the world. (How) do you address ethics?
It follows that my research priority lies with understanding how an object - through evolution - supplied with cognitive powers, a subject, for short, adapts to its environment (while, often, adapting the environment to itself). With an enneadic (meta)model I propose that a subject behaves situationally according to its motivated concept. Then, how does a subject arrive from one motivated concept to the next, and so on? I think still nobody really has a clue. And without thorough understanding I find that what distinguishes, for example, artificial intelligence is that it is highly artificial, i.e., extremely nonintelligent.
Intelligence (here, also read: cognition) can, I find, only be responsibly understood as a moment both from and toward behavior. I took a cue from Peirce to assume mediation of signs, extending his triadic model of “action of the sign” to enneadic dynamics. Please note, it is a (meta)model of a subject. As such, it contributes to designing proper tools for subjects. Indeed, Metapattern as a method for modeling interdependent behaviors derives from it. However, what makes ‘something cognitive’ come out as the next motivated concept for situation-specific behavior, and so on, and so on, is still very much a mystery. I believe to have merely pointed out a direction where we might productively learn some more. And I hope that the closer we arrive at equitable explanation, the less inclined we are to engineer systems accordingly. I repeat, let us first behave responsibly as subjects ourselves before engineering systems we are far from understanding motivationally (grossly neglecting ethics in the process). Could you and I actually be at odds regarding what (not) to aim for both now and in the future?

At least I am giving [your latest paper] a try! :-)
After you raised the point in your earlier email message I registered at Academia.edu, but soon discovered I am uncomfortable to comply with its house rules. I therefore unregistered, anyway, tried to. I am afraid you yourself are proof it doesn’t make any difference as far as getting understood is concerned. People only welcome innovation as long it is not … new, not really.
I apologize for the confusion [about the state of Metapattern]. There’s nothing new added, though. Historically speaking, I thought of Metapattern first. From earlier reading I already got a hunch that especially Peirce and Schopenhauer might be relevant. I subsequently found myself rewarded beyond expectation by a more attentive study of - some of - their work. It resulted in the - design of the - semiotic ennead (first presented in Semiosis & Sign Exchange). Not historically, but from a conceptual perspective, the semiotic ennead as the schema of subjective situationism serves as axiom for Metapattern. Ever since, I am merely either applying this theory plus method or trying to point out related work by others (so far finding it still somehow falling short of what I propose as synthesis, but in the process often finding ample occasion for some further explanation). Up to now, I have not seen any need or reason to make any changes to enneadic subjective situationism or to Metapattern, with the exception of my recommended notation for the latter.
At the risk of sounding offensive, :-) I have stopped writing papers, not to mention books. I certainly do appreciate your suggestion (and never say never). Please note that I am doing, and have always done, my ‘work’ as a, say, research volunteer (also read: unaffiliated, unpaid, et cetera). It also leaves me largely free to set my own goals. I now am 66 years of age, and a few years ago I have changed tactics. I find that my own synthesis “as a minimal set” is well-documented. I don’t think more of the same will get me more readers. Instead, and finding it rewarding, I am concentrating on research to establish what traces, if any, can be discovered in works by other authors carrying, in hindsight, elements of enneadic semiotics and so on to Metapattern. It requires rather eclectic reading. In order to make progress I am writing - and publishing as ‘notes’ - my comments in Dutch. Of course I am fully aware that my choice of language narrows potential readership. But as I don’t have any readers anyway, I have chosen to take myself as the audience to serve, and just get on with it.
For an overview “to piece together the different elements of Metapattern,” two sheets might help, see Enneadic Semiotics, axiomatic models and Metapattern, development of notation. As you wrote having trouble understanding my new notation, I have added some introductory remarks below.
I my view, shortsighted to the extreme as I may be, I only recognize a single schema … which is (meta)modeled as the ennead. I try and try again to imagine what you may want to make clear by levels of schemata, and by going across them. I am afraid it is beyond my capacity for transcendence. However, in the other direction, that is by reduction through taking subsets of enneadic elements, correspondingly simpler worldviews are expressed. When sign exchange entails two enneads, there are nine plus nine equals eighteen elements involved (see the figure at the bottom of Enneadic Semiotics, axiomatic models). Starting from a set of 18 elements, the number of subsets is 2-to-the-power-of-18 (as originally put forward in Dia-enneadic framework for information concepts). How about that for a theory of variety of worldviews! :-)
I have my reservations about so-called state machines, no doubt from ignorance. Of course, enneadic dynamics also relies on the assumption of states, in time sort of cycling from one enneadic dimension/moment to the next, and so on. Then, what happens in between? We might say that algorithms take care of state changes. But, then, what ‘comes to mind’ as an algorithm? What I object to is comparison with, up to expression as, a digitally programmable function. When it should at all be compared with how a computer ‘works,’ my idea is that it is not as a digital but rather as an analog computer. Some preliminary remarks are offered in Semiotic connectionism in artificial intelligence. Imagine a - brain as a neural - network. A particular focus, as an enneadic element, is the node currently being directionally active (whatever that means). As a result of the direction of activity, some connected nodes act as motive, and some most probably other nodes as concept. As a configuration, or state of interpretation: a motivated concept. A different interpretative state already occurs when the same node is active in a directionally different manner. It should even be obvious that yet another configuration/state results when another node has become directionally active, and so on.
It is from Peirce that I have taken the idea that a change in interpretative state always (!) involves a factual/behavioral state with a sign-state mediating. And to make matters more ‘involved,’ how behavior is situationally differentiated through contextually differentiated sign(ature) is co-controlled from the interpretative state, i.e. motivated concept, to be changed by the ensuing cycle of enneadic dynamics. I find this (meta)model credible from the perspective of especially biology, including evolutionary psychology. Again, what is the state-changing algorithm? Appearing as sign, there is influence partly from outside. Most radically conceived, one focus changes completely at random to the next. Then, the algorithm counts as a random number generator, with the number(s) produced identifying both node and orientation for interpretative state.
It is very gratifying to me that you appreciate how the concept of nil identity enables a system of identities, i.e., boundless consistency of identities (all such ‘other’ identities being situational).
I continue to be surprised myself. :-) From just nine irreducibly linked elements, the ennead, plus the possibility of recursive relationships along each of its structurally corresponding dimensions/moments, an inexhaustible set of ‘variations on a theme’ can be developed (and reasonably explicitly expressed with Metapattern).
I prefer to think of the enneadic theme - or schema, as I myself also refer to it as metamodel - as no more than that, an ennead, period. As such it offers “features” that can be applied for endless “nuances.” I am exposing myself to - what I expect to be relevant - literature, hoping to read cues for - explaining - yet more variations on what remains the same theme/schema. Of course, our correspondence offers a most direct opportunity for such exploration, thank you again.
At some point, the ennead and by consequence Metapattern might prove defective. It has not yet arrived. Regretfully, I am still protected from that happening, as indeed you are with your work, because of lack of critical readers, well, to be honest, any readers at all. And my own research so far, admittedly preoccupied, only confirms its added value.
Please view the ennead as a construction kit for children. You are supplied with nine types of building block, and you have whatever amount you want of blocks available of each type. For how blocks of different types may be, and may not be, connected the ennead serves as instruction manual. In fact, in practice you are limited to using building blocks from the ennead’s sign dimension. For you can only imagine corresponding structures along both the fact/behavior and the interpretant dimension (which cannot be grasped directly, as is generally accepted post-Kant). And that leaves you constructing, i.e., modelling, with … Metapattern.
It is far from “too much to ask” of me to write a summary. On the contrary, I can only be happy that you care. However, as I have tried to explain above, what I consider the basic theme I have repeatedly tried to present clearly. I know I am failing miserably, but find that I am only partly to blame. The problem is one of trying to convince the reader of a paradigm that s/he must already possess in order to be convinced. (And that is why only a jump of focus helps :-). What I do continue to try is explaining how Metapattern might be used, and what understanding the ennead contributes for highly practical purposes, thereby presenting or at least referring to the ennead yet again.
I have made an effort to write this reply, hoping that my specific attempts at answers do meet your questions directly.
From how you refer to Metapattern in your latest paper, I take the trouble you are having with the “new notation” as a compliment. As I said before, you are exceptional in acknowledging how dynamics of identity revolve around nil identity. My introduction to principles in the first part of the book Metapattern clearly brings out nil identity as key concept. When I may return the compliment, other people do not realize that on that basis a different logic has been launched. And esthetically, I myself prefer straight lines over curved lines in models. So, quite soon after Metapattern was published, I changed to a notation yielding models that are more understandable to ‘normal’ people. What I sacrificed, and you are quite right if that is what you run up against, is the explicit modeling of nil identity. It is now implied, see Cascading nil nodes in Metapattern for a short comment. But what is gained with the “new notation” is a far more fluent expression of recursion. That is of great practical value. For an annotated modeling example, see Resident, designing a contextual-semantic diagram with Metapattern.
When, indeed, we are dependent for a paradigm shift on random switches from focus to focus, it may take some time to happen. It is all the comfort that may be derived from the ennead. Meanwhile, we can keep ourselves busy in ways we ourselves find interesting and hopefully serve to inform people later, when they have made the jump to the now relevant focus, finally …
I am afraid our culture is still developing in an unfavorable direction. Metapattern is about facilitating more balanced social relationships by recognizing different perspectives et cetera. What can be more practical? Or even urgent? However, it is not what people want to consider in their vigorous pursuit of self-interest.
Well, I have tried to get some immediately practical information from you about your Schemas Theory. My main hypothesis about language is that every sign is a request for compliance, and you didn’t comply. Your personality ‘just’ seems focused differently, with motives and all, and if so, I shall do my best to accept what for you must follow as your work. I have to suffer to continue to be puzzled :-).
I am glad we are again able to exchange views. To say the least, your work is a challenge, and struggling with it - talk about emergence! - arouses foci (with my repeated apology for doing you insufficient justice from my lack of knowledge).
What I do find clear in that latest paper is how you have used the logic inherent in Metapattern to at least remove formal limits to emergence. I am happy at least getting that from it!
I hope to have made some points on Metapattern somewhat clearer. There are only a few, anyway. Don’t spare me your criticism, or questions.

As a first reply regarding - my use of the term - ennead, how I arrived at it is rather down-to-earth. Peirce mentions a triad. As the Greek word indicates, it involves three elements. Actually, including ground - recognition of which is already clearly present with Aristotle - the Peircean count of elements in semiosis stands at four. I subsequently extended his triad-plus-ground to a configuration of nine elements (and that is how I left it). Turning to the Greek language for a name, too, there it is, ennead. That is how “natural” it is to me, nothing else or more. No, until your reference just now I had never heard about the old Egyptian practice of grouping their gods as enneads. Now that I have, thank you for pointing it out to me, no, I don’t see whatever conceptually relevant connection. Indeed, the term ennead is used all over with often very different meanings with respect to both elements and how they are taken to be irreducibly related. To distinguish my enneadic proposal, and acknowledging the inspiration I took for it from Peirce, I often call it the semiotic ennead.

Do you perhaps mean something special by writing Enead, i.e., with a single n? For it is regularly spelled, also in in the English language, with two n’s.

I would say it is what makes ideas special, and for us to favor the political system protecting and even promoting this open quality. An idea is free to elaborate upon, et cetera. What happens to ideas can be explained with the semiotic ennead. It comes down to subjectivity of motives. I can only respect that you have yours. In fact, taking up any idea it is impossible not (!) to “transform” it. Do I disapprove of the way you handle the semiotic ennead? I don’t agree, that is, as far as I can follow the “directions” you use it for to develop your work. I reemphasize that I can do no more than, and shall never be able to go beyond, sort of browse through Emergent Design. There, I find you’ve adequately stated how one idea may lead to another. And it wouldn’t be different without … difference, now, would it?

[W]hat Wisse does to Peirce’s theory is to use it pragmatically to undergird his Metapattern method. He explicitly says he does not care if he is untrue to Peirce as long as he accomplishes his end. In the process he has some very interesting ideas about the foundations of the methods we are trying to build upon. So, although we do not agree with his distortion of Peirce’s categories, we do salute him for his creativity, ingenuity, and cunning, which is, in fact, the essence of practical reason that should always be exercised in design. Wisse is looking at the Philosophy of Peirce and his Semiotics with a designer’s eye as he attempts to envision a pragmatic basis for his Metapattern method. What he produces has some very interesting features, which we will continue to discover as we look at his foundations for design with a designer’s eye, and take liberties to transform and elaborate on them further.[pp. 271-272]

As I have been clear about discarding from Peirce what I see no use for, so do you go about Metapattern et cetera. With such explanation, I feel being at least taken seriously, as I have taken Peirce seriously, indeed.
What I suspect as our disagreement finds expression in your order of levels of being. I simply don’t believe in levels, period. Instead, I’ve tried to accumulate necessary and sufficient axioms in a single schema to explain interdependency. To me, a suggestion of hyperbeing amounts to an escape into mysticism. Where do such levels end? Or begin, for that matter? Of course, axioms are necessarily irrational. But, then, let us try to keep the source of confusion as singular as we can … design.
I can only compliment you for your presentation of the semiotic ennead and, in relation to it, Metapattern. Talk about motives, for your work you already had “directions” chartered out. Unavoidably, you were preoccupied when learning about the ennead et cetera. Please, don’t take this as a reproach, as it is just as it works … enneadically. :-) I am equally preoccupied, albeit differently. Now, from my preoccupation - shortsightedness? - I seem to recognize in your dissertation that you find the semiotic ennead lacking in “perspective.” And that from “perspective” you have taken the need to move up yet another level of being, and so on. As I see it, perspective is covered by the ennead. Along the dimension of interpretant it is equivalent to motive.
Browsing through Emergent Design, I believe I now understand somewhat better
- the motive behind :-) - your earlier questions about what might be new in my work. Almost immediately after publication of Semiosis & Sign Exchange, I not only changed Metapattern’s notation, but also renamed some of the ennead’s elements. With different names, taken from the vernacular, I aim for easier recognition and, who knows, understanding. In your case I am afraid I failed. But, then, you are far from representative. :-) Anyway, I changed background interpretant to motive, and foreground interpretant to concept. Then, focus implies a motivated concept, that is, no concept is self-contained; it is always determined, accompanied, et cetera, by a motive. In other words, every concept is a perspectival concept. I do not see any need for abstraction, conceptual condensation, or whatever, onto higher levels. On the contrary, they add to confusion.
My expression is that you require a far more elaborate theory because you want to explain every idea, theory, and so on. I don’t care. What is the use nowadays of, as you have brought up, ancient Egyptian theology for systems engineering? While historically no doubt extremely relevant, I find we can just discard it for a design methodology for interdependent conceptual modeling. In fact, are you not just as pragmatic taking up the semiotic enneadic the way you find most suited for your purposes? Good for you! Anyway, how can it be otherwise?
You seem to take much inspiration from geometry. I have come to orient myself more and more from social psychology, satisfied when an idea make evolutionary sense. To me, for example geometry is not a guiding principle, but - possibly - a tool (which is an engineer’s motivated concept). Could it be that you are a philosopher having taken up a theme from engineering, rather than an engineer trying to establish theoretical grounds for improved practice?
I would like to return to a request I recently addressed to you in so many words. Few words, actually: Where’s the system here, and what is the engineering now?
Please understand, which I already emphasized during our previous exchange, several years ago, that Metapattern is ‘just’ meant to be a most practical method for broadening the scope of conceptual modeling. For there is a demonstrable need, here and now, on account of increasingly interconnected coverage through digital technologies. I suppose we can agree on that. So, the system-to-engineer is - the use of - infrastructure for sign exchange facilitating interdependent behaviors.
Do you find that such a system-to-engineer falls within the bounds of your theory? If so, how does it help in practice? What makes your work relevant for the actual effort?
I wouldn’t be asking such stupid questions if I already had a faintest clue.
Should you mean that what I am motivated to consider the system-to-engineer is not what you aim at/for here and now, then what is? Or are you only speculating on a future? A practicing engineer can really not afford to do so.

On naming elements of the semiotic ennead I would like to add that terms such as background interpretant and foreground interpretant suggest a - cognitively - reactive subject. However, a subject is an active participant, including directing observation. That is, an interpretant is a determinant, too. That is how I came to substitute the term motive for background interpretant (and leaving the enneadic structure unchanged). For motive you may also read desire, intent, will (Schopenhauer), et cetera. And in the context of cognition, yes, perspective, too.
What a subject considers being an object, is … motivated (and therefore always limited to a correspondingly situational appearance, i.e., phenomenon). This capacity must have developed because it offers evolutionary advantage, with motivational differentiation by an organism (also read: subject) ‘only’ serving its differential behaviors for increasing chances of survival.
My assumption is that self-concepts of a subject are equally motivated, including learning to be convinced of being an individual itself. Then, both intra- and intersubjective dynamics of - enneadic - semiosis follow the same (meta)pattern.
I am trying to figure out in what respect(s) our “directions” critically differ. Could it be about levels?
I reject being … being explained from levels. For resorting to levels of being raises the - at least to me obvious - question of how their interdependence ‘is.’ That question only becomes more unanswerable, I find, by adding yet another level, and so on; an infinite regress. When being is not taken as all-encompassing concept, then what is?
Any model necessarily falls - far - short of - the - being it attempts to present. A part cannot encompass a whole, period. The (meta)model of the semiotic ennead is certainly no exception. Therefore I am sure there is a lot wrong with it. However, I don’t recognize its denial to cover multiple levels of being as relevant criticism. In fact, and following what I consider to be the maxim implied by Ockam’s razor, what I believe to be the semiotic ennead’s characteristic achievement, admittedly inadequate and, again, necessarily so, is precisely the stubbornly levelless attempt to address being comprehensively; it brings irreducibly irrational assumptions to the open in a single view (optimally allowing for criticism). Anyway, at least for some time it seems a sufficiently rich axiomatic schema for conceptual modeling for the practice of digital information systems engineering regardless of scope. :-)



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