Interaction between Man and Culture: Information Standpoint|
Proceedings of the International Symposium (Taganrog, Russia, 1998), v. 1, pp. 95-100
P. B. Ivanov
ART AS CREATIVE COMMUNICATION
The traditional picture of a communication act implies an information transmitter, an
information receiver, and a transmission channel possibly subject to external noise
(Fig. 1). An internal state of the transmitter may influence the parameters of the
signal that can be detected by the receiver and decoded in such a way that the resulting
internal representation in the receiver would be isomorphic, in certain respect, to the
original source states. To allow quantitative analysis, it is usually assumed that the
content of the message can be completely reflected in the statistical characteristics of
the signal, so that the quantity of information received can be identified with the
negentropy of the signal. Thus defined quantity of information can only decrease
in the communication channel because of the noise and various decoherence processes, and
hence the best the receiver can manage is to get as much information as it has been sent
by the transmitter.
Figure 1. Passive communication.
This description only refers to what could be called passive communication;
however, there are cases when a communication act may deliver more information to the
receiver than it was originally "intended"—almost all of the human communication can be
shown to possess this quality. In the present work, I conjecture that the principal
mechanism of art is creative communication, introducing new information into the
message, beyond its original content. This can only be possible due to the indirect
interaction of the source and destination of information via a common cultural
environment, so that every single communication act (including self-communication) must
be considered in a broader context as a part of a global social process.
The passive-communication model is syncretic in the sense that the message is supposed to
be indistinguishable from mere interaction, dynamically mapping the states (processes) of
the source into the states (processes) of the receiver. Merely introducing the stages of
encoding and decoding, one would break this syncretism and observe that the parameters of
signal do not necessarily reflect the content of the message, becoming just a hint
for the receiver to reproduce the full message in the decoding process. Thus, reading
the words "She walks", one may recall the whole text of the famous Byron's poem, or even
the Hebrew melodies in full. This kind of communication could be called
elliptic (Fig. 2), and it is widely used in digital technologies today. The basic
mechanism of elliptic communication is association, while the correct decoding of
the message depends on the existence of a collection of encoding schemes in common
for both the sender and addressee of the message. In fact, the very procedure of
digitalisation implies the convention that any signal will be composed of only two
distinct "characters" (conventionally designated by "0" and "1"), and all the variations
of the parameters of (actually analogue) signal within the zone should not be treated as
different values by the decoder. As a result, the content of the message (that is,
information conveyed) may remain intact even if the signal's entropy significantly
increased in the transmission channel because of the noise.
Figure 2. The scheme of elliptic communication.
From the viewpoint of the traditional communication theory, elliptic communication is
characterised by rather high redundancy of the content of the message, so that it
could be encoded in a more compact way, compressed. Various compression schemes
based on the structure and statistical properties of the message are quite popular in
modern computing; however, they (except "lossy" compression like in the JPEG/MPEG
format) are different from the elliptic compression described above in that any ellipsis
requires extensive communication of both the sender and the receiver with their common
environment, ensuring the commonality of encoding schemes. There are two principal
mechanisms of establishing such a commonality: meta-communication and correlation.
Meta-communication assumes communicating encoding schemes (e.g. encoding/decoding
procedures) directly from one person to another prior to data transfer; however, this
requires a rather high degree of formalisation, unachievable in many real cases. Much of
conceptual commonality gets established indirectly, through similar education in similar
cultural environment (Fig. 2).
When speaking of art, it is not enough to consider passive and elliptic communication
only, since the functioning of art can never be reduced to conveying some already
existing information, involving an act of co-creation uniting the author of a work of art
and its observer. A work of art may be perceived in a way never intended by its author,
whose self-awareness may become enriched via regarding the observer's interpretations
. Though usually folded, such a co-creation is an indispensable part of aesthetic
perception, and there can be no art without the participation of the observer. This
level of communication, when the signal received initiates the generation of essentially
new information, could be called creative communication, being one of the
fundamental characteristics of art (Fig. 3).
Figure 3. Generation of additional information in creative communication.
In the act of creative communication, the possibility of generating new information as a
response to the signal received implies the receiver's ability to generate this
information on its own, independently of the sender of the signal. However, that
particular kind of information would never be generated without certain signals from
outside, and the whole process must be triggered by communication. The behaviour of the
receiver of the signal is not mere reaction; rather, the external signal just stimulates
one's own activity, which, however, would never be as productive without the impulses
from the others.
The natural analogue of creative communication is the functioning of lasers, where the
power of pumping gets synchronised by a weak driving signal, producing a powerful beam of
coherent radiation. The system composed of the author and observer of a work of art
could hence be called an "information laser". Another physical analogy is resonant
ionisation, with the autoionising states of the target drastically changing the behaviour
of cross sections in the resonance region—however, autoionising states cannot exist on
themselves, irrespective to any scattering process .
The properties of creative communication can be immediately deduced from its notion.
Thus, unlike passive and elliptic communication, there is no direct correspondence of the
information produced in the receiver by the signal to that originally encoded in it by
the sender the message, and creative reactions are not unique. The subjectivity of
aesthetic perception is a well-known feature in the arts. However, such stimulated
creativity is not entirely arbitrary, being well determined by the place of the person in
the cultural environment. This enables the author of a composition to control the
perception of the observer to certain extent, correlating the structures restored by the
observer with the author's intention .
The cultural dependence of creative communication implies the relativity of the aesthetic
content of the work of art and its historical development, together with the development
of culture. Within the same society, different people will differently react to the same
work of art, up to the situation when some social layers do not recognise the thing as a
work of art at all, since it has nothing in common with their cultural position.
Electric shaver would be useless in a village where nobody has ever heard about
electricity—in the same way, a work of art may have no resonance in the souls of people
with certain cultural background, so that a European cannot appreciate the art of a
Chinese calligrapher without special training.
One more corollary is that, in creative communication, the content of the message is not
necessarily related to uncertainty and entropy, being relatively insensitive to the way
of communicating the information from the source to the receiver. It is only under
certain conditions that the signal's entropy may be related to information; this would
mean that the content of the message itself was related to the statistical properties of
an external object. The usual formulae of the mathematical theory of information do not
directly apply to creative communication. Still, since all the levels of communication
are always present in every single communication act, there interfere with each other and
influence each other's development. The adequate application of the theoretic-
informational notions in aesthetics would describe this multilevel nature within the same
conceptual frame. For instance, in the model of scale formation suggested in , the
consideration of low-level passive communication provides an information measure of the
perceptive compatibility of musical tones, which leads to the zone structures that can be
associated with musical scales, so that every tone within the zone would be interpreted
as the same degree of the scale (the level of elliptic communication); on a higher
level, the notion of pitch context is naturally introduced, and the aesthetic perception
of the tone implies multiple relations to a hierarchy of interacting scales.
1. P. B. Ivanov The Incarnations: Variations on a theme by Guy Levrier
2. A. L. Godunov, P. B. Ivanov and V. A. Schipakov "Resonance yields and excitation cross
sections for atomic ionisation"
J. Phys. B: At. Mol. Opt. Phys., v. 30, p. 3403 (1997)
3. V. V. Koren Hierarchical analysis of the structure of the perception of museum exhibitions
(Moscow State Univ., Psych. Dep., 1983) (private communication)
4. L. V. Avdeev and P. B. Ivanov "A mathematical model of scale perception"
J. Moscow Phys. Soc., v. 3, p. 331 (1993)