History of the Human Sciences 23 (3):131-148 (2010)

Abstract
Although there has long been a division in studies of consciousness between a focus on neuronal processes or conversely an emphasis on the ruminations of a conscious self, the long-standing split between mechanism and meaning within the brain was mirrored by a split without, between information as a technical term and the meanings that messages are commonly thought to convey. How to heal this breach has posed formidable problems to researchers. Working through the history of cybernetics, one of the historical sites where Claude Shannon’s information theory quickly became received doctrine, we argue that the cybernetic program as it developed through second-order cybernetics and autopoietic theory remains incomplete. In this article, we return to fundamental questions about pattern and noise, context and meaning, to forge connections between consciousness, narrative and media. The thrust of our project is to reintroduce context and narrative as crucial factors in the processes of meaning-making. The project proceeds along two fronts: advancing a theoretical framework within which context plays its properly central role; and demonstrating the importance of context by analyzing two fictions, Stanislaw Lem’s His Master’s Voice and Joseph McElroy’s Plus, in which context has been deformed by being wrenched away from normal human environments, with radical consequences for processes of meaning-making
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DOI 10.1177/0952695110363646
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