The boom and crash of the cannons at the end of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture signal the culmination of the end of a visceral and emotional experience of dynamic sound. The wandering movements, the lyrical melodies, all give rise to a comprehensive emotional auditory experience that is beyond the capacity of any language to fully describe.
Now imagine a CD containing the 1812 overture. A CD is an information storage medium. Tiny pits are etched onto its surface which can be read by a laser, decoded and interpreted into electrical signals. These electrical signals then are able to cause speakers to vibrate in a way that recreates a sound. A CD of the 1812 overture contains information that, when read, interpreted, and used to drive speakers, reproduces the sound made by an orchestra performing the overture. During the performance, the combined sound of the violins, the cellos, the trumpets, and the tympanies all cause the air to move, to vibrate in a particular way. Think of this vibration as a kind of particularly choreographed dance. This dance can be recorded, and its choreography translated into these little dots on a CD.
This real, living, dynamic, dramatic experience of the overture being performed live is now captured in a motionless, frozen form as pure information. In one sense, the CD sitting there with its microscopic pits represent a certain potentiality. A certain song that could be sung, a potential dance that could be danced. An inert representation of a dynamic and flowing system through time.
The information existing on the CD has a relation to this potential dynamic system of vibrating air, and it gains meaning through this relation. If there was no CD player, if there was no speaker, if there was no longer a way to allow the information in the CD to become dynamic, to interact with the world, any meaning the information might have had is lost. The CD is only meaningful because a potential exists for it to become converted into dynamic experience. Consider the difference between the same CD played on a radio speaker and an enormous powerful stereo. The same information reproduced in different ways leads to totally different experiences, with completely different levels of impact.
Information is a time invariant encoding of a time variable process. If kept in its time invariant form, frozen like a crystal, it can have no influence on the world as it changes through time. It cannot have meaning, or influence on our world, if it does not in some way influence a moving, or time variable process.
Information is therefore intimately related to, and inseparable from the dynamic experience that it helps bring into being. Information and process are deeply intertwined in a way that can’t be meaningfully separated. Information can only have full meaning, if it is allowed to influence a dynamic system to its full potential. If it is allowed to fully come alive.
There are many examples of information effecting or creating dynamic process.
A seed contains the static information that represents a potential choreography for the dynamic dance of life. The seed does not change through time. If allowed to germinate in the right conditions, the information in a seed transforms into its dynamic form, as the process of organic growth, culminating in a life form, a tree or flower, that can then produce new seeds.
Fundamentally, the choreography cannot and should not be separated from the dance. Information should be always considered with respect to its relation to, and influence on dynamic process.
How can this way of looking at information influence how we handle communication in the real world? This mindset can directly influence how we think about education, or information transmission from one human being to another. Handling historical knowledge, for example, through a process of rote memorization and recanting involves no connection to process. Examining historical events through their influence on current systems and structures, and using historical knowledge to positively influence current social and cultural movements is the only way historical knowledge can influence our world. Can our knowledge of the world of poverty and inequality preceding the french revolution be used to avert a potential future violent conflict?
Teaching information as inseparable from process, science through actual experiment and exploration and its influence in everyday life is another way to strengthen the link between information and process. All education can and should be viewed in terms of using information to influence process.
Information living on our CD's, in our books, or dormant on our hard-drives can have no influence in our world in this form. It is in this form our knowledge is simply a jar of seeds. Seeds may be beautiful, but they are seeds nonetheless. Action must be taken to bring our knowledge to life in dynamic process. Otherwise no matter how much we know, how much we have learned, this knowledge will not be able to blossom into dance. And it is only through letting our knowledge dance that we will be able to improve our world.