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Hierarchies of Communication



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Retrospect / Press


July 4-6, 2003

Hierarchies of Communication

An inter-institutional and international symposium on aspects of communication on different scales and levels

Organized by

Center for Art and Media (ZKM)

Karlsruhe, Germany


Future University - Hakodate (FUN)

Hakodate, Japan

Venue: Center for Art and Media, Karlsruhe

Two institutions for arts and media, media architecture and media technologies, both taking up the cause of communication, meet for a common symposium on communication. The Center for Art and Media (ZKM) in Karlsruhe, Germany, hosts the Future University of Hakodate (FUN), Japan. The idea for a cooperation of the two institutes started with a tentative communication that converged to the idea of organizing a common symposium on communication in virtue of "learning by doing".

Aim of the symposium is to discuss aspects of communication on different scales and levels and to scrutinize the concept of information which is said to be transferred by communication. Is information a natural entity comparable to mass and energy or rather an anthropomorphic concept and determined by our knowledge? Recently an increasing number of scientists suspect that the overemphasis of the information concept in information science blurred our view on perhaps more important features of communication.

Are cognitive systems as brains or even consciousness crucial parts of communication? Frequently, brains are regarded as something autonomous or "autopoietic", as has been suggested by Humberto Maturana. However, as Peter Russell argued in 1983, a sufficiently large society is capable to bring forth what he calls "global brain". And sometimes the functioning of the brain is itself regarded as something that emerges from a sufficiently complex arrangement of neurons. According to Ludwig Wittgenstein, the emergence of consciousness is tighly coupled to communication and can therefore not be understood purely on the level of a single brain. This questions spirit and purpose of one global brain. However, the society is subdivided in nations, ethnic, religious and other groups as well as in institutions, companies and so on, which are further subdivided where the groups partially overlap.

The symposium discusses cognitive systems, nested models and analytical tools for the examination of hierarchical structures in communication systems. It also deals with the design of appropriate interfaces. A further aspect of investigation is the undoubtedly important role with communication played by media. At the neuronal level, information is transmitted via synapses and axons, assisted by the mediation of neurotransmitters. On the social level the mass communication media like TV, the print press and recently the world wide web with its nonlinear communication structure play the most important role. Even within media one encounters hierarchical levels, as has been worked out by Marshall McLuhan who recognized that new media always start their existence by subduing the established ones. Additionally, the impact of media and technologies has to be seen in relation with the influences of non-linguistic and visual communication.

The Organizing Commitee

(Organizers in charge: Hans H. Diebner (ZKM) and Lehan Ramsay (FUN))

Special thanks go to:

Deutsch Japanischer Wirtschaftskreis.

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