Sets of Signals, Information Flow, and Folktales
I apply Barwise and Seligman’s theory of information flow to understand how sets of signals can carry information. More precisely I focus on the case where the information of interest is not present in any individual signal, but rather is carried by correlations between signals. This focus has the virtue of highlighting an oft-neglected process, viz., the different methods that apply categories to raw signals. Different methods result in different information, and the set of available methods provides a way of characterizing relative degrees of intensionality. I illustrate my points with the case of folktales and how they transmit cultural information. Certain sorts of cultural information, such as a grammar of hero stories, are not found in any individual tale but rather in a set of tales. Taken together, these considerations lead to some comments regarding the “information unit” of narratives and other complex signals.
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