An overflowing of difference

by Cristóbal

Information is encoded in the matter that surrounds us. Lack of information is pure noise, a uniform distribution of indistinguishable units. When the noise shuffles into a grouping, we have difference. We can identify one unit from another, perhaps by indexing them relative to the grouping. The difference is encoded by the distribution of units. All things are no longer the same.

The fact that hydrogen atoms bond strongly with oxygen atoms is information encoded by molecules of water. If one is attentive, it is possible to read this knowledge right off of the world. However, with sufficient energy, the hydrogen and oxygen molecules can be split, producing oxygen and hydrogen gases. One can read this by attentively observing how a pair of electrified diodes affect the molecular composition of water.

In order to communicate this information, we build contraptions that facilitate the reading. We draw diagrams that allow us to build the contraptions easily. We simulate the operations of the contraption through annotations on the diagrams. We imagine the contraptions operating in our heads. We use labels to denominate different parts of the diagram. We share these labels with others, so that they too can imagine the contraption in their head. This set of devices (contraption, diagram, annotations, labels) allows information to be transmitted.

The devices communicate the information by mirroring the information, the distribution of units which evinces difference. The contraption induces a distribution. The diagram mirrors the distribution schematically, with differences articulated through different symbols. The labels are mappings from symbols to words. What matters is that the words be different. If we use the same words for different processes, we lose information. The information about hydrogen and oxygen atoms is being transmitted through the world.

We too are just information. When we act in the world, we too generate difference. We turn right, instead of left. We move through the world, carrying matter from one place to another. We speak with particular words in a particular dialect of a particular language of a particular place. This information that we encode can also be transmitted. We use similar devices to communicate ourselves to others—body, pose, movement, spoken word, written language, etc… When a device fails to mirror difference, information is lost.

When the world fails to transmit the difference that we generate, we are lost. When the language that we use becomes uniform, some difference is not able to be transmitted. When the places we inhabit become uniform, some difference is not able to be transmitted. When the labor we enact does not affect the outcomes of a process, some difference is not able to be transmitted. Alienation is a failure to write difference.

Conviviality is an overflowing of difference in the environment. There is so much difference being communicated that the only device possible to transmit it is the world itself. The map expands to the size of the territory. When in the presence of so much information, we feel it is incommunicable. I can’t explain it… I don’t even know where to begin.