WHEN IS INFORMATION?
Much ink has been spilled by theorists and scientists of information regarding the whatness of their namesake.1 Indeed, there seems to have been a veritable shift of late from rigid to relational ontologies, as scholars attempt to fully wrangle the stubbornly embodied and processual nature of the stuff put under observation, be it archival materials, informatic subjects, or internet connectivity.2 Arguably the central tenet of this research which binds together a new contingent of scholars is an aversion to reductive binaries. For example, Gracen Brilmeyer has recently published work suggesting an unsung harmony between critical archival studies and feminist disability studies, which together can generatively reframe the archive as an assemblage of political actors and politicized decision-making.3 The media theorist Robert Prey, likewise, has offered an inventive analysis of music streaming platforms by invoking Gilbert Simondon’s philosophy of technical individuation in order to dwell on the processes by which content recommendation algorithms come to reify the listener as a pliable consumer.4 And by mobilizing a similar literature, Jenna Burrell has admirably proven that digital inequality is best understood as a spectrum shaped by infrastructural instability and intermittent access, rather than simply a bifurcation of haves and have-notes.5 In each of these three cases, embodiment, materiality, and performativity play a vital role. Embodiment especially has proven to be a lucrative vector for information studies scholars interested in studying the relational properties of information. Foremost among this cohort, and its philosopher par excellence, is Marcia Bates.
Beginning with her 2006 piece “The Fundamental Forms of Information,” Bates has outlined an expansive philosophy of information, featuring a broad taxonomic typology.6 Dispelling preexisting notions that information-processing is a distinctly human phenomena, she readily invokes the nonhuman perspective, suggesting plants and animals also partake in the fun. It follows then that the universe must be absolutely chock full of information, which she sweepingly defines as “the pattern of organization of matter and energy.” Indeed, she identifies this fundamental precept as the intellectual core which unites each disparate wing of information studies research. While I find very little to quibble with in Bates’ definition as it currently stands, trouble arises as soon as she asserts that “this distinction between the pattern of organization and the material or energy that constitutes the pattern is crucial.”7 By foregrounding the distinction between, on the one hand, “patterns of organization” and, on the other, “matter and energy,” Bates veers dangerously close here to reifying the anthropocentric dualism she ostensibly set out to quell by introducing the rich notion of “embodied information.” At issue here, I hope to prove, is the primary distinction she draws between “natural information” and “represented information," which sets into motion the aforementioned dissension between patterns and their material substrate, which her theory seems to depend upon. While I grant that there is an important distinction between the things she has called natural information and represented information, my hope is to enrich Bates’ formulation by resituating these terms along an axis of temporality. This move suggests a pivot away from the perennial provocation what is information? towards something more elusive: when is information?
For Bates, all information is natural information. Represented information, one step lower in her phylum, is a particular transformation of natural information which manifests upon encounter with the nervous system.8 To illustrate this distinction, Bates recounts the predator-prey relationship between a spider and an insect which becomes ensnared in its silky trap.9 Each agent in this composition, including the web itself, exudes a certain degree of natural information, made up of matter and energy as they are. As the insect collides with the web, creating a vibrational impact which is subsequently received as a neuronal signal by the spider, natural information is conjured into represented information. This process, Bates argues, is indicative of the impressive evolution of all species to progressively refine their ability to “select and shape inputs for their own purposes.”10 As Bates points out, the spider’s web, due to its near translucent appearance, subsists well below the insect’s threshold for input-selection, and accordingly remains an effective tool of entrapment.
However, I’d like to contend that her assessment of the informational dimensions of this bug-eat-bug world arguably unfolds according to an all-too-linear logic. Curiously, Bates goes on to cite the idiosyncratic biologist Jakob von Uexküll, whose ideas garnered a posthumous prominence after being resurrected by several notable figureheads of continental philosophy, perhaps most notably in the collaborative work of Félix Guattari and Gilles Deleuze. These latter two figures, coincidentally, might also be reasonably credited with catalyzing the contemporary interest in the so-called relational ontologies alluded to above.11 If we consider Deleuze and Guattari’s own implementation of von Uexküll, a detectable glint of sunlight begins to emerge between their conception of relationality and the relationality which is taken up by Bates. Von Uexküll, they argue, defines the animal world by looking for “the active and passive affects of which the animal is capable in the individuated assemblage of which it is a part.”12 With this understanding of relational affectivity in mind, Bates’ offerings seem to be a merely one-sided formula—wherein an actively scheming spider catches a passive passerby unawares. Bates employs von Uexküll to patently different ends than Deleuze and Guattari, despite the fact that both do so along the way towards introducing a markedly similar set of terms. Bates makes the case that von Uexküll allows us to consider different species’ capacities for encoding and decoding their environment, whereas Deleuze and Guattari emphasize that von Uexküll’s contribution to philosophy is a theory of biological transcodings.1 Unlike Bates’ theory, which occurs as a before-and-after interfacing between body and environment wherein the information flows unidirectionally, transcoding must be understood as the perpetual state of an “associated milieu” of bodies in environments, continually performing the “coordination between heterogenous space-times.”14
While this language is admittedly quite obscurantist, it simply points to the ways in which von Uexküll, Deleuze and Guattari, and presumably most scholars chartering this newfangled mode of information theory, train their crosshairs not merely on the body or the environment independent of one another, but squarely on the relationality which allows us to even begin to consider one or the other, as Bates does, as allegedly distinct entities. Indeed, this is precisely the logic, as cited above, of an individuated assemblage—which Brilmeyer locates in the archive, Prey the algorithmic, and Burrell the infrastructural. What ties these disparate threads of research together, however, is not only the documented coordination between heterogenous spatialities, but likewise the manner in which these are inexorably rooted in heterogenous temporalities. Bates, I think, makes good on the first half of this notion, that of spatial heterogeneity, but only by bracketing its temporal inflections. If we return to her initial terminology, we must therefore question the relationship between not only patterns and spatial materialities, which she thoroughly engages, but also between patterns and time. Moreover, by considering patterns in time, we might be able to identify the temporal fault-line upon which the solidity of Bates’ framework can be tested, dependent as it is on the clandestine but operative dualism between natural information and represented information. For this task, we must make our way through the thorny terrain of Deleuze’s philosophy of time.
“We have seen that past, present, and future were not at all three parts of a single temporality, but that they rather formed two readings of time, each one of which is compete and excludes the other.”15 So goes Deleuze’s exposition, in a moment of relative clarity amidst the otherwise transitory and scattershot references to time which we find peppered throughout his enigmatic treatise The Logic of Sense. Equally indebted to the ancient Stoics as he was to the vitalist philosophy of Henri Bergson, Deleuze set out to contribute his own formulation of time amidst his fellow poststructuralists, while registering an important divergence from the dominant paradigms at the time, namely those championed by Jacques Derrida and other acolytes of Martin Heidegger.16 Deleuze, like his fellow travelers and those before them, was also unsatisfied with the reigning Aristotelean paradigm which equated the measure of time with the measure of space. This project, in fact, began as a race, yet unfinished, between Bergson and Heidegger throughout the 1920s to fully dissect and disprove Albert Einstein’s ascendant theory of time.17 Deleuze simply hoped to drag Bergson across the finish line. And as with nearly every aspect of Deleuze’s wide-ranging philosophy, he was catalyzed by the mandate to eliminate all dualisms—“to reverse Platonism.”18 Bergson, he felt, was on the right track, but still suffered from a lingering tendency, evident in the near ubiquity of two-part conceptual constructions mobilized throughout his oeuvre.19 But if unscrutinized dualisms were Bergson’s own Achilles’ heel, how are we to square this with Deleuze’s own pursuit, given his aforementioned insistence on the “two readings of time”?20
Splintering from Heidegger and alloying Bergson, Deleuze asserts that these two readings, which are individually complete, internally consistent, and without necessary recourse to one other, are nonetheless simultaneous readings of time. This notion of simultaneity, it will be argued, is in stark contrast with the linear temporality evinced by Bates in rendering her distinction between natural and represented information. Past, present, and future, collectively, do not constitute a single time, but rather two mutually constitutive times, which Deleuze names Chronos and Aion—the former, “composed only of interlocking presents”; the latter, “constantly decomposed into elongated pasts and futures.”21 This is a slippery distinction, although importantly it is a distinction with a difference. Indeed, the difference between the two is evident in the ways in which temporal difference as such is conceived within either modality. By assessing the capacity to produce difference in each temporal register, and the different differences they subsequently elicit, I hope to illustrate a troublesome slippage at the crux of Bates’ conceptual apparatus.22
We can find surer footing, perhaps, if we consider, for example, Chronos as the temporal dimension in which a proposition about today makes sense as a discrete unit of time. Likewise, today, in this instance, is implicitly embedded within other extended and bounded periods like this week and this semester. More abstractly, we can consider propositions like this battle and this war or this book and this discourse as similarly functioning in accordance with a logic of concentric, durational presents. These latter two examples may inarguably have less rigidly codified start- and end-points, but still surface and subsist as discrete units.23 Each of the preceding periods, therefore, necessarily implies a connection to lived experience without fully exhausting the depths of lived experience. Hence, encountered as a series of “interlocking presents,” Chronos concurrently traffics the subject through multiple, coexisting typologies of a temporally bounded and perspectival present: this [present] smile within this [present] conversation within this [present] friendship.
Aion, on the other hand, pertains to an evermore divisible now—the pure mathematical instant which inheres at the fleeting threshold of the has-just-happened and the about-to-happen—or put more straightforwardly, between the past and the future.24 One might quickly counter that Chronos already licenses us to think smaller and smaller divisions of the present, wherein this minute comprises this second comprises this nanosecond, ad infinitum. However this would be a misreading of Deleuze’s two times. The infinite divisibility of Chronos’ present is comparable to the delimited and inward infinity which exists between -1 and 1 on a number line. Boundedness, therefore, is the key to the time of Chronos. This intensive infinity finds its counterpart in Aion’s extensive infinity, which is both unlimited and asymptotic. Aion as a synchronous past and future emanates outwards and in unison: 0 +/- n.
Thus, two times, neither of which can take precedence, and both of which are built atop a substrate of difference wholly unlike the other. In Chronos, we find a system of differentiation rooted in a series of discretized units, each distinct from one another but commensurable in a roughly quantitative capacity. This is clearly applicable to numerals—in that 1 is conceptually encased within 7—however equally applies to semantic units of a commensurate typology—this minute is conceptually embedded within this millennium. Aion, conversely, presents us with a continuum of unceasing flux, from which emerge differentiations of a purely qualitative degree, ebbing and flowing along an analogical substrate. While this latter system of difference is considerably harder—né impossible—to fully pin down, it is undeniably no less real than the former. Chronos, for example, readily allows us to grasp this smile and this frown as different states of being. But Aion uniquely accounts for the processual becoming in which one’s facial contortions topologically morph from one observable affect to another.
Deleuze’s formulation of Chronos and Aion, on first glance, appears to fit loosely onto Bergson’s own teasing apart of “abstract time” and “real duration,” as well as Heidegger’s attack on artificial “clock time” versus natural “lived time.”25 However both philosophers belie their own reliance on a subtly hierarchical relationship that is presupposed between their respective terms, rendering each philosopher susceptible to the plight of chronic dualism. Deleuze’s two-part schema—“a more profound and secret…subterranean dualism” by his own accounting—refuses the plainly moralizing binaries of abstract-versus-real or artificial-versus-natural, both of which presume an temporal and even ontological relationship which locates the real or the natural prior to, and therefore more authentic than, the abstract or the artificial.26 This, correspondingly, is the baseline of my critique of Bates, who also deploys the specter of the “natural.” For Deleuze, there can be no recourse to an originary state or a predetermined end. After all, there were few things Deleuze abhorred more than old-fashioned dialectics, which posited the inborn, and thus natural,resolution of all dualisms.27 Rather, we might justifiably say that this peculiar formulation of Chronos and Aion resembles something like a Möbius strip, suggesting a considerably more nebulous and generative mode of relationality. While these dots are never explicitly connected in Deleuze’s own writings, I believe the coexistence of Chronos and Aion represents the scaffolding which undergirds his use of von Uexküll in building a theory of transcodings. A monolithic temporal model of past-present-future, to the contrary, can only ever account for a linear iteration of encoding followed by decoding, the likes of which can be quickly ferreted out in projects as seemingly disparate as Claude Shannon’s mathematical information and Bates’ embodied information.28
The Logic of Sense is concerned, above all, with the relationship between things and words about things. Put simply, Deleuze situates things within the past-future oscillations of Aion, and words about these things within Chronos’ discretized containers of the present.29 However, we can only make sense of these things, the words about them, or indeed the relationship of mediation which sutures them to one another, if and only if we refuse to privilege one over the other as the preeminent site of meaning-making.30 This latter evocation of a mediating interface is precisely where the action happens: “at the boundary between things and propositions.”31 In fact, sensical meaning can only be understood as the product of this “double articulation” of difference between things and propositions.32 What this implies, as I’ve already gestured towards throughout this piece, is that Chronos and Aion, themselves disparate orders of magnitude, operate according to fundamentally different notions of difference—intensive/extensive, delimited/unlimited, quantitative/qualitative—and irremediably shape and reflect one another. In other words, there can be no being without becoming, and no becoming without being.33 This, ultimately, is the performance of transcoding, wherein two particularities flourish, unburdened by an a priori or post hoc universality. Most prior philosophy, materialist and idealist alike, Deleuze asserts repeatedly, has succumbed to a type of infinite regress in chasing down the universal, wherein philosophers have futilely attempted to trace their way back to the front-facing side of a Möbius strip, which as we know simply does not exist. The only adequately rigorous philosophy for Deleuze therefore, is one which entangles itself in the different differences presented by Aion and Chronos without reduction or subsumption.
In order to demonstrate the dexterity of this philosophical venture for information studies at large, I hope to offer a convincing rereading of Briet’s antelope, which famously upended the existing standards linking documentation to evidence.34 By putting Briet into conversation with Deleuze, we can observe her antelope as none other than a newfound articulation of the difference between animal-as-thing and animal-as-proposition. This antelope, of course, both prior to, during, and after its enclosure, exists—as with all other living and nonliving entities and events—within the temporal parameters already established in this essay as past-future Aion and the presents of Chronos. However Briet’s radical formulation merely sought to establish a new link between the the antelope’s happening in a past-future and the antelope's inscription in a present, without foreclosing on the agency of either.
Bernd Frohmann subsequently donned this theoretical development with the punchy moniker “documentality.”35 Under this rubric, the conceptualized antelope is transfigured according to an evolution occurring within the human dimension of Chronos, wherein the zoo’s enclosure becomes a newly acknowledged and accepted mode of delimitation and abstraction. Accordingly, the antelope is seen to exhibit agency as both evidence of and documentation of something. Or, in Deleuzian parlance, as at the same time both a thing and a set of propositions about a thing. What’s more, Frohmann concludes his essay by gesturing to the necessity of a fundamentally ecological understanding of documentality, through which he hopes to decenter the anthropological frame: “The world’s documentality not only overflows human interventions but makes them possible.”36 While Frohmann does not address temporality per se, I think his insight here is directly resonant with Deleuze’s conception of Aion and Chronos, the former as always already “overflowing,” the latter as the site of “intervention.”
One slight addendum however, would be to push Frohmann’s conclusion even further by acknowledging that these “human interventions” into nature are not exclusively registered as bounded temporal abstractions within the interwoven presents of Chronos, wherein we might discern “this swamp” and “this river.”37 Rather, the potentiality which makes possible these interventions equally stems from an unboundedness on the part of the intervening human, who like the antelope necessarily espouses a surplus degree of agency. The very capacity for contingent intervention endures as an effect of the instantaneous nowness of Aion. Above and beyond this, “the world” in Frohmann's example, seems to uncritically function as a stand-in for the unbounded superfluity of Aion, despite the fact that “the world” as we understand it in this context can emerge only as an abstracted byproduct of the human subject position.
Returning to and modifying Bates’ example, we can see that “the world” of the spider and “the world” of the insect typify an always already associated milieu. Accordingly, we can contemplate a relationality of becoming-predator and becoming-prey, just as much as we can observe the presently-predator and presently-prey dimension of this scenario. To distill this point further, we might ask Bates to ascertain the precise point in time at which the insect existentially undergoes the transmutation from free-flying to fatally-foreclosed? Chronos allows us to segment the milieu into a discrete site of encounter, initiated as the insect crosses some ostensible threshold which constitutes the spider’s domain. Temporally, this understanding grants the insect a present freedom followed by a present danger followed by a present death, unfurling rigidly in that order. However, Aion, paints us a more fluid picture, which traces the intrinsic relationality of the spider’s spun web and the insect’s insufficient nervous system as contrapuntal expressions of an ongoing process which sutures the pasts and futures of both agents. That both explanations seem sound is not a contradiction which discredits Chronos and Aion, but rather the “subterranean dualism” which sustains the two as different yet coterminous modalities of abstraction.38 Neither natural information or represented information can account for the myriad ways in which this individuated assemblage of spider-web-insect subsists simultaneously under the aegis of a phenomenologically lived time and a neuronal cognitive time. To assume otherwise, would be to fracture “patterns of organization” and “matter and energy” into a fragile and unsustainable dualism.
As such, we must acknowledge our embeddedness within a singularly Western and colonial system of abstraction which permits us to consider our world—“the world” for Frohmann, and presumably for Bates—as itself a discrete entity. These implications regarding the relationship between human and world, I think, are harmonious with what Deleuze was hoping to achieve by demanding the consideration of Aion and Chronos as neither a dualism nor monism, but rather two simultaneous “patterns of organization” which together temper our lived experience of “material and energetic” reality into neither pure chaos nor pure determinism. After all, the classificatory act which brings this human into being is as tenuously bounded temporally as, for instance, this snowstorm or this geological age. Deleuze, alongside other thinkers of relationality, helps us to understand each of these examples as abstractions only made possible by bracketing the irreducibly complex environmental phenomena which manifest as a coherent entity which might come into contact with a prospective nervous system. This, I hope, serves as conclusive elucidation of my call for both a first step beyond inquiring into information’s mere whatness and another step in the direction of information’s doubly-articulated whenness. Frohmann, in the end, is absolutely correct about the world’s overflowing nature. However we can grasp the full scope of The Blizzard of ’78 or The Anthropocene—or Bates’ modest parable of the spider and insect—as informational events only if we decenter the human experience of time. Otherwise we run the risk of stumbling our way back to the all-too-familiar embrace of those pesky dualisms.
1 Rocchi, Paolo, and Andrea Resca. "The Creativity of Authors in Defining the Concept of Information." Journal
of Documentation 74, no. 5 (2018): 1074-103. doi:10.1108/jd-05-2017-0077.
2 Brilmyer, Gracen. "Archival Assemblages: Applying Disability Studies’ Political/relational Model to Archival
Description." Archival Science 18, no. 2 (2018): 95-118. doi:10.1007/s10502-018-9287-6.
Burrell, Jenna. "Thinking Relationally about Digital Inequality in Rural Regions of the U.S." First Monday 23,
no. 6 (2018). doi:10.5210/fm.v23i6.8376.
Prey, Robert. "Nothing Personal: Algorithmic Individuation on Music Streaming Platforms." Media, Culture &
Society 40, no. 7 (2017): 1086-100. doi:10.1177/0163443717745147.
3 Brilmeyer, “Archival Assemblages.”
4 Prey, “Algorithmic Individuation.”
5 Burrell, “Thinking Relationally.”
6 Bates, Marcia J. "Fundamental Forms of Information." Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology 57, no. 8 (2006): 1033-045. doi:10.1002/asi.20369.
7 Ibid., 1035.
8 Bates, Marcia J. "Concepts for the Study of Information Embodiment." Library Trends 66, no. 3 (2018): 239-66.
11 Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Minneapolis, MN:
University of Minnesota Press, 2007.
12 Deleuze, Plateaus, 257. (Emphasis added.)
13 Ibid., 314.
14 Ibid., 313.
15 Deleuze, Gilles. The Logic of Sense. Translated by Mark Lester. New York, NY: Columbia University Press.,
16 Beginning with Heidegger’s monumental Being and Time, the latter of these titular concepts had been firmly
sutured to the pursuit of a particular mode of the former. The temporal nature of what he deemed a “being-to-
wards-death” provided humanity with a shared existential telos which might serve to inform the quest of living
an authentic life. By disrupting the colloquial understanding of time as a linear progression of past-present-fu-
ture, Heidegger's conception was built upon the folding of futurity back into the present. The implication here is
that one’s future death, for example, is latent within one’s ongoing present, and in fact supplies the transcen-
dental parameters by which one’s existentially-experienced present is to proceed. On first glance, this appears
to be merely a moribund determinism. However for Heidegger and his acolytes, this amalgamated future-
present paved the way for a philosophy of (capital-B) Being, wherein the subject (“Dasein”) strives to realize a
potentiality always already dormant within themselves. Given Heidegger’s well-documented political commit-
ments, it is not difficult to infer an obfuscated essentialism guiding this distinction between beings and Being.
In any case, subsequent theorists of deconstruction have attempted to put this notion of futurity to use across a
number of other disciplines, oftentimes in a quite radical capacity.
Heidegger, Martin. Being and Time. Translated by John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson. New York, NY:
Harper & Row, 1962.
17 Bergson at times publicly voiced his solidarity Heidegger’s ongoing attempt to dispel Einstein’s theory of time
(vis-à-vis his theory of relativity). Heidegger even occasionally reciprocated this admiration. Nevertheless, both
philosophers struck an accusatory chord, repeatedly pointing out the ways in which the other’s theory was hob-
bled by a unscrutinized reversion to traditional Aristotelean conceptions which equated time with space.
Canales, Jimena. The Physicist & the Philosopher: Einstein, Bergson, and the Debate That Changed Our Under-
standing of Time. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2017.
18 Deleuze, Logic, 253.
19 “The Bergsonian dualisms are famous: duration-space, quality-quantity, heterogeneous-homogeneous, contin-
uous-discontinuous, the two multiplicities, memory-matter, recollection-perception, contraction-relaxation’:' (de-
tente), instinct-intelligence, the two sources, etc.”
Deleuze, Gilles. Transalted by Barbara Habberjam and Hugh Tomlinson. Bergsonism. New York: Zone Books,
20 I pureposefully chose metaphors of a footrace throughout this paragraph, as there is an ironic connection be-
tween the famous paradoxes of the ancient Greek philosopher Zeno and the Aristotelean philosophy of time
which Bergson and Heidegger have called into question. In retrospect, as others have pointed out, Zeno’s para-
ble of a rabbit failing to overtake a tortoise in a footrace only holds water if the logical system that we use to
measure time is mistaken for the one that we use to measure space. Bergson, Deleuze, and many others, on the
contrary, underscore the important, and indeed generative, inconsistencies between lived time and the mea-
sured time. Zeno’s clever obfuscation of these disparities is what allows his paradoxes to appear to be just that,
paradoxical. Of course, we know that arrows do fly through the air, and that rabbits are faster than tortoises,
but only with a properly robust theorization of time can we outwit Zeno’s language games.
Mazur, Joseph. Zeno's Paradox: Unraveling the Ancient Mystery Behind the Science of Space and Time. New
York, NY: Penguin Books, 2008.
21 Deleuze, Logic, 62.
22 Cf. Bateson: “Information is the difference that makes a difference.”
Bateson, Gregory. Steps to an Ecology of Mind. New York, NY: Ballantine Books, 1973.
23 See, for example, Barthes, Foucault, and Agamben on the porous and performative boundaries which purport
to separate author, text, reader, and discourse.
Agamben, Giorgio. Profanations. Translated by Jeff Fort. New York: Zone Books, 2015.
Barthes, Roland. Image, Music, Text. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1990.
Foucault, Michel, Donald F. Bouchard, and Sherry Simon. Language, Counter-memory, Practice: Selected Essays
and Interviews. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1977.
24 Contra Heidegger’s “being-toward-death,” Deleuze insists that “no one ever dies, but has always just died or is
always going to die.” Deleuze, Logic, 63.
25 Deleuze, Bergsonism, 75.
Bergson, Henri. Creative Evolution; in the Authorized Translation by Arthur Mitchell. Translated by Arthur Mitchell. New York: Modern Library, 1944, Chapter 1.
“Once time has been defined as clock time then there is no hope of ever arriving at its original meaning again.”
Heidegger, Martin. "The Concept of Time." Lecture, July 1924.
26 Deleuze, Logic, 2.
27 In Difference and Repetition, for instance, Deleuze outlines the sheer necessity of a philosophy capable of
thinking difference without negation: “This is why, whenever the dialectic 'forgets' its intimate relation with
Ideas in the form of problems, whenever it is content to trace problems from propositions, it loses its true power
and falls under the sway of the power of the negative, necessarily substituting for the ideal objecticity of the
problematic a simple confrontation between opposing, contrary or contradictory, propositions. This long perver-
sion begins with the dialectic itself, and attains its extreme form in Hegelianism.” Gilles Deleuze, Difference and
Repetition, trans. Paul Patton (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994): 164.
28 Shannon, C. E. "A Mathematical Theory of Communication." Bell System Technical Journal 27, no. 3 (1948):
29 It is important to note, however, that the enacted expression of these words by a speaking or reading subject
inheres to the nowness of Aion, while the content of the words endures as temporal units within Chronos. This
expression-content model is crucial to Deleuze’s critique of structural linguistics and his philosophy as a whole.
30 Structural linguistics, it might be argued, succeeded in identifying the arbitrariness of the relationship be-
tween things and words about things, but nonetheless fell short by leaving undertheorized the ways in which
this mode of relationality might be arbitrary but far from random. Deleuze’s investigation of “sense” and “non-
sense” in The Logic of Sense seems to offer concrete support for this argument.
31 Deleuze, Logic, 63.
32 Deleuze and Guattari, Plateaus, 502.
33 I hope to further contextualize the import of this insight in the context of information studies in future work,
specifically by reverse engineering the immense influence the 17th century philosopher Baruch Spinoza had on
Deleuze. Spinoza formulated his own philosophy of nature by rejecting dogmatic Cartesianism, which posited a
mind-body dualism. One key concept mobilized throughout Spinoza’s project, which holds the key to progressing
beyond the dualisms of Descartes, is the relationship between natura naturans and natura naturata. Roughly
translated from the Latin as “nature-naturing” and “nature-natured,” respectively, together comprise a compre-
hensive paradigm of becoming and being. There is a direct corollary here with Deleuze's bipartite analysis of
time as the simultaneity of Aion and Chronos. Accordingly, the issues I point out with regards to the primary
terminological distinction between natural information and represented information wielded by Bates might be
meaningfully revised with help from Spinoza. Perhaps Bates philosophy of information can be rerouted through
a more pliable taxonomy of information types: informa informans and informa informata. Attempting to trans-
late this from the Latin becomes more oblique linguistically but also more graspable intuitively: “information-
informationing” and “information-informationed.” Of course, one does not exist without the other as I hope to
have illustrated above in my explanation of Deleuzian time. As such, “information” as we know it can only ever
be understood or encountered as an articulation of the difference between the two, lest we reintroduce hierarchy
to Spinoza’s eminently flattened ontology.
Spinoza, Benedictus De. Ethics. Translated by E. M. Curley. Edited by Stuart Hampshire. London: Penguin
34 Briet, Suzanne. What Is Documentation?: English Translation of the Classic French Text. Edited by Ronald E.
Day, Laurent Martinet, and Hermina G. B. Anghelescu. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2006.
35 Frohmann, Bernd. "The Documentality of Mme Briet’s Antelope." Edited by Stephen Crofts Wiley. In Com-
munication Matters Materialist Approaches to Media, Mobility and Networks, edited by Jeremy Packer, 173-82.
1st ed. London: Routledge, 2011.
36 Frohmann, “Documentality,” 178.
37 Ibid., 180.
38 A comparative analysis might be due here with Luciano Floridi’s acclaimed philosophy of information, which
leans on an elaborate theory of information’s “Levels of Abstraction.” My inclination is that while there is simi-
lar ground being trodden, Floridi’s system depends upon each so-called level exists in a well-defined position of
logical hierarchy. This would seem to challenge the premise that Floridi’s “levels of abstraction” are analogous
to my own, no doubt fledgling, “modalities of abstraction.” Floridi, Luciano. The Philosophy of Information. Ox-
ford: Oxford University Press, 2013.