Modelling Anticipation, Codification, and Husserl's Horizon of Meanings

Loet Leydesdorff loet at LEYDESDORFF.NET
Tue Oct 25 08:39:58 EDT 2005

Modelling Anticipation, Codification, and Husserl's Horizon of Meanings

Extended abstract

Social order cannot be expected to exist as a stable phenomenon, but it can
be considered as an order of expectations which are continuously reproduced.
The traces which the development of the social system leaves behind can
historically be observed, e.g., as institutions. Simulations, however,
enable us to vary the parameters of the mechanisms which generate the
expectations. (Stabilization can then be considered as a special case.)

On the basis of Luhmann's (1984) social systems theory-which proposed to
consider meaning as the operator of the social system-and Rosen's (1985)
theory of anticipatory systems, I submit algorithms for modelling the
exchange of meaning in social systems and the non-linear dynamics of
expectations. This will be done step-by-step because the reasoning is

First, a system which contains a model of itself can use this model for the
anticipation. The model gives a meaning to the events from the perspective
of hindsight. The layer of meaning-processing is different from the
information processing which develops with the arrow of time. If
anticipations can additionally be exchanged, the expectation can be
specified, and this triggers a process of codification within the
communication system(s). Providing meaning can thus be considered as the
specification of an expectation.

Discursive systems are able to entertain models at the intersubjective
level. The interactions among meaning-processing systems can be expected to
generate "situational meaning." Because of the different systems of
reference, one can expect situational meaning among the communicating agents
to be very different from the meaning provided by each of them. Natural
language is a condition for this level of the exchange: language
specifically enables us to distinguish between the information conveyed and
its meaning. Meaning can further be codified. For example, knowledge can be
considered as a meaning that makes a difference. Analogously, discursive
knowledge can be developed at the level of the social system by selecting on
situational meanings.

Different languages can be juxtaposed in their operation (segmentation) or
hierarchically organized (stratification). Latin, for example, functioned
during many centuries as a language on top of a set of natural languages and
dialects. When the codes of communication are no longer hierarchically
organized, but functionally differentiated, a second asynchronicity emerges
among the subsystems because the various codes of communication can be
expected to operate with different frequencies. The codes span a
multi-dimensional space of possibilities for symbolically mediated
communications. Symbolically generalized media of communication allow for
more dimensions of the communication than languages and they can use another
range of frequencies for the processing. Market forces, for example, work
fast, while political decision-making may be relatively slow. Innovations
tend to upset markets and existing institutions by using another pace.

In the case of innovations, technological options are selected by the market
given current prices in the present, while each technology builds on
previous states. Thus, the market entertains a model of the technological
options, while the latter develop with reference to their previous states.
The model is generated by using a codification of the communication (e.g.,
prices) other than the code of the modeled subsystem. Thus, the subsystems
entertain models of each other's developments using their own specific
codes. Anticipation can be expected to operate asymmetrically across

In summary, two anticipatory mechanisms can be specified: one operating at
each moment of time (that is, structurally) under the condition of
functional differentiation of the codes of communication, and a more general
one operating within all reflexive systems and subsystems over the time
axis. When these two mechanisms operate upon each other, the resulting
expectations may selectively reinforce each other in a process of "mutual
shaping" or coevolution along a historical trajectory. If more than two
(functionally differentiated) codes are operating, a complex system of
expectations can be expected to emerge.

In addition to coevolving along the axis of time, anticipatory routines can
operate upon one another in an anticipatory mode, that is, against the axis
of time. When two anticipatory (sub)systems thus incur on each other, a
hyper-incursive system can be generated. A condition is that the sets of
(differently codified) anticipations involved are further codified by
scientific discourses and under the pressure of this increasing complexity,
a knowledge-based system can be expected to emerge. A knowledge-based system
(e.g., a knowledge-based economy) operates globally, that is, at the systems
level as a regime of selections on anticipations. A global horizon of
meanings remains pending as selection pressure on both the communicators and
the provisionally stabilized communication systems.

It can be shown that without decisions complexity would explode by the
historical development of a hyper-incursive system. Hyper-incursion leads to
pressure on agencies and organizations to make decisions. Agency is
transformed by the hyper-incursive routine because 'natural' preferences are
increasingly replaced with informed and meaningful decisions. Decisions can
be codified in terms of decision-rules when hyper-incursion becomes
systemic. Decisions organize the relevant environments at each moment of
time, decision-rules can stabilize organizations over time. However, the
decisions are dependent on their selections from a horizon of meanings which
is constructed at the macro-level. The latter can be expected to change as a
global regime with the further evolution of the knowledge base because new
meanings can be generated and codified.

Loet Leydesdorff
Amsterdam School of Communications Research (ASCoR)
Kloveniersburgwal 48, 1012 CX Amsterdam
Tel.: +31-20- 525 6598; fax: +31-20- 525 3681
loet at ;

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