Chocolate example: self-organized symbol-generation

July 2, 2010

In Web 2.0 systems people constantly interpret the world using digital technology to capture their impressions and social media to spread them in Internet. They signify the world with the navigational cues for themselves and for the others to come.

For example Monica Stelly wrote:
Chocolate will never judge you.
Chocolate goes great with any occasion.
It is always there for you no matter the situation.
It is something you can count on to help solve your difficult problems.
Chocolate can help mend a broken heart.
Chocolate is good for the mind, body, and soul.

A sign is the basic unit of meaning, anything that stands for something else, each twit and picture is the sign for the narrated perception of the reality.

For example twits for:

I am almost liking Jaiku as the dark chocolate.

This city is gonna be a chocolate city at the end of the day.

Love dark chocolate on a bad day!

Sometimes even dark chocolate has no effect.

They convey the meaning ranging from (for more see this):

Chocolate as pleasure ….. Chocolate as comfort

Such personal narrative acts (twits, images, blog-posts) being uploaded to the web accumulate in dynamic self-organized narrative ecosystems.
Each narrative act, as well as, the whole narrative ecosystem can influence the symbol- and thereby the identity-generation of the communities through feedback loops.

Symbol refer to something associated with and standing for, representing, or identifying something else by association, resemblance, or convention, especially a material object used to represent something invisible. A symbol can be embued with rich layers of meanings. A symbol has a narrow or wide ranges of meanings limited to an individual or for a community or culture.

In Carl Jung’s view, a sign stands for something known, a symbol stands for something that is unknown and that cannot be made clear or precise (Wikipedia).

For example: Chocolate as a symbol of status (which kind you can afford) or Chocolate as the symbol of love (supposed aphrodisiac properties)

or the more recent chocolate and the politic manifest:
Is There Slavery In Your Chocolate?

STOCKHOLM – The official chocolate sold in connection with the Swedish Crown Princess’s wedding is produced with the help of child labour, a Swedish public radio report charged Friday.

Shared identity is based on shared symbols. In communities the personal variation in the understanding of the same sign as a symbol allows constant dynamism in the narrative ecosystem.

For example: Sometimes even dark chocolate has no effect.

(for removing sadness or for creating love?)

So i am eating dark chocolate but it may be for because i am in spleen and sadly and it is the last try, but will help for nothing, or i am excited and it pleasures me and i am in love.

Dark chocolate: pleasure or suicide?

At the same time, the symbols provide the constraints to the meaning of the signs that develop community identity. The symbols serve as the community niche – those symbol interpretations that are more frequently used by individuals as the meanings of their signs will determine the present state of the niche and influence how each individual interprets the available signs in narrative ecosystem.

Here are some navigational cues from the Twitter ecosystem with 3 dimensions: chocolate, pleasure, sadness:

eating Chocolate!!….my guilty pleasure *__* ♥ I Looooooveee chocolate!

Milk chocolate is pleasure for a moment with a fast death

choose chocolate over sex, theres no feelins involved except pleasure and no pain afterwards

Scientific research has proven that chocolate release the same amount of pleasure that sex.

Women who eat more chocolate find more pleasure sexually.

Kissing a chocolate might gives the highest pleasure

Ummm, chocolate indeed gives you more pleasure than kissing.

A bar of chocolate can actually reduce sadness. Says me

I wish I had a Belgian chocolate… this sadness is not going to go away on its own, you know!

chocolate cures broken hearts and sadness! (:

The empty sad hole in my heart needs to be filled with chocolate cement.

70%of women prefer to eat chocolate than have sex.

You make me sad. SUPER SAD! Way to break my heart! You owe me baked goods or chocolate now.


I was reading the paper that triggered the ideas above:

Emergence of self-organized symbol-based communication in artificial creatures
Action editor: Ron Sun
Angelo Loula, Ricardo Gudwin, Charbel Nin˜o El-Hani, Joa˜o Queiroz
Cognitive Systems Research 11 (2010) 131–147

Loula et al. (2010) created a digital behavioral ecology that allowed the emergence of self-organized symbol-based communication of artificial creatures. Such creatures inhabit a virtual world of unpredictable predatory events and behave as autonomous agents that can learn symbolic relations in an unsupervised manner, with no explicit feedback, and are able to engage simultaneously in dynamical and autonomous communicative interactions with other creatures.

Their main finding was:
In virtual worlds the artificial creatures, assuming the role of sign users and learners, learn symbolic relations in an unsupervised manner, with no explicit feedback and behave collectively as a complex adaptive system, where local self-organized communicative interactions play a major role in the emergence of symbol-based communication at macro level (Loula et al., 2010).

Signs may be viewed as competing entities trying to spread through a community of sign users.

A sign is anything that stands for something else.

The creatures behave as sign exchangers, which reproduce the learned signs, making them able to be used by other creatures, as signs disseminate in the community.

The self-organization is based on positive and negative feedback loops: the more a sign is used the more the creatures reinforce it (and weaken others), and, as a result, the frequency of usage of that sign increases (and others decrease); in turn, the less a sign is used the less it is reinforced, and, consequently, its usage decreases.

The stronger the sign association is, the more it will be used, and the more it is used, the more it will be reinforced. This positive feedback loop allows the self-organization of the community sign repertoire, with alarm-referent associations getting stronger, making it possible that, at some point, signs become symbols.

A symbol may have more than one meaning.
Symbols may have very narrow or quite wide ranges of meaning. The range may be limited to an individual, or perhaps to a small group. People other than the individual or group will not understand that meaning of the symbol. A symbol’s range may be cultural.

The system can be seen as moving in a state space defined as composed of all individual sign repertoires.

The system moves from point to point each time a creature adjusts its repertoire, i.e. when learning takes place. In this search space, attractors are defined as points in which all individual repertoires converge to a common one, thus stabilizing the system.

In this self-organizing system, a systemic process (symbol-based communication), as much as a global pattern (a common repertoire of symbols), emerges from local communicative interactions, without any external or central control. This complex system of communicative creatures can be viewed as a semiotic system of symbol-based communication with three different hierarchical levels.

The semiotic processes of symbol-based communication emerge at the focal level through the interaction of a microsemiotic level, containing a repertoire of potential sign, object, and interpretant relations within an interpreter or an utterer, and a macro-semiotic level, amounting to a self-organized network of all communication processes that occurred and are occurring. It is in this hierarchical system that things in the environment become elements in triadic-dependent processes, i.e., signs come to be associated with objects in such a manner that their relationship depends on the mediation of a learned association (i.e., they become symbols).

The environment also plays an essential role in the system dynamics by providing physical contextual constraints (visual cues). When potential sign relations are actualized, the environment in which the semiotic system is situated will establish specific constraints for the utterer’s sign production and for the interpreter’s sign interpretation (any surrounding entity). The system’s history at the macrosemiotic level establishes constraints for the system’s dynamics, which can be treated as boundary conditions, being the system variability reduced with utterers using established signs in its associative memory, and interpreters being able to use the same repository to interpret alarms, which ultimately become symbols.


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