|Floridi's informational map, Source: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/information-semantic/|
I talked about information being data plus meaning in a previous post, which is what Floridi refers to as "The General Definition of Information (GDI)", so we see that the two categories of information derive directly from the two categories of meaning.
Floridi points out that his concept of environmental information might not be 'natural'. Here's how he explains it in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (op. cit.):
One of the most often cited examples of environmental information is the series of concentric rings visible in the wood of a cut tree trunk, which may be used to estimate its age. Yet “environmental” information does not need to be natural. Going back to our example, when you turned the ignition key, the red light of the low battery indicator flashed. This signal too can be interpreted as an instance of environmental information.
However, I don't think this in any significant way makes it different from Grice's 'natural meaning', or not in any way that matters for my concerns at the moment at least.Environmental information is defined relative to an observer (an information agent), who is supposed to have no direct access to pure data in themselves. It requires two systems a and b to be coupled in such a way that a's being (of type, or in state) F is correlated to b being (of type, or in state) G, thus carrying for the observer the information that b is G [...]:Environmental information:
Two systems a and b are coupled in such a way that a's being (of type, or in state) F is correlated to b being (of type, or in state) G, thus carrying for the information agent the information that b is G.
My interpretation is that semantic information/non-natural meaning requires intention, whereas environmental information/natural meaning 'just happens'.
Switching to the language of semiotics, a point about signs is that the signifier can be arbitrary. I'm wondering if there's a distinction between, say, natural signs and non-natural signs, where the signifier in a natural sign is necessary, but the signifier in a non-natural sign is arbitrary? We might interpret the rings visible in the wood of a cut tree as the signifier in a sign meaning the age of the tree (or maybe not, I'm not sure about that), but in that case the rings can't be said to be arbitrary: they are a necessary consequence of the way the tree grows. However the word 'tree' as the signifier for a tree is arbitrary, in the sense that we could equally say "arbre" or "der Baum" (http://translate.definitions.net/tree).
One thing I'm still not quite ready to concede, though, is that non-natural/semantic information/meaning/signs necessarily requires people.
Certainly I want to suggestion that animals can be responsible for semantic/non-natural signs. I want to say that when a peacock displays his tail this is a sign with meaning, that there is intention on the part of the peacock, and that the sign is arbitrary (since other birds manage with different signs meaning essentially the same thing).