I just dashed off a reply to a comment on the post about Clothing and metaclothing. It dealt with something that hadn’t specifically occurred to me before, yet seems like it might be a fertile way to think about the issue.
So I’ll elevate the reply to a post here. It’s based on the mathematical theory of information. But don’t be intimidated by the terminology. The idea is pretty easy to understand. As you’ll see, the information content of being naked can be much more than zero. Here’s what I wrote (with a few additions):
Nudity can be measured in terms of information content. In information theory, the information content of a message is the amount of “surprise” the message carries. For instance, if you wear the same type of clothing every day – same style and color, for example – there is no surprise, and hence essentially no information contained in what you are wearing. But if one day you don’t wear any clothes there will be a great deal of surprise for anyone who doesn’t know you like being naked.
By the same token, if you live somewhere you can be naked every day, then nobody who knows you will be surprised if you’re also naked tomorrow. Then the information content of your nudity will be zero. But if you wear clothes tomorrow, the information content will be high. Perhaps it means you’re going somewhere clothing will be required. So the amount of information contained in either clothing or nudity can be any (nonnegative) number, depending on circumstances.
This leads to a further thought: An information content of zero can be rather boring – no surprises. There’s no novelty, hence no information, in being naked all the time, without additions of any kind (like jewelry or bodypaint). So if one doesn’t want to be considered a boring person, it may be necessary to find ways to vary one’s appearance from total nudity. On the other hand, if one always wears clothes, perhaps going naked will add a bit of pizzazz to one’s social profile. Something to think about.
To further expand on that, taking into account the information content of any clothing (or “metaclothing”) underscores the important point that any type of clothing, including especially nudity, communicates a very real message to other people. The information content of the message can vary but the message itself is very real, even if the message is “this person is naked”.
In our society, where nudity is very rare, the information content of being naked is therefore usually quite large. And so any laws that exist against nudity actually deprive people of the ability to exchange measurably large quantities of something – information.
In other words, anti-nudity laws amount to confiscation by the government of a valuable commodity.