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1. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 36 > Issue: 3/4
Farouk Y. Seif Editorial Introduction: Design and Semiotics: The De-sign Constitution of Reality
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2. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 36 > Issue: 3/4
Farouk Y. Seif De-Sign as a Destiny of Negation: The Paradox of Sustaining Boundaries While Traversing Borders
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Boundaries and borders are undefined and ambiguous paradoxical phenomena, but there is a prevalent repudiation of their ephemerality and transitoriness. Crossing unaccustomed boundaries and traversing untried borders can be achieved by understanding the boundless scope of design and semiotics. Since the idea of design and the doctrine of signs are not restricted by either the humanities or sciences, De-sign (fusion of design and signs) is a boundaryless and transdisciplinary perspective that cannot tolerate cultural enclaves, social dogmas, and an insistence on absolute reality. Engaging in the de-sign process is a journey of negation through which human beings can traverse unfamiliar borders while maintaining their familiar boundaries. In negation, we experience paradoxical thinking and cognitive dissonance, which are associated with all antinomies intrinsic to De-sign. These antinomies can be endured by recognizing the audacity of design and the resilient role of signs. Negation goes beyond the perception of rigid borders and the acceptance of absolute boundaries, which frequently incite ethnocentrism and trigger xenophobia. The destiny of negation depends on a sense of wonder, awareness of epistemological fallibilism, and uncommon sense in order to persevere through contradictions between distinctiveness and sameness. Axiologically, where establishing boundaries can maintain identities, traversing borders can never diminish distinctiveness. Paradoxically, by delving into unfamiliar boundaries and crossing over untried borders, we discover ways to transform our own boundaries and reframe our conception of borders. Boundaries are more than barriers; the distances between them are bridges of invisible relations for thrivability and breakthrough insights.
3. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 36 > Issue: 3/4
Tiago da Costa e Silva On the Edge of the Unknown: A Relational Account of Intentionality, Formativity, and Transgressiveness of the Process of Design
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The present paper intends to discuss the process of design and its peculiar location at the threshold between the unknown (the insecure place with unknown order) and already established, well-accepted knowledge. The process of design is known for its catalyzing possibilities, often suggesting connections between conceptions, ideas, and solutions to problems by linking an initial formulation with the innovative and upcoming development of a project within a given design context. Thus, the process of design has the power to provide a space for playing, where experiments of thought, the testing of conceptions, the assembling of elements of these conceptions, and the serendipitous conflation of different parts of ideas can take place. Charles S. Peirce’s theory of inquiry—with especial emphasis on the systemic character of semiotics in relation to phaneroscopy, esthetics, logic of abduction and pragmatism—informs the chosen theoretical framework of this paper. Because it also emphasizes the process of discovery, Peirce’s theory of inquiry will be here mobilized to analyze, within the theory of the design process, the transition between critical predicament and an undecided—still to be formed—future. This task consists of stating in futuro the unthinkable in order to render any design project feasible.
4. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 36 > Issue: 3/4
Baranna Baker From a Bubbling Swirl of Signs: Fiction, Film, and De-sign
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De-sign is an activity that is a result of semiotic and design processes combined to give a desired outcome. It is an outcome brought about by the conscious mind. But a De-sign outcome can be either tangible or intangible. Intangible results can lead to either an objective or a purely objective product. In other words, it can be a physical result or an imaginative state of mind. This paper explores the latter process of De-sign and how it relates to fictional subject matters and film. A commentary on language, beginning with the alphabet and moving onto the advent of written language, is included. The paper progresses from the world of written language, to an exploration of the mutable, purely objective world of fiction, to the more objective, rigid world of film, where elements left to the imagination, when reading, become fixed with little left for the purely objective activities of the mind. It will be shown that De-sign is an approach common to all purely objective thinking, whether it has an intangible or a tangible final product.
5. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 36 > Issue: 3/4
Dora Ivonne Alvarez Tamayo Design in the Time of COVID-19: A Semiotic Angle
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During 2020, humanity is facing an unprecedented event, the COVID-19 pandemic. Societies around the world have been shaken, and human capacities challenged. The effects are of superlative proportions in all human activity, highlighting the systemic condition of life. In order to demonstrate that people can perform Design Thinking for producing innovations, thanks to semiosis, analysis of cases from a pragmatist perspective are developed in this paper; the results show that Design Thinking is not an exclusive way to think of designers. The results also offer the possibility to infer that design-thinking mode activates when change and contextual constraints call for the population to produce alternatives and when the process accelerates facing a crisis. This paper presents a reflection on the concept of “Design Semiothinking” based on the integration of concepts from a design perspective and a pragmatic semiotic approach.
6. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 36 > Issue: 3/4
Evripides Zantides Signs of National Identity in the Graphic Design of Cypriot Print Advertisements
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The current study seeks to identify signs of national identity through the design of commercial print advertisements in the Republic of Cyprus. Based on semiotic analysis of socio-cultural perspectives, the paper explores the relationship between images and texts, not only in terms of nonverbal and verbal messages, but also through typography and layout. In doing so, it also focuses on a case study of print advertisements designed for Laiko Kafekopteio (People’s Coffee). The research falls under the constructivist conception of national identity and explores the reading of advertisements as part of commercial nationalism in everyday life. While the findings of the study depict different cultural values and characteristics of the Cypriot national identity, they also portray how the socio-political development of the island is reflected in the design of the advertisements.
7. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 36 > Issue: 3/4
Seema Khanwalkar Designed Environments, Mimesis and Likeness: Exploring Human-Material Ecologies
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This paper attempts to understand the trajectories of  “designed artifacts”, built or produced in the post war periods and its implications for the human body, material, ecology, and mimesis. Has Architecture gradually distanced itself from the body as an authoritative figure in its practice? Is it being seen more and more as an autonomous art, away from the complex web of social and political concerns? There seems to be a rationale to focus on the thinking and considerations that inform the production of architecture because it depends on the realm of conceptual philosophy; and both inhabit each other. The paper tries to address the association of humans with their artifactual environments. My interest stems from a long association of teaching in a college of architecture and design, and attempts to raise questions with regard to meaning and materiality. This paper also, in some sense, unlocks an environmental perspective on the relationship of the human body with the design that gives them shelter, affords actions, affords movement, and affords life in itself. Different patterns of the built environment afford different behaviors and aesthetic experiences. The perceptions of the environment thus limit or extend the behavioral and aesthetic choices of an individual depending on how the environment is configured, likened, imitated, or creatively reinterpreted. This article traverses, domesticity, tactile inhabitation, landscape, mythical realms of Indian architecture to the Postmodern architecture of “weak form”.
book review
8. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 36 > Issue: 3/4
André De Tienne Farouk Seif’s Hypostatic Semiotic Metaphysics
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9. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 36 > Issue: 3/4
About the Authors
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10. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 36 > Issue: 1/2
Jamin Pelkey Sebeok Fellows Issue: Vincent Colapietro and Nathan Houser
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vincent colapietro: tenth ssa sebeok fellow
11. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 36 > Issue: 1/2
Vincent Colapietro The Music of Meaning
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This paper begins as a methodological musement inspired by a suggestion made by C. S. Peirce to William James (1905: CP 8.263). It takes his intellectual life as a complex affair displaying a creative tension between what, on the surface, appear to be exclusive impulses. On the one hand, there is the drive to attain the highest level of conceptual clarity humanly possible. This is of course evident in his pragmatism. On the other, there is his seeming dalliance with concepts so vague as to be possibly not concepts at all (arguably only “tones or tints upon conceptions” [Peirce 1901: CP 1.353]). His lifelong devotion to articulating a categoreal scheme is the most telling example of this intellectual propensity. In this paper, following Peirce’s example with respect to his interest in his categories, then, the author gives himself over to the intimations of intelligibility conveyed by the expression “the music of meaning”. From this musing, he then claims more solid ground by offering an explication of Peirce’s theory of interpretants as the place where that theorist’s account of meaning is to be found. Ultimately, he tries to draw together what has emerged, first, in his methodological musement and, then, in subsequent discussions—his three main topics: music, that mysterious form of time; time, that mysterious form of Being; and meaning.
12. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 36 > Issue: 1/2
Vincent Colapietro Theoretical Riffs on the Blues
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After disambiguating the word, the author explores the blues primarily not as a genre of music but as a sensibility or orientation toward the world. In doing so, he is taking seriously suggestions made by a host of writers, most notably, Ralph Waldo Ellison, Amiri Baraka, James Baldwin, and Cornel West. As such, the focus is on the blues as an extended family of somatic practices bearing upon expression (or articulation). At the center of these practices, there is in the blues (to modify Foucault’s words) always the patient yet exuberant work of giving articulate form to our impatience for human freedom. But here the distinction between practices of emancipation, by which a people throws off their political domination, and practices of freedom, by which they tirelessly work to make their freed self truly their own, is crucial. In this, the author is guided by an insight provided by Toni Morrison’s Beloved: “Freeing yourself was one thing; claiming ownership of that freed self was another” (1987: 95). As “an art of ambiguity”, the blues turns out to be also an art of ambivalence: the task of claiming ownership of one’s freed self is one demanding, not only learning to live with irreducible ambiguity but also working toward “an achievement of ambivalence”.
13. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 36 > Issue: 1/2
Vincent Colapietro Gestures of Acknowledgment: Failures, Refusals, and Affirmations
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Gestures are arguably the most pervasive, primordial, and generative of signs. This partly explains why the failure or refusal to gesture in certain ways, in certain circumstances, carries more weight than would seem otherwise comprehensible. Stanley Cavell attends to not only the importance of acknowledgment but also how our failures to acknowledge others amount to nothing less than an “annihilation of the other”. What account of gestures would begin to do justice to the power of such failures to wound humans so deeply? Of course, it is possible to argue that those who are wounded by such slights are hypersensitive. But, given the weight of our experience, this goes only a very short distance toward illuminating the phenomena under consideration. Drawing upon Peirce’s theory of signs, this paper offers a sketch of gestures of acknowledgment, paying close attention to why our failures or refusals to acknowledge others are so powerful.
nathan houser: eleventh ssa sebeok fellow
14. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 36 > Issue: 1/2
Nathan Houser Thinking at the Edges
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The field of semiotic studies requires borders to function as a discipline but as a living science it is essential that those borders be unheeded. When Charles Peirce opened the modern field of semiotic studies he understood that he was an intellectual pioneer preparing the way for future semioticians. Peirce’s decision to equate semiotics with logic would likely seem bizarre to most professional logicians today yet his decision followed naturally from his view that all mental operations are sign actions and that semiosis is inferential. Peirce’s life-long study of sign types eventually led to a detailed, though provisional, classification of sixty-six distinct varieties of semiosis, many of which generate emotions or reactions rather than thoughts. Only twenty-one classes of signs yield interpretants that carry truth values or purport to be truth-preserving; the sign actions associated with these signs constitute the sphere of intellectual semiosis. The remaining forty-five non-intellectual sign classes drive perception and dominate the often unconscious mental operations that support and enrich day-to-day life. But this is also the realm of semiosis where memes flourish, where emoji function, and where propaganda first strikes a chord. This is the semiotic sphere where communal feeling can be engendered, but it is also the sphere of mob psychology. We are in troubled times during which signs are being used strategically to create dissension and social unrest and to generate disrespect for the very institutions that maintain the intelligence and practices that are fundamental for the survival of our way of life. It is time for semioticians to join forces against the weaponization of signs and I believe an investigation of the more primitive non-intellectual sign classes that Peirce identified will help lay the groundwork for the coming battle.
15. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 36 > Issue: 1/2
Nathan Houser Peirce on Practical Reasoning
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It is generally agreed that what distinguishes practical reasoning from more thoughtful reasoning is that practical reasoning properly results in action rather than in conceptual conclusions. There is much disagreement, however, about how appropriate actions follow from practical reasoning and it is commonly supposed that the connection between reasoning and action can neither be truly inferential nor strictly causal. Peirce appears to challenge this common assumption. Although he would agree that conscious and deliberate argumentation results in conceptual conclusions (mental states) rather than directly in practical action, his extended semiotic account of mental activity allows for unconscious (instinctive or habitual) cognitive processing which, though inferential, genuinely concludes in action rather than in conceptual states (logical interpretants). Peirce acknowledges that for practical reasoning to properly conclude in action it is necessary for final (semiotic) causation to operate in conjunction with efficient causation, although how this can be explained remains problematic. Still, his account is rich and promising and has much to contribute to contemporary research on practical reasoning.
16. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 36 > Issue: 1/2
Nathan Houser Semiotics and Philosophy
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Semiotics has not been warmly welcomed as an area of research concentration within philosophy, especially not within philosophy in the English empirical tradition. But when we consider that much of the focus of semiotic research is signification, reference, and representation, it seems evident that semiotic questions are as old as reflective thought itself. A look at how these questions have been treated throughout the history of philosophy suggests that Umberto Eco was right in claiming that most major philosophers have grappled with sign theory, if only implicitly. The theory of signs was an active area of research during the Middle Ages and John Locke opened the Modern Age with the recommendation that semiotics should be cultivated. But the philosophers of Modernity embraced a Cartesian separation between mind and body unsupportive of a robust science of signs. When semiotics emerged as a discrete field of research in the writings of Charles S. Peirce and in the semiology of Ferdinand de Saussure, it remained on the fringes of philosophy. Around mid-20th century there was a resurgence of interest in semiotics and a promising attempt was made to merge American pragmatism and semiotics with the logical empiricism of the Vienna Circle. But that effort failed and semiotics was excluded from mainstream philosophy. There is now reason to suppose that philosophy, no longer under the domination of analytic philosophy, may be moving into a new period when a weakening commitment to epistemological nominalism will make room for a return to semiotic realism. Perhaps the time is right to follow Locke’s lead and to reconcile formal semiotics with philosophy—possibly heralding a new paradigm.
17. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 35 > Issue: 3/4
Steven Skaggs The Semiotics of Visual Identity: Logos
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Visual identity systems allow a visual object to stand for, and provide suggestive expression of, a host. The primary graphic element in a visual identity system is the logo. In three sections, this article explores inportant semiotic mechanisms by which logos perform the work of identifying. The first section points to the difference between basic visual differentiation (boundary coherence) and affective/cognitive reference (semantic coherence). It makes a distinction between two kinds of reference that occur simultaneously in logos: (1) an immediate referencing of the host entity (the entity for which identification is sought), and (2), indirect, reference that is often metaphoric in character. The second section offers a four-part classification scheme for logos based upon a Peircean icon/index/symbol division with the addition of an axis of syntactical detail. A “hidden” class of logo is predicted by this Peircean framework; examples are identified and this class is named “gesturegraphs”. It is argued that this four-part classification scheme is both semiotically necessary and sufficient. Any further classes of logos can be considered subclasses within the four semiotic factors proposed. These classes are not judged to be discrete, but rather to afford blended and combinatorial situations. The rhetorical tropes of metonym and metaphor are discussed in terms of their value to the pictographic mode of logo design. Finally, in the third section of the article, genre is defined as the coherence of stylistic features in relation to the sector of the host’s activity. Two case studies are given as examples of how genre influences the semantical context of logos.
18. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 35 > Issue: 3/4
Massimo Leone Semiotics of Religion: A Map
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The essay proposes a concise map of some of the current research trends in the semiotics of religion. Within the theoretical framework of Peirce’s philosophy of semiosis as interpreted and developed by Umberto Eco, the essay situates the semiotic study of religion at the crossroad of nature and culture and singles out as its main task studying both the abstract level of religious ideologies of signification and the empirical level of religious systems of expression and communication.
19. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 35 > Issue: 3/4
Richard L. Lanigan Crossing Out Normative Boundaries in Psychosis: The Communicology of a Social Semiotic Passage in Dickens’ Bleak House
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The coding function of semiotic-systems in literature is explored as an example of Umberto Eco’s real and fictional protocols in the play of discourse formation (lector in fabula). The intricate phenomenological levels of intersemiotic translation (apposition, opposition, chiasm, zeugma) are illustrated by analyzing a rhetorical passage (semiotic object) from Charles Dickens’ novel Bleak House. The passage on the logic of series (“lists”) allows us to explore fact/fiction, real/imaginary, normal/abnormal, sane/insane, neurotic/psychotic choices as discourse voice protocols (active, middle, passive) for the axiological interpretation (ethic, moral, aesthetic, politic, and rhetoric) of meaning formation (tropes) and signification function (figures). Models of discourse are drawn from Benveniste, Foucault, Greimas, Lévi-Strauss, and Wilden.
20. The American Journal of Semiotics: Volume > 35 > Issue: 3/4
Sally Ann Ness Diagnosing with Light: The Semiotics of Acupoint Biophoton Emissions Testing
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Acupoint Biophoton Emissions Testing (ABET), an alternative diagnostic technique used by practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine, illustrates a case of non-linguistic Delome-level semiosis that is understood to form an interface between endosemiotic and linguistic semiotic levels of human (bio-)communication. Performed manually, the technique employs an array of Hypoiconic and Indexical Symbols that, when used in combination, enable practitioners to “listen in” and learn with biocommunicational processes, re-embodying them in a manner that renders them available to conscious recognition and linguistic representation. The Delome formations of the ABET technique afford the gradual accumulation and transformation of practitioner understanding through sign co-performances that achieve triadic relationality mediationally—prefiguring fully representational forms of learning. They demonstrate embodied capacities for pattern recognition, coordination, exploration, articulation, explication and self-governance that may have evolved in advance of representational sign formations, setting the evolutionary stage for them.