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101. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 44 > Issue: 4
Kalevi Kull What kind of evolutionary biology suits cultural research?
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102. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 44 > Issue: 3
Mattia Thibault Lotman and play: For a theory of playfulness based on semiotics of culture
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The aim of the article is to introduce an approach to play based on semiotics of culture and, in particular, grounded in the works and ideas of Juri Lotman. On the one hand, it provides an overview of Lotman’s works dedicated to play and games, starting from his article on art among other modelling systems, in which the phenomenon of play is treated deeply, and mentioning Lotman’s articles dedicated to various forms of play forms, such as involving dolls and playing cards. On the other hand, it applies a few Lotmanian theories and ideas to playfulness in order to shed some light on this highly debated, as well as intriguing, anthropic activity. Thus, the paper approaches some of the core questions for a play theory, such as the definition of play, the cultural role of toys and playthings, the importance of unpredictability, the position held by playfulness in the semiosphere and, finally, the differences and commonalities between play and art. Lotman’s theories and works, often integrated by other existing semiotic or ludologic perspectives offer an extremely insightful and fresh take on play and illustrate the great heuristic potential of semiotics of culture.
103. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 44 > Issue: 3
Mari-Liis Madisson, Andreas Ventsel Autocommunicative meaning-making in online communication of the Estonian extreme right
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This article analyses the online communication of the Estonian extreme right that appears to be characterized by an echo-chamber effect as well as enclosed and hermetic meaning-making. The discussion mainly relies on the theoretical frameworks offered by semiotics of culture.One of the aims of the article is to widen the scope of understanding of autocommunicative processes that are usually related to learning, insight and innovation. The article shows the conditions in which autocommunicative processes result in closed interactions, based on reproducing stereotypes and redundant content. We detect antithetical meaning-making, an orientation towards normative (“correct”) texts and the prevalence of phatic communication as the main dominants that guide closed autocommunication. Such communication leads to polarization of dissimilar views and hinders dialogue. Our case study focuses on the discussion that arose in the context of the European Refugee Crisis that started in spring 2015.
104. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 44 > Issue: 3
Jeoffrey Gaspard Discourse genres as determiners of discursive regularities: A case of semiotic predictability?
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This article focuses on discursive regularities that can generally be observed in text corpora produced in similar communication situations (medical interviews, political debates, teaching classes, etc.). One type of such regularities is related to the so-called ‘discourse genres’, considered as a set of tacit instructions broadly constraining the forms of utterances in a given discursive practice. Those regularities highlight the relatively regulated, non-random nature of most of our discursive practices and epitomize the necessary constrained creativity of meaning making in discourse. In this perspective, we suggest that the concepts of Thirdness and Habit, as theorized by Charles S. Peirce, can be fruitful in describing the role and importance of such regularities in our sociodiscursive life. More specifically, we believe that discourse regularities are ideal case studies if one wishes to investigate instances of predictability in semiotic (discursive) processes. Overall, we suggest that their study can be one of many research orientations through which a prediction-based scientific conception of semiotics could be applied.
105. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 44 > Issue: 3
Igor Pilshchikov, Mikhail Trunin The Tartu-Moscow School of Semiotics: A transnational perspective
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This paper seeks to situate the Tartu-Moscow School of Semiotics of the 1960–1980s within the larger European intellectual-historical context from which it sprang, and in which it played a vital role. Analysing the school members’ engagement with their peers throughout Europe, we outline an “entangled history” (histoire croisee) of multi-directional scientific and philosophical influence. In this perspective, we discuss the most productive concepts and methods of Tartu-Moscow semiotics in the fields of general verse theory, intertextual theory and cultural theory.
106. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 44 > Issue: 3
Patrick Sériot Barthes and Lotman: Ideology vs culture
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Despite both being great names in semiotics, Roland Barthes and Juri Lotman have more differences than they share similarities – not only because of their different political and historico-cultural environments, but also because they do not have the same object of study: it is ‘ideology’ for Barthes, and ‘culture’ for Lotman. Thus, there is no intellectual common ground between them, yet comparing them can lead us to a more important question: what is semiotics, and what has structuralism to do with it?
107. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 44 > Issue: 3
Pierluigi Basso Fossali From paradigm to environment: The foreign rhythm and punctual catalysis of culture
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Lotman and Barthes created two different critically oriented semiotic traditions. Both of them wen t through an evolution in their thought, moving from systematic organization to living transformations in cultural systems. This allowed them to carry out a bilateral critique of codes and identities in favour of either anonymous hybridity (Lotman) or neutrality (Barthes), where heterogeneity becomes a principle of creative “disorder”. Though quite different as regards their theoretical production, both scholars meet in their refusal to turn descriptive practices (studium) into a model of any other form of behaviour, considering that the determination of textual or institutional perimetres is not always clear. In short, Barthes and Lotman anticipated current research trends on the semiotics of practices; Barthes because of a sort of self-reflexion on the behaviour of the interpreter in front of an object, and Lotman through his analytic interest in attitudes and ways of living.Barthes’s view on writing essentially reaches Lotman’s conception of culture as a “collective person”: we are looking for traces of breathing in the life of signs. More precisely, we can assert that, in the view of both scholars, inscribing speech events in history problematizes the dynamic and asynchronous relation between the structural frame of a culture and its textual heritage. The rhythm of fashion is not a side topic in their research, but, rather, it is the clearest exemplification of a dialectic between structural projection from the outside and local introjection of forms, depending on the conditions that make a difference.
108. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 44 > Issue: 3
Daniele Monticelli Critique of ideology or/and analysis of culture?: Barthes and Lotman on secondary semiotic systems
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The article compares Roland Barthes’s and Juri Lotman’s notions of ‘second-order semiological systems’ [systemes semiologique seconds] and ‘secondary modelling systems’ [вторичные моделирующие системы]. It investigates the shared presuppositions of the two theories and their important divergences from each other, explaining them in terms of the opposite strategic roles that the notions of ‘ideology’ and ‘culture’ play in the work of Barthes and Lotman, respectively. The immersion of secondary modelling systems in culture as a “system of systems” characterized by internal heterogeneity, allows Lotman to evidence their positive creative potential: the result of the tensions arising from cultural systemic plurality and heterogeneity may coincide with the emergence of new, unpredictable meanings in translation. The context of Barthes’s second-order semiological systems is instead provided by highly homogeneous ideological frames that appropriate the signs of the first-order system and make them into forms for significations which confirm, reproduce and transmit previously existing information generated by hegemonic social and cultural discourses. The article shows how these differences resurface and, partially, fade away in the theories of the text that Barthes and Lotman elaborated in the 1970s. The discussion is concluded by some remarks on the possible topicality of Barthes’s and Lotman’s approaches for contemporary semiotics and the humanities in general.
109. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 44 > Issue: 3
Hassib Elkouch Juri Lotman in Arabic: A bibliography
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110. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 44 > Issue: 3
Kalevi Kull Need for impressions: Zoosemiotics and zoosemiotics, by Aleksei Turovski
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111. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 44 > Issue: 1/2
Lauri Linask, Riin Magnus Introduction: Framing nature and culture
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112. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 44 > Issue: 1/2
Ernest W. B. Hess-Luttich Urban discourse – city space, city language, city planning: Eco-semiotic approaches to the discourse analysis of urban renewal
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Sustainable Urban Planning has to be understood as a communicative process connecting city architecture, technology, city district management and social infrastructure of neighbourhoods. The focus on sustainability raises the question of the necessary discourse conditions that allow architects and city planners enter into a dialogue with other urban stakeholders, citizens, local administrators and politicians, and discuss which cultural heritage should be preserved and where sustainability takes precedence. Looking at the style of discourse in urban communication brings also its socio-cultural modalities into focus. At the intersection of communication and discourse studies, urban ecology and sociology, the article focuses on the growing interest in architectural communication and, taking current approaches as a starting point, seeks to clarify which conversational maxims and discourse requirements by mediation, moderation, and integration are promising for achieving a new urban quality.
113. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 44 > Issue: 1/2
Tiit Remm Textualities of the city – from the legibility of urban space towards social and natural others in planning
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‘Text’ has been a frequent notion in analytical conceptualizations of landscape and the city. It is mostly found in analyses of textual representations or suggestions concerning a metaphor of “reading” an (urban) landscape. In the Tartu-Moscow School of Semiotics the idea of the text of St. Petersburg has also been applied in analysing particular cities as organizing topics in literature and in culture more widely, but it has not happened to an equal degree in studies of actual urban spaces. The understanding of text as a semiotic system and mechanism is, however, more promising than revealed by these conceptions. Some potential can be made apparent by relating this textual paradigm to a more pragmatic understanding of the city and its planning. My project in this paper is to uncover an analytical framework focusing on the concepts of ‘text’, ‘textualization’ and ‘texting’ in studying the planning of urban environment. The paper observes the case of the urban planning process of the Tartu city centre in Estonia during 2010–2016, and is particularly concerned with the roles that urban nature has acquired in the process of this “textualization” of the local environment, societal ideals, practices and possible others.
114. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 44 > Issue: 1/2
Katarzyna Kaczmarczyk, Montana Salvoni Hedge mazes and landscape gardens as cultural boundary objects
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Despite their obvious functional and stylistic differences, hedge mazes and English landscape gardens have salient symbolic and structural similarities which make them fruitful objects of comparative analysis. Both invert the norms expected of interior and exterior spaces, of human cultivation and “wilderness”, creating landscapes of semiotic uncertainty. Being at once natural and cultural, both types of space present a “problem to be solved” either by reaching a centre or understanding a layout. Both “play” with the notion of boundary by constructing uncrossable and at times oppressive walls from seemingly fragile plant matter or by hiding their boundaries. At the same time there are important differences which make this comparison of boundary spaces even more interesting: hedge mazes and landscape gardens are distinguishable by their respective structural levels, the presence or absence of a centre, their relation to other parts of gardens and connected human habitations.Using Juri Lotman’s notion of hybrid and transitional objects characteristic of boundary mechanisms, this paper explores the semiotically dense nature-culture boundary which these mazes and gardens both inhabit and create. The objects of our analysis are 17th-century English mazes and early English gardens dating from the beginning of the 18th century: mazes at Longleat and Hampton Court, and landscape gardens such as Rousham and Stowe.
115. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 44 > Issue: 1/2
Matthew Clements The circle and the maze: Two images of ecosemiotics
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This article compares the work of Jakob von Uexkull and Charles S. Peirce to elucidate two contrasting yet connected images of ecosemiotics. The intent is not simply to oppose their work, but to explore a tension which has implications for the ethical dimension of this emerging discipline. Uexkull’s functional cycle is associated with the image of a circle, which, while emphasizing the integration of organism and environment, is shown to invoke solipsism, and an overly deterministic depiction of ecological relations. Peirce’s drawing of a labyrinth is taken to represent a maze, which, while exemplifying the evolutionary play of ecosystems, may entail a level of unpredictability that is catastrophically chaotic. The root of these diverging depictions is identified with the role of subjectivity in engendering semiotic relations in the work of both Uexkull and Peirce. Where the more regressive aspects of Uexkull’s theoretical biology are mitigated by a teleological interpretation of life’s underlying causality, orientating agency within Peirce’s work depends upon attention to the idea of the self in his philosophy of signs. In conclusion, Eduardo Kohn’s conception of an ‘ecology of selves’ is cited, and the status of the organism as a living symbol of its environment is reaffirmed.
116. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 44 > Issue: 1/2
Yogi Hale Hendlin Multiplicity and Welt
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This article interprets Jakob von Uexkull’s understanding of different beings’ Innenwelt, Gegenwelt, and umwelt through Deleuzian insights of multiplicity, context, and particularity. This Deleuzian interpolation into Uexkull’s insights acknowledges the absence of a unitary ‘human’ view of nature, recognizing instead that plural viewpoints of cultures, subgroups and individuals understand and interpret natural signs variously not just because of ideology but because of physiology and contrastive fundamental ways of accessing the world. Recent formative research in comparative neurobiology suggests that universal anthropological claims of cross-cultural semiotic similarity are incorrect.Interpreting biosemiotics as the investigation of apprehending the Innenwelt of radically different others (species), such semiotic understandings themselves are not necessarily generalizable between different members of the same species in a group, same-species groups in different natural cultural contexts, or even (as with humans) the same animal at different points of time (based on new understandings, patterns, or events of meaning altering interpretations of self and events). Conjoining Deleuze’s insights of the complexity of multiplicity with Uexkull’s scientific-imaginative system of comprehending other creatures’ ways of understanding their world offers an increased self-reflexivity regarding the simultaneous levels of actual semiotic activity for biosemiotic inquiry.
117. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 44 > Issue: 1/2
Rebecca C. Potter The biosemiotics of Aldo Leopold
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Responding to Jean-Claude Gens’ article, “Uexkull’s Kompositionslehre and Leopold’s ‘land ethic’ in dialogue”, which appeared in Sign Systems Studies in 2013, the article further develops a direct connection between Aldo Leopold’s approach to ecology and Jakob von Uexkull’s umwelt theory. The connection between Uexkull and Leopold is especially evident in Leopold’s descriptions of animal behaviour that he presents in the first part of his seminal work, A Sand County Almanac. In this work specifically, Leopold illustrates the biosemiotic processes described by Uexkull, and does so with a purpose: to reshape our understanding of the biotic community as a place of semiotic interaction.
118. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 44 > Issue: 1/2
Wojciech Kalaga Against the Frame
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The paper explores theoretical foundations of the frame from two semiotic perspectives: that of the Saussurean dyadic sign dominant in the European tradition and that of the triadic sign of the Peircean/American descent. If – within the post-Saussurean agenda – meaning can be fairly easily “framed” and closed in the field of the signified, Peirce’s concepts of interpretant and infinite semiosis implement a mechanism which inherently obliterates the frame. Given this duality of approaches, the contention “No meaning without a frame” is thus true and paradoxical at the same time, and that paradox goes far beyond the Derridean concept of the parergon, which only belongs to both the inside and the outside. The frame, as construed in this paper, is not merely a material or imaginary, inactive partition, but is itself an operational agent which isolates and delineates a text ontologically as the other of the context, and simultaneously subverts that otherness by necessitating further semiosis and its own partial self-erasure. Regarding the interrelations amongst texts and between text and context, the frame is thus envisaged, and investigated in the paper, not so much as a factor of resistance or separation, but as an osmotic boundary facilitating rather than preventing a bi-directional flow of meanings. Putting this in epistemological terms, one may say that interpretation – paradoxically again – requires an enframing of its object, but at the same time it dissolves the stipulated frame and reaches beyond it.
119. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 44 > Issue: 1/2
Pierre-Louis Patoine, Jonathan Hope Literature as a defining trait of the human umwelt: From and beyond Heidegger
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Writers and readers of literature are, among other things, biological entities that evolve under particular political (geographical/historical) conditions. A comparative study of certain texts by Martin Heidegger (1889–1976) can help us establish a fruitful interpretation of this threefold link between literary art, biology and politics. However, careful analysis reveals that Heidegger remains too rooted in an old-world, nationalistic and anthropocentric paradigm. We will attempt to rethink Heidegger’s assumptions on the grounds that literature, a cultural practice, enables us to delineate our natural environment. By reformulating Heidegger’s line of thought, we can more precisely address the plural structure of our biotic and political-literary experiences.
120. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 44 > Issue: 1/2
Ott Heinapuu Agrarian rituals giving way to Romantic motifs: Sacred natural sites in Estonia
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Semiotic mechanisms involving sacred natural sites – or areas of land or water with special spiritual significance – that have been focal points in agrarian vernacular religion have been transformed in modern Estonian culture. Some sites have accrued new significance as national monuments or tourist attractions and the dominant way of conceptualizing these sites has changed.Sacred natural sites should not be presumed to represent pristine nature. Rather, they are products of complex culture-nature interactions as they have been formed in the course of traditional land management as well as different semiotic practices, including ritual and conservationist ones. The existence of sites encompassed by the term defies and blurs the rigid distinction between nature and culture.Individual sacred natural sites and categories of such sites can act as signifiers for a variety of different signifieds concurrently, acting as confluences of different sign systems and thus exemplifying the creolization of these systems as well as bringing about the hybridization of different landscape traditions in certain loci.Estonian literary culture has adopted motifs and narratives that define sacred natural sites more readily from other literary traditions than from the Estonian vernacular tradition; in turn, the vernacular tradition has also adopted and assimilated literary Romantic motifs.