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21. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 47 > Issue: 3/4
Arran Gare Report on the 19th annual Gathering in Biosemiotics in Moscow
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22. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 47 > Issue: 1/2
Anti Randviir From systematic semiotic modelling to pseudointentional reference
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Societies as open social systems work through semiotic modelling systems. We view their relevance for shaping primary and secondary needs, as well as metaneeds that are conditioned in social systems. Through conditioning in socialization, semiotic reality can be naturalized up to a level where we can start speaking about not only unconscious, but also unintentional semiosic activity. By that, the very realm of indexicality will be questioned. If indexicality is conjoined with unintended referentiality, then unintentional semiosis means the blurring and fusion of realities far beyond the so-called simulacral semiotic spaces. It is especially acute in the context of the development of technological availabilities where the physical, the semiotic, and the purely virtual reality merge. That quite novel phenomenon is exemplified by semiotic insularization. What follows is that it is hard to define the research object, for the subject is fading away, the real and the virtual are intermingling also in terms of their inhabitants (biological humans, computer users, avatars, virtual identities). Thus the pragmatic dimension of semiotics is gradually becoming lost. Also, the referential reality is moving farther from the informational space created and represented in “traditional” discursive flows, rather becoming based on pseudoreferential clues of meaning making.
23. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 47 > Issue: 1/2
E. Israel Chavez Barreto Funktionskreis and the stratifi cational model of semiotic structures: Jakob von Uexküll, Luis Prieto and Louis Hjelmslev
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The main aim of this article is to show how a possible theoretical articulation between Uexkull’s notion of Funktionskreis and the stratificational model of semiotic structures proposed by Louis Hjelmslev can be made. In order to bridge the gap between these two models, Luis Prieto’s model of cognition will be used. The advantage of Prieto’s model is that it retains the Hjelmslevian stratificational ideas (i.e. a semiotic structure is made up of an expression and a content plane, each one with a dimension of form and substance), while it also pays attention to agency and practice. To put it briefly, according to Prieto the foundation of practice and knowledge is to be found on aisthesis. Hence, as in Uexküll, there is a way to merge action with perception, while retaining the semiotic structure that makes such a merging possible. The key point, however, is that Prieto’s model calls for an “ontological commitment” to the substance strata (both in expression and in content to some extent). Therefore, bridging Uexküll and Hjelmslev via Prieto suggests a possible way to provide a general structural model of semiosis which is closer to semiotic realism than to immanentism usually attributed to structuralism.
24. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 47 > Issue: 1/2
Kalevi Kull Steps towards the natural meronomy and taxonomy of semiosis: Emon between index and symbol?
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The main aim of this brief and purposely radical essay is to investigate further possibilities for empirical research in natural classification of semiosis (signs as wholes). Before introducing emon – a missing term in the taxonomy of signs – we make a distinction between the natural and artificial, and between the taxonomic and meronomic classifications of signs. Natural classifications or typologies are empirically based, while artificial classifications do not require empirical test. Meronomy describes the relational or functional structure of the whole (for instance triadic, circular, etc. composition of sign), while taxonomy categorizes individuals (individual signs). We argue that a natural taxonomy of signs can be based on the existence of different complexity of operations during semiosis, which implies different mechanisms of learning. We add into the taxonomy a particular type of signs – emonic signs, which are at work in imitation and social learning, while being more complex than indexes and less complex than symbols. Icons are related to imprinting, indexes to conditioning, emons to imitating, and symbols to conventions or naming. We also argue that the semiotic typologies could undergo large changes after the discovery of the proper mechanisms or workings of semiosis.
25. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 47 > Issue: 1/2
Ott Puumeister Biopolitical subjectification
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The article proposes a semiotic interpretation of the concept of biopolitics. Instead of a politics that takes “life itself ” as its object and, as a result, separates life as an object from subjects, biopolitics is read as subjectification – a governmental rationality that constructs social ways of being and forms of life, that is, social subjectivities. The article articulates this position on the basis of two concepts: Jakob von Uexküll’s umwelt and Michel Foucault’s dispositive. While the former makes it possible to show that the process of life can be conceptualized as subjectification, the latter enables us to argue against an interpretation of biopolitics as a totalized structure of power intervening directly, without semiotic mediation, into “life itself ”.
26. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 47 > Issue: 1/2
Andreas Ventsel, Mari-Liis Madisson Semiotics of threats: Discourse on the vulnerability of the Estonian identity card
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This article analyses various e-threats that were expressed in media texts that focused on e-threat discourses concerning the Estonian identity card’s security risk in 2017. The discourse of cyberthreats contains strong and controversial meanings because the peculiarities of cyberspace remain intangible for average readers who do not possess expert knowledge regarding ICT. The wider aim of the paper is to suggest how the topic of e-threats could be given public coverage without fuelling irrational anxiety and unwarranted threat scenarios. Our theoretical basis combines the frameworks of the Copenhagen School of security studies and ideas of cultural semiotics. We explain the semiotic logic of phobophobia (i.e. the abstract concern with the devastating impacts of the collective feeling of fear) and the discourse of fear that is characterized by a significant reliance on analogies, drawing vague demarcation line between reference objects and the dominance of negative emotional tonality. Our study demonstrates that the main actors of threat and the consequences of the identity card’s security problems were associated with unknown hackers and the damaging of the reputation of Estonia as an e-state.
27. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 47 > Issue: 1/2
Maarja Ojamaa, Peeter Torop, Alexandr Fadeev, Alexandra Milyakina, Tatjana Pilipovec Culture as education: From transmediality to transdisciplinary pedagogy
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For the past three years, the Transmedia Research Group at the Department of Semiotics, University of Tartu, has been developing open access online materials for supporting the teaching of humanities-related subjects in Estonian- and Russian-language secondary schools. This paper maps the theoretical and conceptual starting points of these materials. The overarching goal of the educational platforms is to support cultural coherence and autocommunication by cultivating literacies necessary for holding meaningful dialogues with cultural heritage. To achieve the goal, the authors have been seeking ways of purposeful harnessing of transmedial, crossmedial and other tools offered by the contemporary digital communication space. We have started with an understanding of culture as education – a model which is grounded in cultural semiotics and highlights the role of cultural experience and cultural self-description in learning literacies. From these premises we proceed to explicating the value of a transdisciplinary pedagogy for methodical translation of the theoretical concepts into practical solutions in teaching and learning culture.
28. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 47 > Issue: 1/2
Martin Oja On the concept of the deceptive trailer: Trailer as paratext and multimodal model of film
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The goal of the article is to contribute to the basic framework of the semiotic study of film trailers, approaching the trailer as a model of film. Discussing the signifying relations between the trailer and the film, I clarify mechanisms through which meta- or paratexts model their source texts and shape their reception. As examples, two cases in which trailers appear to be deceptive about the film’s genre are closely looked upon as the multimodal construction of the trailers of Alejandro G. Inarritu’s Birdman and Nicolas Winding Refn’s Only God Forgives is analysed. Following Lisa Kernan and Keith Johnston, the film’s genre is seen as the central type of information communicated by the trailer. In this context, genre is understood as dominant in the sense of Roman Jakobson. I propose dominant as the crucial concept: examining incoherences between the dominants of the film and its trailer makes it possible to conduct a closer analysis of the misleading model-making and to predict possible disappointment in the viewing experience.
29. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 47 > Issue: 1/2
Jason Mario Dydynski, Nelly Maekivi Darwin’s antithesis revisited – a zoosemiotic perspective on expressing emotions in animals and animal cartoon characters
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In the animation and design of cartoon characters, animators have often turned to the study of biological theories and observation of human actors and animals to capture lifelike movements and emotions more successfully. Charles Darwin’s principle of antithesis, as one of the principles he considered to be responsible for the expression of emotions in animals, would seem to be of distinctive importance in the development of animation. By revisiting Darwin’s original idea in the context of the principles of animation formulated by Thomas and Johnston, we are able to assess its application and relevance in the expressions of emotions in cartoon animal characters. The article concentrates on the emotive function of animal social communication as outlined in zoosemiotics, while taking into account that the expressions of animal characters are directed at the viewer. The principle of antithesis, as a descriptive tool, aids us in considering the diversity of modalities used simultaneously in affective communication, and serves to explicate human interpretations of the anthropomorphic and zoomorphic projections onto the behaviour of cartoon animal characters. This paper offers insight into the potential expansion and re-evaluation of unattested principles in animation, which can be utilized by animators in the creation of more dynamic and expressive animated characters.
30. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 47 > Issue: 1/2
Riin Magnus, Heldur Sander Urban trees as social triggers: The case of the Ginkgo biloba specimen in Tallinn, Estonia
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Urban trees are considered to be essential and integral to urban environments, to contribute to the biodiversity of cities as well as to the well-being of their inhabitants. In addition, urban trees may also serve as living memorials, helping to remember major social eruptions and to cement continuity with the past, but also as social disruptors that can induce clashes between different ideals of culture. In this paper, we focus on a specific case, a Ginkgo biloba specimen growing at Suda Street in the centre of Tallinn, in order to demonstrate how the shifts in the meaning attributed to a non-human organism can shape cultural memory and underlie social confrontations. Integrating an ecosemiotic approach to human-non-human interactions with Juri Lotman’s approach to cultural memory and cultural space, we point out how non-human organisms can delimit cultural space at different times and how the ideal of culture is shaped by different ways of incorporating or other species in the human cultural ideal or excluding them from it.
31. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 47 > Issue: 1/2
Lauri Linask Vygotsky’s natural history of signs
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The paper organizes the topic of signs in Lev Vygotsky’s various writings into a coherent whole in order to study signs’ role in child development. Vygotsky related conventional signs that have their origin in interpersonal communication, and are subject to cultural history taking place over generations during historical time, to psychological functioning of individual human beings. Vygotsky’s “natural history of signs” is the study of how symbolic activity appears and develops. The paper outlines the process of inclusion of symbols within the behaviour of the child and gives an account of various changes in psychological functions and their interrelations that it brings along. In cultural development specifically human forms of behaviour appear, and children’s relationship to social and material environment is changed qualitatively. Vygotsky outlines the formation of sign use and analyses its developmental steps. Vygotsky’s approach explains how the use of various sign systems shapes both the cognitive processes in the person, the child, and the cognitive development as a whole. Vygotsky’s approach to signs is presented within the conceptual framework of its time.
32. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 47 > Issue: 1/2
Sébastien Moret Jakob Linzbach on his life and work
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The Estonian scholar Jakob Linzbach is primarily known for having published, in 1916, a Russian-language book with the title The Principles of Philosophical Language: An Attempt at Exact Linguistics. In this book, and in his other published and unpublished works, he aimed at creating a universal written language in which mathematics and images would mix. Linzbach’s ideas have raised awareness among people from different (scholarly) fields – semiotics, interlinguistics, philosophy, cinema theory, informatics, etc. However, not much has been published about Linzbach’s life. In one of his manuscripts kept in Tartu, there is a chapter that can be considered an autobiography and that provided, in the pencil of Linzbach himself, information about his life and work. This text is edited, translated into English and commented here for the first time.
33. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 47 > Issue: 1/2
Yurij Lekomtsev On the semiotic aspects of visual arts
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34. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 46 > Issue: 4
Alin Olteanu, Andrew Stables Learning and adaptation from a semiotic perspective
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Th is paper discusses the relation between learning and adaptation, arguing that the current state of the art in semiotics suggests a continuity between the two. An overview of the relevant theories in this regard, as considered in semiotics, reveals an embodied and environmental account of learning, where language plays an important but nevertheless limited role. Learning and adaptation are seen as inseparable cases of semiotic modelling. Such a construal of these opens up new pathways towards a nondualist philosophy and theory of education.
35. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 46 > Issue: 4
Eetu Pikkarainen Adaptation, learning, Bildung: Discussion with edu- and biosemiotics
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Learning and adaptation are central problems to both edusemiotics, or semiotics of education, and biosemiotics. Bildung, as an especially human way or form of learning, and evolution as the main form of adaptation for many biologists after Darwin are often regarded as mutually exclusive concepts even though human beings are undeniably one biological species among others. In this article I will try to build a bridge between the biosemiotical, edusemiotical and Bildung-theoretical stances. Central to this discussion is biosemiotician Kalevi Kull and some of his recent publications where he considers adaptation, evolution and learning. The primary theoretical resource that I utilize here, in addition to the general Greimassian, edusemiotical and Bildungtheoretical starting points, is perceptual control theory (PCT) to which I compare the Uexkullian conception of functional circle.
36. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 46 > Issue: 4
Kalevi Kull Choosing and learning: Semiosis means choice
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We examine the possibility of shifting the concept of choice to the centre of the semiotic theory of learning. Thus, we define sign process (meaning-making) through the concept of choice: semiosis is the process of making choices between simultaneously provided options. We define semiotic learning as leaving traces by choices, while these traces influence further choices. We term such traces of choices memory. Further modification of these traces (constraints) will be called habituation. Organic needs are homeostatic mechanisms coupled with choice-making. Needs and habits result in motivatedness. Semiosis as choice-making can be seen as a complementary description of the Peircean triadic model of semiosis; however, this can fit also the models of meaning-making worked out in other shools of semiotics. We also provide a sketch for a joint typology of semiosis and learning.
37. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 46 > Issue: 4
Jamin Pelkey Emptiness and desire in the first rule of logic
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Charles Sanders Peirce’s first rule of logic (EP 2.48, 1898) identifies the inception point of human inquiry. Taking a closer look at this principle, we find at its core a necessary relationship between emptiness and desire that underlies all genuine instances of human learning and adaptation. This composite relationship plays a critical role in the function or failure of learning but has received scant attention in the literature. As a result, the complexities of the first rule of logic are not well understood, often being mistakenly conflated with the rule’s famous corollary, ‘do not block the way of inquiry’, or passed over with cursory definitions, including ‘wonder’, ‘doubt’ and ‘the will to learn’. Following a background discussion highlighting the nature of reflexive inquiry and fallibilism that situate human consciousness both within and beyond animal being, I draw on multiple layers of evidence from a range of disciplines to better reveal the complex dynamics intrinsic to the first rule of logic. These layers include a closer reading and exegesis of the original passage and surrounding text; a semiotic reanalysis of this reading in light of recent advances in the semiotic theory of learning; a resituation of these distinctions within broader contemporary discussions of emptiness ontology to which I contribute in part via an original semantic/rhetorical analysis of a linguistic construction in Laozi; the introduction of a closely related pedagogical tool under development in the context of my own university-level teaching in ethnography and research methods; and the dialogic situation of this diagram within discourses of psychotherapy, philosophy and literature. Building on these principles and distinctions, the paper closes with a perspective shift on obstacles and desire in human learning and an expanded reformulation of the first rule of logic.
38. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 46 > Issue: 4
John Tredinnick-Rowe Can semiotics be used to drive paradigm changes in medical education?
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This essay sets out to explain how educational semiotics as a discipline can be used to reform medical education and assessment. This is in response to an ongoing paradigm shift in medical education and assessment that seeks to integrate more qualitative, ethical and professional aspects of medicine into curricula, and develop ways to assess them. This paper suggests that a method to drive this paradigm change might be found in the Peircean idea of suprasubjectivity. This semiotic concept is rooted in the scholastic philosophy of John of St Thomas, but has been reintroduced to modern semiotics through the works of John Deely, Alin Olteanu and, most notably, Charles Sanders Peirce. I approach this task as both a medical educator and a semiotician. In this paper, I provide background information about medical education, paradigm shift s, and the concept of suprasubjectivity in relation to modern educational semiotic literature. I conclude by giving examples of what a suprasubjective approach to medical education and assessment might look like. I do this by drawing an equivalence between the notion of threshold concepts and suprasubjectivity, demonstrating the similarities between their positions. Fundamentally, medical education suffers from tensions of teaching trainee doctors the correct balance of biological science and situational ethics/judgement. In the transcendence of mind-dependent and mind-independent being the scholastic philosophy of John of St Thomas may be exactly the solution medicine needs to overcome this dichotomy.
39. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 46 > Issue: 4
Lauri Linask Differentiation of language functions during language acquisition based on Roman Jakobson’s communication model
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The paper uses Roman Jakobson’s conceptual framework to study the development of communication of children. It sets out to explain how cardinal functions of verbal messages – referential, emotive, conative, phatic, metalingual and poetic – understood in terms of Jakobson’s communication model – progressively differentiate during children’s language acquisition. The differentiation of these functions is apparent in changes in children’s use of language, as it corresponds to the gradual formation and adoption of various linguistic structures in the development of speech. Children’s acquisition of the use of grammatical subject and predicate, corresponding to the appearance of specifically metalingual speech, among other linguistic structures, is related to children’s adaptation to the linguistic environment. The article relates differentiation of metalingual and poetic functions to the development of children’s thinking using the example of crib talk.
40. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 46 > Issue: 4
Cary Campbell Returning ‘learning’ to education: Toward an ecological conception of learning and teaching
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This article describes a notion of learning as adaptive semiotic-growth. In line with the theme of this special issue, learning will be approached on a broad ecological and evolutionary continuum – most generally expressed as a form of adaptation to the environment. Viewing learning through the criterion of signification (semiosis) means that learning is continuous across the entire biological realm. Both the life process and the learning process are expressed through forms of semiotic-engagement and involve continual adaptation and meaning-making. Thus, learning cannot be seen as unique to humans. Learning is more broadly ecological before it is “cultural”. From here we can imagine educational institutions as forms of exaptation, that evolved naturally to channel learning more effectively. Thinking of learning on an ecological continuum means that learning cannot be “located” or pinned down easily in educational research or practice. Rather, learning has a sporadic identity; it is emergent in the specificity of events and must be discerned within the practices that enact it. Realizing learning as something emergently enacted in the educative encounter, and not something that can be determined and implemented, allows us to resist turning learning into an accountability tool that can easily be used towards ideological ends.