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41. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 48 > Issue: 2/4
Mehmet Emir Uslu

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The aim of this article is to expand on the concept of semiocide which, in broad terms, is the destruction of signs and semiosis. Taking its point of departure from Ivar Puura’s article on the concept, this essay attempts to find conceptual parallels and historical examples of the term, expanding its range through a critique of its original conception. Departing from the initial conservatism of Puura’s definition, the article will argue for a more diverse understanding of the term, suggesting a view that positions semiocide not just as a descriptor for lamentable losses, but also as a potential avenue for emancipatory praxis, whereby established, hegemonic and oppressive meanings can be undermined and new possibilities of representation and identity explored.
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42. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 48 > Issue: 2/4
Kristian Bankov

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This paper explores digital culture with the tools of cultural semiotics in general, and then employing the semiosphere model in particular. Web 2.0 platforms are taken as the major cultural dispositive of our time, as the most representative way in which the internet shapes digital culture. Most of the global population is currently immersed in digital culture. In the first part of the paper the striking similarities between Web 2.0 platforms and the semiosphere are explored and equivalences between the elements of the classic (Lotman’s) semiotic model and these platforms, or platfospheres, are identified. The second part explores the fundamental difference between the “genetic code” at the centre of the semiosphere (as conceived by Lotman), and the computer code and commercial algorithms at the core of the platfospheres that are responsible for their cultural operation. Then the parallels are examined that arise between the past cultural reality, in which the intellectual elite and academics were the driving force of culture, and the contemporary proactive (or even aggressive) core of the platfospheres, in which secret and patent-protected algorithms shape a cultural reality exclusively motivated by the logic of commercial success.
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43. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 48 > Issue: 2/4
Stephen Pax Leonard

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Attempts have been made to examine how speakers frame linguistic varieties by employing social semiotic models. Using ethnographic data collected over many years, this article applies such a model to Iceland, once described as the ‘e-coli of linguistics’ – its size, historical isolation and relative linguistic homogeneity create conditions akin to a sociolinguistic laboratory. This semiotic model of language ideologies problematizes the prevailing discourse of linguistic purism at a time of sociolinguistic upheaval. The analysis shows how an essentializing scheme at the heart of Icelandic language policy ensured that linguistic “anomalies” such as “dative disease” and “genitive phobia” indexed essential differences. “Impure” language was indicative of un-Icelandicness. Once monolingual (indeed monodialectal), the Icelandic speech community is increasingly characterized by innovative linguistic transgressions which thus far have not been instrumentalized by language policy makers. It is shown how a semiotic model can help us analyse the function of language ideologies more generally.
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44. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 48 > Issue: 2/4
Erik Kõvamees

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The main objective of this article is to combine Juri Lotman’s theory of the semiosphere – including its concepts of boundary, core, and periphery – with Erving Goffman’s theory of the total institution. The purpose is to develop a framework conducive to examining the prison as an object of study, equally emphasizing both its internal as well as external relations. This work positions itself within the contexts of the relative decline of the field of prison ethnography, few or no studies done applying semiotic metalanguage to the prison or the total institution, and none applying the theory of the semiosphere to either. This work is oriented according to an analytical or neutral mode; its point is not to offer a normative programme, but to offer a new description of the research object and a new language of description in which to speak of this object. The secondary objectives of this article include demonstrating that Lotman’s theory of the semiosphere and Goffman’s theory of the total institution are compatible, that Lotman’s theory actually refines Goffman’s original, that Lotman’s theory taken independently and Goffman’s theory as refined by Lotman’s are both compatible with the direction of contemporary prison ethnography, and that the framework presented in this work has the potential to reinvigorate the field of prison ethnography.
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45. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 48 > Issue: 2/4
Katalin Kroó

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In the paper, Dostoevsky’s novella Notes from the Underground is interpreted through the conceptualization of literary tradition within a semiotic framework, from three interconnected angles: the interpretation of (1) the discursive forms of negation (apophatism); (2) the semantization of the idea of ‘plenitude’ (fullness, totality, completeness); (3) the text’s concentrated reflection on the semiotic nature of the modelled world and its (meta) poetic language. Apophatic poetics calls attention to the conflictual relationship between the signifier and the signified, including the paradoxical situation in which intensive sign articulation/expression is given to some substance considered to be unexpressable. Signification here strives to gain epistemological knowledge about the potentials of the existence of personality through its definition in terms of non-existence or ambivalent, unproductive existence. Тhe character definition, putting in centre stage – within the problematics of personhood and personality – the protagonist’s desire to achieve the state of plenitude, also gains a semiotic orientation through the conflict between being endowed with vs. being deprived of individual semantic attributes accorded to the object of cognition (individualization vs. generalization). The paper examines the semantic modelling of ‘plenitude’ and explains the various means that this model is discredited by the object’s lack of individual semantic attributes in (a) causality; (b) temporal segmentation; (c) the forms of exhaustive detailing. Individual object identification is also interpreted as preserving oppositions at the levels of literary character (his contradictions) and abstract notions (theses and antitheses) in which conflicting elements constitute an organic whole. This can be traced back to monodualistic antinomies deeply rooted in the Russian philosophy of religion.
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46. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 48 > Issue: 2/4
Rasmus Rebane

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Despite the common knowledge that there is something “Pythagorean” about Charles Peirce’s phenomenology and classification of signs there is a manifest lack of inquiries into the matter. Perhaps there is too little to go on, as Pythagoras himself did not leave us any writings to consult. Nevertheless, much of ancient Greek philosophy bears an unmistakable Pythagorean stamp, and Iamblichus’ biography of Pythagoras provides us with enough to get such inquiries started. This paper examines the development of triads, beginning with the Pythagorean one (body, soul, and intellect) and proceeds to those of Immanuel Kant (Experience, Understanding, and Reason) and Peirce’s compatriot and family acquaintance Pliny Earle Chase (Motivity, Spontaneity, and Rationality). The article concludes with an examination of the various triads in Peirce’s early writings, especially around the time of his discovery of Chase’s “Intellectual symbolism”.
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47. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 48 > Issue: 2/4
Herman Tamminen

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Ground (Charles Peirce’s concept) – regardless whether it be taken as motivation or abstractness – affords the proposition that some abstract categories of meaning have acquired their qualities via bodily experience. In order to show this to be the case, the concept of ground will be drawn together with the division (according to Julia Kristeva) between the symbolic and the semiotic, the semiotic chora will be shown to function as an axiologizing thymic category as regard reception of perception (following Algirdas Greimas), and finally it will be proposed that it is this foundation that enables the coherence and inevitability of culture as a whole, being responsible for its stereoscopic quality as well. This procedure will further the haply sacrilegious march towards the emergence of modal semiotics, which allows us to dispense of signs in order to gain an anachronistically novel understanding of our own being.
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48. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 48 > Issue: 2/4
Mihael Konstantinov

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Engaging with the methods of studying contemporary digital audiovisual art is a dominant topic in contemporary theories of art. Against this background, the article offers a view onto some aspects of Juri Lotman’s and Gilles Deleuze’s studies on the cinema. As a rule, contemporary studies of digital audiovisual art take place in the context of interdisciplinary studies. One of the methodological principles of such studies consists in adopting a structural and semiotic approach. As of today, this methodological approach to studying audio-visual art is most developed in semiotics of the cinema, which is why in this article visual semiotics in general is viewed through semiotics of the cinema (proceeding from the approach of Juri Lotman). Also, the philosophical understanding of the nature of the cinema offered by Gilles Deleuze has proven fundamental for the study of contemporary audio-visual art. The two authors were contemporaries, but represented different scholarly paradigms: while Juri Lotman was an adherent of structuralism, Gilles Deleuze was a poststructuralist who criticized the structuralist approach. Yet despite this principal difference, both scholars still arrived at similar conclusions as concerns several questions regarding the understanding of the cinema and its very nature. In the present paper I focus on the features of these authors’ approach to spatial and temporal relations in the cinema, audiovisual relations in film as a heterogeneous form of the work of art, virtuality and mythologism in the viewer’s perception of cinema. The differences and similarities in academic approaches to cinema, developed by Lotman and Deleuze, indicate a common direction in the development of the cinema and visual arts theory, which seems relevant for the study of contemporary audio-visual arts.
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49. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 48 > Issue: 2/4
Arthur Araújo

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The paper approximates Jakob von Uexkull’s theory of meaning and the process-thought in Alfred Whitehead’s philosophy. As the main idea, the paper points at the compatibility of meaning and process according to the perspectives of Uexkull and Whitehead. It suggests that Uexkull’s common meaning rule can describe the processes of novelty in the world as does Whitehead’s principle of creativity. It is also suggested that Uexkull and Whitehead abandon a substantialist view of the organism – the organism means much more process, activity and creation than anything thing-like. In approaching Uexkull’s theory of meaning, a semiotic interpretation of Whitehead’s principle of creativity is proposed in which the concept of the threshold is fundamental to defining the boundary between the semiotic and the non-semiotic areas corresponding to the living (animate) and the non-living (inanimate). In conclusion, the paper suggests that the activity of meaning distinguishes animate entities from inanimate ones in the sense that meaning and life overlap – meaning could not have existed prior to life (and to the contrary).
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50. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 48 > Issue: 2/4
Kathryn Staiano-Ross

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The author has used the term ‘biocultural semiotics’ in her previous work, but has never defined this field. She presents twelve propositions that describe and motivate a biocultural semiotics. The author draws on thirty years of field work in Belize and her previous research in cultural and bio-semiotics in support of each of the propositions. Propositions include: biology and culture are so bound as to make a discussion of either without inclusion of the other impossible; both umwelt and the sign are central; every sign is an act of communication; every sign has many interpretant(s); perception is influenced by our physical and cultural umwelt; self is critical to our vision of our place in this umwelt; epigenetic phenomena influence how genes are expressed and effect/affect both phenotype and behaviour; body boundaries are cultural and political creations; the body is a political body and its ownership is always contested; disease and its congeners are cultural constructs; sickness and its signs are created as part of an ongoing personal, social, and political narrative; today we face both uncertainty and opportunity in the natural and cultural sciences. She argues that semiotics possesses the language and methodologies to achieve an understanding of the biological/cultural relationship.
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51. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 48 > Issue: 2/4
Kalevi Kull

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Jakob von Uexkull’s (1864–1944) work was influential at the time of the biosemiotic turn in semiotics in the 1990s and, together with the hermeneutic and phenomenological approaches, laid the basis for a semiotic turn in biology without losing a connection to the morphology and physiology of organisms. His work appears to be attractive and promising in transforming the culture–nature divide into an understanding of the difference between the living and the non-living. The biological study of subjectivity makes the Uexkullian approach pertinent to the 21st-century changes both in the humanities and in biology, as the acceptance of his theoretical biology marks the start of a post-Darwinian era after the long period of neo-Darwinism that dominated the 20th-century biological thought. A review and bibliography of 20th-century Uexkull studies was published in 2001; the following provides a bibliography of Uexkull studies in the two decades after 2001.
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reviews and notes

52. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 48 > Issue: 2/4
Nelly Mäekivi, Silver Rattasepp

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53. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 48 > Issue: 2/4
Ott Puumeister

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54. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 48 > Issue: 2/4
Andrey Makarychev

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55. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 48 > Issue: 1
Paul Cobley, Adrian Pable, Johan Siebers

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56. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 48 > Issue: 1
Charlotte Conrad

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Linguistics and semiotics traditionally assert the view that communication presupposes signs. Integrational linguistics challenges this notion by refuting the first-order ontological status of signs and semiological codes. Yet if communication does not depend on pre-established signs, then how does semiosis proceed? And what is the basis for the intuitively acceptable notion that codes do exist as socially carried structures among living beings? In this article I present an integrational account of semiosis based on the suggestion that sign-making is a perceptual activity. I draw on William James’ concept of human experience to expound Roy Harris’ claims for the radical indeterminacy of the sign, for contextualization, and for the process of integration. In closing, I consider the role that mental associations, for example, those between language sounds and concepts, play in communicative activity.
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57. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 48 > Issue: 1
Peter Kastberg

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Even though both Ernst von Glasersfeld, the founding father of radical constructivism, and his epistemological alter ego, Heinz von Foerster, one of the principal architects of second-order cybernetics, would both repeatedly stress the formative importance of communication, neither would ever model communication as a phenomenon per se. I will propose a first modelling of communication as seen through the stereoscopic lens of these two schools of thought. I will first present, discuss and evaluate how communication is traditionally modelled. This will serve as an informed backdrop when I proceed to integrate the common denominators pertaining to communication from relevant works of both scholars. In addition to the fact that both would willingly profess to the ‘Linguolaxis’ of Maturana and Varela, i.e., that humans exist suspended in communication, two basic assumptions have proven formative. Firstly, that communication is perceived as a flux, as an almost William-James-like ‘stream of communication’. Secondly, and this is more in the vein of Heraclitus, that both communicators and communication alike undergo transformations in the process of immersion. This implies favouring a view of communication in which communication is a perpetual oscillation between ongoing reciprocal perturbations (Glasersfeld), that occur over time, and the endeavours to re-establish (cognitive) homeostasis (Foerster). The latter must not be reduced to either mere compliance, as it were, i.e., that the ‘other’ does as s/he is told, or to the mutual understanding of a dominance-free communication of a Habermasian persuasion, but rather in the pragmatic notion of ‘compatibility’ (Glasersfeld). For illustrative purposes I will end this paper by translating these notions into a model depicting what I have labelled co-actional communication, in effect forging an exemplar.
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58. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 48 > Issue: 1
Cary Bazalgette

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Film scholarship has consistently avoided discussing how we learn to understand the complex, multimodal systems of communication that moving-image media (referred to here as ‘movies’) have evolved into over the last 125 years. This article offers some reasons for this neglect: in particular, the popular assumption that movies are extremely easy to understand, and the relative lack of research on two-year-olds – the crucial phase in which this learning must take place. Drawing on a 20-month study of a pair of dizygotic twins, a vignette of their early viewing behaviour illustrates the features of focused attention which characterized their investment of energy in trying to make sense of movies. An analysis of this phenomenon, using concepts from embodied cognition, shows how instinctive responses relate to thought and reflection. Setting two-year-olds’ movie-watching within the wider contexts of story-reading, play and the enjoyment of repetition, the article provides evidence that such learning does take place and can be seen as a significant aspect of two-year-olds’ “entry into culture”.
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59. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 48 > Issue: 1
Dorthe Duncker

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This paper investigates the kind of sign making that goes on in text-based human–computer interaction, between human users and chatbots, from the point of view of integrational linguistics. A chatbot serves as a “conversational” user interface, allowing users to control computer programs in “natural language”. From the user’s perspective, the interaction is a case of semiologically integrated activity, but even if the textual traces of a chat may look like a written conversation between two humans the correspondence is not one-to-one. It is argued that chatbots cannot engage in communication processes, although they may display communicative behaviour. They presuppose a (second-order) language model, they can only communicate at the level of sentences, not utterances, and they implement communicational sequels by selecting from an inventory of executable skills. Instead of seeing them as interlocutors in silico, chatbots should be seen as powerful devices for humans to make signs with.
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60. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 48 > Issue: 1
Chris Barnham

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Peirce’s semiotics is well known for advocating a triadic, rather than a dyadic, sign structure, but interpretations of how such a structure works in practice have varied considerably. This paper argues that the Peircean ‘object’ is central to understanding Peirce’s philosophical intent and that this element should be construed as a mediating element within the sign rather than as an originating source of it. This interpretation resonates with the fundamentally anti-dualist character of Peirce’s philosophy and it creates potential convergences with the medieval philosophy of Duns Scotus – which was so influential in Peirce’s thinking. Moreover, construal of the ‘object’ as a mediating entity within the sign highlights important parallels with Hegelian thought and the role of the ‘essence’ in the latter’s dialectics. It is argued, indeed, that Peirce’s triadic template for the sign has strong Hegelian roots. This substantially repositions Peirce’s semiotics; it becomes, as in Hegel’s dialectics, an account of concept formation. The over-arching framework in which this takes place, however, retains an adherence to Peirce’s empiricist background and so avoids the reliance on logic which is the defining characteristic of Hegel’s dialectical method.
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