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21. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 28
Felice Cimatti The circular semiosis of Giorgio Prodi
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Prodi's semiotics theory comes into being to answer a radical question: if a sign is a cross-reference, what guarantees the relation between the sign and the object to which it is referring? Prodi rebukes all traditional solutions: a subject's voluntary intention, a convention, the iconic relation between sign and object. He refutes the fIrst answer because the notion of intention, upon which it is based, is, indeed, a fully mysterious entity. The conventionalist answer is just as unsatisfactory for it does nothing but extends to a whole group that which cannot be explained for a single component; the iconic one, finally, is rejected toosince in this case the notion of "likeliness", as the basis of the concept of "iconicity", is not explained. Prodi's answer is to locate the model of semiotic relations in the figure of the circle. The circle is life, which is nothing else but an infinite chain of translation and recognition relations amidst ever more complex systems. The circle has neither a beginning nor an end. It has no foundation, no established rule. It holds no cause that cannot become, in turn, effect. Semiosis, then, is based upon life for life, itself, is intrinsically semiotic. We can put the world in signs, that is we can come to know it, because we, ourselves, are a part of that very worldthat through us is made known. Finally, what this implies is that being inside the circle of semiosis-life, an issue arises what is beyond that circle: that is both an aesthetic and a religious problem.
22. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 29 > Issue: 1
Winfried Nöth Protosemiotics and physicosemiosis
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Protosemiotics is the study of the rudiments of semiosis, primarily in nature. The extension of the semiotic field from culture to nature is both necessary and possible in the framework of Peirce's semiotic theory. Against this extension, the critique of pansemiotism has been raised. However, Peirce's semiotics is not pansemiotic since it is based on the criterion of thirdness, which is not ubiquitous in nature. The paper examines the criteria of protosemiosis in the domain of physical and mechanical processes.
23. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 29 > Issue: 1
Jesper Hoffmeyer S/E ≥ 1: A semiotic understanding of bioengineering
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Natural (non-cultivated) systems are nmed to economize their use of energy as much as possible, and thereby to produce minimal amounts of entropy. It is suggested that this has been obtained by optimizing the evolutionary creation of semiotic controls on all processes of life. As long as biological (ultimately photosynthetic) energy sources satisfied most human needs for energy consumption, these biosemiotic controls remained largely undisturbed, with the result that production systems remained sustainable. The industrial revolution instantiated a ruphure of this balanced situation. The semiotic control function (S) would no longer match the size of the energy flow (E). In the industrial production system, energy flows have dramatically been increased, while the S component has not been taken care of. This has created a dangerously low S/E ratio, and it is suggested that this low S/E ratio constitutes a fundamental explanation of the environmental crisis. In order to restore a sustainable production system, we will now have to develop technological means for a strong increase in the S factor of the production system. It is suggested that this can be obtained through a development of considerate, gentle, and clever forms of biosemiotic technology.
24. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 29 > Issue: 1
Augusto Ponzio, Susan Petrilli Bioethics, semiotics of life, and global communication
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Ethical problems connected with biological and medical discoveries in genetic engineering, neurobiology and pharmaceutical research, reach a unified and critical point of view in bioethics as a specific discipline. But even before reaching this stage, ethical problems already belong to two totalities: the semiobiosphere. and the current social form of global communication. Coherently with its philosophical orientation, bioethics must necessarily keep accountof this double contextualisation. The semiobiosphere is the object of study of global semiotics or the semiotics of life. Global semiotics is of particular interest to bioethics not only because of the broad context it provides for the problems treated by bioethics, but also because it provides bioethics with an adequate contextualisation both in terms of extension, of quantity, as well as of quality. From this point of view, "contextualisation" also means critical reformulation. We are now alluding to the need of viewing bioethical problems in the light of today's socio-economic context, that is, in the context of global communication-production. These contextualisations are closely related from the viewpoint of ethics. Semiotics as global semiotics or semiotics of life must accept the responsibility of denouncing incongruencies in the global system, any threats to life over the entire planet inherent in this system.
25. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 29 > Issue: 1
Dario Martinelli Methodologies and problems in zoomusicology
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The article sketches an introductory outline of zoomusicology as a discipline closely related to zoosemiotics, focusing on the existing results and formulating few further problems. The analysis addresses the limitations and potentials of zoomusicological research, problematic topics, a basic framework of possible methodologies, and an attempt to situate the discipline in relation to other fields, ethnomusicology in particular.
26. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 29 > Issue: 1
Riste Keskpaik Towards a semiotic definition of trash
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The phenomenon of trash has rarely been addressed in the cultural theoretical literature. However, its structural similarity with the concept of taboo as well as its role in the dynamics of culture has been stated. Current paper aims to summarize the partial contributions that have been made so far, localize them in a larger semiotic framework, and deriving from Lonnan's approach to culture suggest a few further ideas for a semiotic definition of trash. It is proposed to define trash as a phenomenon marking the boundary between culhlre and non-culture/nature. In the context of the deepening environmental crisis (to which accumulation of trash contributes) a semiotic approach opens a new perspective for identifying the origin of the problem in our mind/culture rather than in nature.
27. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 29 > Issue: 1
Solomon Marcus Conway's game of life and the ecosystem represented by Uexküll's concept of Umwelt
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Inspired by a mathematical ecology of thearre (M. Dinu) and the eco-grammar systems (E. Csuhaj-Varju et al.), this paper gives a brief analysis of simple cellular automata games in order to demonstrate their primary semiotic features. In particular, the behaviour of configurations in Conway's game of life is compared to several general features of Uexküll's concept of Umwelt. It is concluded that ecological processes have a fundamental semiotic dimension.
28. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 29 > Issue: 1
Svend Erik Larsen Nature between fact and fiction: A note on virtual reality
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The paper places the trendy notion of virtuality and virtual reality in a conceptual and historical context that makes it useful in a semiotic perspective. Virtuality is connected with the classical notion of fictionality, in its meaning of both invention and deception. Historically an active, a passive, and a neutral version of the concept can be distinguished. The notion is reinterpreted as a variant of the semiotic processes of deixis. In relation to nature - scenarios, prognoses, hypotheses, etc. - virtuality is seen as a means of anchoring the human subject in nature instead of constructing a nonreal universe separated from it.
29. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 29 > Issue: 1
Winfried Nöth, Kalevi Kull Introduction: Special issue on semiotics of nature
30. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 29 > Issue: 1
Claus Emmeche Bioinvasion, globalization, and the contingency of cultural and biological diversity: Some ecosemiotic observations
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The increasing problem of bioinvasion (the mixing up of natural species characterising the planet's local ecosystems due to globalisation) is investigated as an example of an ecosemiotic problematic. One concern is the scarcity of scientific knowledge about long term ecological and evolutionary consequences of invading species. It is argued that a natural science conception of the ecology of bioinvasion should be supplemented with an ecosemiotic understanding of the significance of these problems in relation to human culture, the question of cultural diversity, and what it means to be indigenous or foreign. Bioinvasion, extinction of native species, and overall decrease in biodiversity, may go along with decreased cultural diversity; as when the loss of local agricultural traditions lead to genetic erosion. There are possible ecosemiotic parallels between language extinction and species extinction, both being related to globalisation. It is argued that the case of bioinvasion reveals the existence of two kinds of ecosemiotic contingency, (1) evolutionary openended and partly random generation of new species and extinction of old ones; (2) the historicity of culture in general and "culture's nature" specifically in the demarcation of a set of landscapes characteristic to a particular nation and piece of human history.
31. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 29 > Issue: 1
Christina Ljungberg Wilderness from an ecosemiotic perspective
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"Wilderness" is a concept which has undergone a radical change in recent years. Owing to the scale of global destruction of the wilderness and its various ecosystems, the idea of wilderness has been transformed from its original negative sense as an Other into a matter of public concern. This as replaced the understanding of "wilderness " not only as a place but as a category closely linked with the development of buman culture. As the result of human practice and representation, nature is thus also political Models and concepts of nature in the creative arts can be indicative of a certain culture's relationship with nature, as they communicate prevailing ideologies. This is particularly pertinent to concepts of nature in Canada where wilderness includes vast tracts of forests, lakes and an Arctic North, which has led to a distinctively Canadian relationship between Canadians and their natural environment. The change in the literary representations of interactions between humankind and environment in Canadian fiction - from the "double vision" resulting from the view of the wilderness both as a threatening Other and free space; to the view of threatened nature as a means of identification; and, finally, as a post-modem place of transgression and possibility - invites questions about both the semiotic threshold between nature and culture, and about the function of boundaries in the constitution of identity.
32. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 29 > Issue: 1
Zdzislaw Wąsik On the biological concept of subjective significance: A link between the semiotics of nature and the semiotics of culture
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A logical-philosophical approach to the meaning-carriers or meaning-processes is juxtaposed with the anthropological-biological concepts of subjective significance uniting both for the semiotics of culture and the semiotics of nature. It is assumed that certain objects, which are identifiable in the universe of man and in the world surrounding all living organisms as significant from the perspective of meaning-receivers, meaning-creators and meaning-utilizers, can be determined as signs when they represent other objects, perform certain tasks or satisfy certain needs of subjects. Hence, the meaning of signifying objects may be found in the relation between the expression of a signifier and (I) a signified content, or (2) a signified function, or (3) a signified value of the cultural and natural objects subsumed by the interpreting subjects under the semiotic ones.
33. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 29 > Issue: 1
Andreas Roepstorff Thinking with animals
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A central claim of biosemiotics is the ascription of semiotic competence to nonhumans. For strange historical reasons, this claim has been quite controversial in much of standard biological discourse. An analysis of ethnographic material from Greenland demonstrates that people regard animals as nonhuman "persons". i.e., as sensing and thinking beings. Like humans. animals are supposed to have knowledge about their environment. Taking this semiotic competence as a fact beyond any doubt enables skilled hunters and fishermen to rely not only on their own interpretation of the environment. but also on the animals' interpretation of their environment The behaviour of fish, seals, and land animals, meditated by their acknowledged semiotic competence, can thus be interpreted as giving signs about the behaviour, e.g., of whales and icebergs. This a priori ascription of semiotic competence is also apparent in discussions about management and regulation of animals. Rather than discussing whether "the stock" is depleted, much of the discourse among fishermen and hunters focuses on whether animals can be semiotically disturbed by what people are doing.
34. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 29 > Issue: 1
Alf Hornborg Vital signs: An ecosemiotic perspective on the human ecology of Amazonia
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Ecosemiotics represents a theoretical approach to human ecology that can be applied across several disciplines. lts primary justification lies inthe ambition to transcend "Cartesian", conceptual dichotomies such as culture/nature. society/nature, mental/material. etc. It argues that ecosystems areconstituted no less by flows of signs than by flows of matter and energy. This paper discusses the roles of different kinds of hmnan sign systems in the ecologyof Amazonia, ranging from the phenomenology of unconscious sensations. through linguistic signs such as metaphors and ethnobiological taxonomies, to money and the political economy of environmental destruction. Human-environmental relations mediated by direct, sensory and (oral) linguistic communication have tended to enhance biological diversity, suggesting modes of calibrating the long-term co-evolution of human and non-human populations. Economic sign systems, on the other hand, have rapidly and drastically transfonned human-environmental relations in Amazonia to the point where the entire rainforest ecosystem is illlder threat. In detaching themselves from the direct, "face-to-face" communication between humans and their natural environments, flows of money and commodities - and the decontextualized knowledge systems that they engender - have no means of staying geared to the long-term negotiation of local, ecological co-existence. It is argued that the ongoing deterioration of the biosphere can be viewed as a problem of communication, deserving semiotic analysis.
35. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 29 > Issue: 1
Claus Emmeche The emergence of signs of living feeling: Reverberations from the first Gatherings in Biosemiotics
36. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 29 > Issue: 1
Max Oelschlaeger Ecosemiotics and the sustainability transition
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The emerging epistemic community of ecosemioticians and the multidisciplinary field of inquiry known as ecosemiotics offer a radical and relevant approach to so-called global environmental crisis. There are no environmental fixes within the dominant code, since that code overdetermines the future, thereby perpetuating ecologically untenable cultural forms. The possibility of a sustainability transition (the attempt to overcome destitution and avoid ecocatastrophe) becomes real when mediated by and through ecosemiotics. In short, reflexive awareness of humankind's linguisticality is a necessary condition for transforming ecologically maladaptive cultural forms. As a multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary research program integrating the human and natural sciences, ecosemiotic inquiry closes the gap between biophysical ecology and human ecology. A provisional outline of a pragmatic theory of ecoserniotics attempts to describe the processes by which adaptive cultural changes might be facilitated and points toward substantive content areas that constitute sites for further research. Ecosemiotic inquiry frames cultural codes as these shape and reproduce the ongoing stream of individual and societal choices that shape distinctively human existence in a larger context of biophysical realities that drive natural selection. However, while ecosemiotics is a necessary condition for the sustainability transition, it is not a sufficient condition.
37. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 29 > Issue: 1
Lucia Santaella "Matter as effete mind": Peirce's synechistic ideas on the semiotic threshold
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Following Peirce's broad concept of semiosis as a foundation of a field ofsrudy, the semiotics ofphysical nanrre, it is argued that we have to explore the interconnections of Peirce's semiotics with metaphysics. These interconnections will be analyzed in five steps: (I) Peirce's radical antidualism and evolutionism, implied in his synechistic ideas, (2) Peirce's semiotic statement that "all this universe is perfused with signs if it is not composed exclusively of signs" (CP 5.448, n.l), (3) Peirce's bold statement that "matter is effete mind, inveterate habits becoming physical laws" (CP 6.24), (4) his theory of final causation, which can only be properly understood in the light of semiosis, (5) his metaphysics and his methodeutics in relation to semiotics. The laws of nature are discovered by abductive inference revealing an affinity between the human mind and the designs of nature. Hence, the formal laws of thought are not simply laws of our minds but laws of the intelligibility of things.
38. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 29 > Issue: 1
Kalevi Kull Biosemiotics and the problem of intrinsic value of nature
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This article poses the hypothesis that the problem of the intrinsic value of nature that stems from the work of G. E. Moore and is widely discussed in environmental philosophy, bas a parallel in a contemporary discussion in semiotics on the existence of semiosis in nature. From a semiotic point of view. value can be defined as an intentional dimension of sign. This is concordant with a biological interpretation of value that relates to biological needs. Thus. a semiotic approach in biology may provide a useful tool for further analysis of the intrinsic value problem in the biological realm. From an ecosemiotic point of view, the problem is also related to the concepts of bioart and ecoart. Ecoart viz environmental art is that which encompasses the human ambience, e.g., landscape or its components. Bioart call be defined as the art whose material ("clay") is a living body, living matter or communication of organisms (which may include, e.g., genetic engineering). It is concluded that the acceptance of biosemiotic view has implications for a large area of ecological philosophy.
39. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 29 > Issue: 1
Andreas Weber Cognition as expression: On the autopoietic foundations of an aesthetic theory of nature
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This paper attempts to put forward an aesthetic theory of nature based on a biosemiotic description of the living, which in turn is derived from an autopoietic theory of organism (p. Varela). An autopoietic system's reaction to material constraints is the unfolding of a dimension of meaning. In the outward Gestalt of autopoietic systems, meaning appears as fonn, and as such it reveals itself in a sensually graspable manner. The mode of being of organisms has an irreducible aesthetic side in which this mode of being becomes visible. Nature thus displays a kind of transparency of its own functioning: in a nondiscursive way organisms show traces of their conditio vitae through their material self-presentation. Living beings hence always show a basic level of expressiveness as a necessary component of their organic mode of being. This is called the ecstatic dimension of nature (G. Böhme, R. Corrington). Autopoiesis in its full consequence then amounts to a view reminding of Paracelsus' idea of the signatura rerum (c. Glacken, H. Böhme): nature is transparent, not because it is organized digitally as a linguistic text or code, but rather because it displays analogically the kind of intentionality engendered by autopoiesis. Nature as a whole, as «living fonn" (S. Langer), is a symbol for organic intentionality. The most fundamental meaning of nature protection thus is to guarantee the «real presence" of our soul.
40. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 29 > Issue: 1
Luis Emilio Bruni Biosemiotics and ecological monitoring
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During the recent decades, a global culrural-institutional network has gradually grown lip to project, implement, and use an enormous technological web that is supposed to observe, monitor, communicate, inventory, and assess our environment and its biodiversity in order to implement sustainable management models. The majority of "knowledge tools" that have been incorporated in the mainstream of this "techno-web" are amply based on a combination of mechanistic biology, genetic reductionism, economical determinism and neo-Darwinian cultural and biological perspectives. These approaches leave aside many of the qualitative and relational aspects that can only be grasped by considering the semiotic networks operative in complex ecological and cultural systems. In this paper, it is suggested that a biosemiotic approach to ecology may prove useful for the modelling process which in turn will allow the construction of meaningful monitoring systems. It is aJso advanced that it may as well serve to better integrate our understanding and monitoring of ecosystems into the cultural process of searching for (human) sustainability.