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1. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 49 > Issue: 1/2
Lauri Linask, Inesa Sahakyan, Aleksei Semenenko Editorial: Anticipation and change
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2. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 49 > Issue: 1/2
Morten Tonnessen Anticipating the societal transformation required to solve the environmental crisis in the 21st century
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This article introduces an ecosemiotic approach to the two great challenges facing humanity in the 21st century: solving an escalating environmental crisis, while also safeguarding and further improving human living conditions. An ecosemiotic framework for the study of societal transformations is presented and political and other normative aspects of what I call transformative semiotics are discussed. This envelops socio-cultural and socio-ecological developments framed in terms of umwelt theory and Deep Ecology. In the long run, developments in human ecology as reflected in our changing relations to non-humans are expressed in the umwelt trajectory of humankind. The question of how the environmental crisis can best be solved is therefore tantamount to the question about what direction the human umwelt trajectory should take in this century. I outline different plausible umwelt scenarios for human ecology in the 21st century, focused on business-as-usual, ecomodernist and Deep Ecology scenarios. In a concluding discussion on technology and sustainability, the scenario development eventually includes a distinction between flexible and inflexible development paths.
3. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 49 > Issue: 1/2
Prisca Augustyn Solar energy discourse in the Sunshine State
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This case study of a 2016 Florida constitutional amendment analyses the semiotic devices and mechanisms of shaping public opinion on solar energy and beliefs about energy distribution. After a nationwide rise in rooftop solar installations between 2014 and 2015, utilities in several US states were faced with challenges to their business models. Anticipating similar problems in Florida, utilities and energy corporations promoted constitutional amendments. This semiotic analysis follows the voter from the billboards and flyers to the text on the ballot. Starting from Peirce’s phenomenological categories, this critical analysis of the campaign reveals how the goals of the amendment were shrouded in positive environmental and consumer protection narratives. Lakoff ’s cognitive linguistics and Stibbe’s ecolinguistics support a deeper analysis of the ballot text. This study shows that by leaving key concepts (especially net metering) out of the discourse, the ballot text successfully framed an anti-solar amendment as a pro-consumer measure, while hiding the direct legal implications concerning alternative energy distribution. In particular, this study explains the opposition to the sharing of surplus in the context of neoclassical economics as a key factor in shaping beliefs about alternative energy distribution.
4. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 49 > Issue: 1/2
Juha Ojala Music as a non-arbitrary avenue for exploration of the social
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The article examines how music affords exploration of social aspects of semiosis: how music signifies the social, beyond the fact that music is an inherently participatory social process. Pentti Maattanen extends Peirce’s notion of ‘hard fact’ to ‘soft facts’ to which we accommodate our behaviour in order to get along in society. As mutual beliefs, soft facts are continuously tested and updated in inquiry. Representation of oneself is also continuously correlated, thrown together, with that of the rest of the world, yielding positioning of self in ways we call emotions. In music, compositions of sound constitute hard facts that stand for other facts, soft or hard, by being their metaphors. Shaping and reshaping music allows for safe playing and testing of acts and events, anticipating upcoming situations and changes through virtual situations of the world, social and non-social. Music analysis examines how features of sound offer complex ways of constructing and interpreting metaphors, and how the narratives in music unfold through presentation of metaphors of subjects’ existence, identity and relations, evoking dialogue, drama, tension, even crises to be resolved.
5. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 49 > Issue: 1/2
Katre Parn Towards the semiotics of the future: From anticipation to premediation
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The paper aims to make a contribution to semiotic research on the future by bringing together various approaches that deal with the relationship humans have with the future. More specifically, the paper concentrates on anticipation viewed as an activity that is based on modelling the (un)desired future as suggested by Nikolai Bernstein. The model-based approach to anticipation allows drawing connections between the psychophysiological and semiotically mediated forms of anticipation on the one hand, and between individual and collective forms of anticipation on the other hand. With these aims in mind, the paper offers a sketch of a semiotic approach to the future that is based on the framework of semiotic modelling systems, i.e. views the future in terms of models of it and the semiotic resources and processes involved in the model-building. As the semiotically mediated models of the future circulating in a culture can become collectively shared means of cognizing and anticipating some futures, it is possible to talk about a collective anticipation, analogous to Juri Lotman’s cultural semiotic notion of collective memory. Accordingly, premediation, a future-oriented media practice outlined by Richard Grusin, is viewed as an example of collective anticipation. In addition to tracing the mechanisms of anticipation from its individual organismic to semiotically mediated collective forms, the paper foregrounds also the two fundamental problems that run across the diverse theoretical perspectives brought together within the approach: the individual and collective agency in future-making and the affective dimension of anticipation.
6. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 49 > Issue: 1/2
Piotr Konderak Towards an integration of two aspects of semiosis – A cognitive semiotic perspective
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Meaning-making processes, understood hierarchically, in line with the Semiotic Hierarchy framework, change on various timescales. To account for and predict these changes, one can take a cognitive view on semiosis. I adopt an interdisciplinary approach combining semiotic studies and cognitive studies in an attempt to account for meaning-making activity and to predict the course of semiosis. In this context, I consider meaning-making activity as shaped by both “external” (to a semiotic system) as well as “internal” factors. I also show how both the “external” and “internal” sources of the dynamicity of meaning-making should be framed in terms of studies on cognition. I start with a non-standard, 4e approach to meaning-making. According to this framework, meaning-making processes are constituted by (and not just dependent on) environmental and bodily factors. The dynamicity of semiosis can be accounted for in terms of an experiencing, embodied subject (agent) enacting her/his/its own domain of meaningful phenomena. As I argue, this perspective on meaning-making is the cognitive foundation of the first two levels of the Semiotic Hierarchy. In the following sections I present the Peircean view on signs and semiosis, according to which semiosis is a result of the very nature of a sign and a sign system. In this view, the dynamicity of semiosis has primarily “internal” sources: it stems from the unavoidable fallibility of interpretation and synechism of signs. As I show, this aspect of semiosis can be addressed by means of standard (cognitivist) cognitive science and by means of cognitive modelling. Ultimately, I sketch a proposal of an attempt to develop a uniform cognitive framework allowing for integration of the above-mentioned aspects of semiosis – a framework based on Rowlands’ idea of the Amalgamated Mind.
7. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 49 > Issue: 1/2
Inesa Sahakyan Metaphor, induction and innovation: Getting outside the box
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Today more than ever innovation seems vital for us to anticipate the future and adapt to our rapidly changing world. But what is innovation and how is it accomplished? How can the mind generate innovative ideas? To gain a better understanding of the mechanisms underlying the human capacity to innovate, the present study aims at answering two basic questions: first, ‘what makes innovation possible?’ and second, ‘why are innovative ideas unusual?’. These questions are addressed within the framework of Peircean semiotics, in particular in the light of Peirce’s conception of inference. Different types of inferences are studied to determine the mode of reasoning which is central to innovative thought. While creativity and innovation are often analysed through the prism of abduction, this study puts forward an alternative approach drawing a parallel between modes of inferences and types of hypoicons. It claims that what makes innovation possible is metaphoric reasoning underlying induction.
8. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 49 > Issue: 1/2
Sebastian Feil Trajectories of anticipation: Preconceptuality and the task of reading habit
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The article characterizes Peirce’s concept of habit as a major contribution to a Peircean concept of preconceptuality, first, in relation to its function in the sign process, and second, in relation to other concepts of preconceptuality in cultural studies. Hans-Georg Gadamer’s notion of prejudice, Michel Foucault’s notions of the preconceptual and the dispositif, and Hans Blumenberg’s conception of metaphor all share certain key characteristics with Peirce’s notion of habit. The same comparison also highlights the fact that certain elements are missing from the current discourse on Peirce’s notion of habit: although any rendition of the concept of habit itself implicitly relies on a theory of historicity and of rule-association, these aspects only emerge explicitly in comparison with theories that more explicitly focus on such aspects. Another question raised in the context of such a comparison is the relevance of habit for theories of conceptuality. Peirce claims that descriptions of concepts are best realized through the description of the habits involved in them. A major part of a concept’s coordinative power lies with the habits associated with the concept. However, no systematic inquiry into the possibility of rendering actual habits more definitive in comprehension has been undertaken. An attempt is therefore made to remedy that situation by elaborating on those aspects of Peirce’s theory of habit relevant to a theory of “reading” habit, and to sketch an outline of such a theory.
9. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 49 > Issue: 1/2
Sara Lenninger Narratives and the semiotic freedom of children
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Both adults’ habits-of-thought and their understanding of children’s stories shape how adults interpret children’s participation in conversations. In the light of the requests on children’s rights that follow from the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) this paper stresses the relevance of authorities having semiotically informed knowledge on children’s meaning-making within conversations with adults. In Article 12, the CRC stipulates the right of children to participate in and to be heard about decisions that affect their everyday lives. According to the same Article, however, these rights can be restrained, based on the authority’s judgements of the child’s age and maturity. Sociological studies have highlighted the importance of adopting the child’s perspective in judging matters that concern her. The present paper further suggests that narrow conceptualization of the sign can help one to observe different levels of meaning in adults’ and children’s conversations better. Although Paul Ricoeur did not investigate children’s narratives per se, his theory of narratives and narrativity offers a phenomenological approach to development that allows for better theoretical discriminations of narrative as a semiotic resource, and can thus assist adults in truly listening to children.
10. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 49 > Issue: 1/2
Donna E. West The dialogic nature of double consciousness and double stimulation: Implications from Peirce and Vygotsky
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The objective in this paper is to demonstrate the indispensability of Peirce’s double consciousness to foster abductive reasoning, so that internal/external dialogue inform the worthiness of hunches. These forms of dialogue establish a mental give-and-take forum in which novel meanings/effects are particularly highlighted and noticed. Such attentional shifts are compelled by surprising states of affairs within the beholder’s internal, interpretive competencies, or from external factors (pictures, gestural or linguistic performatives). The dialogic nature of these signs pre-forms operations not possible non-dialogically; they command, interrogate, or suggest alterations to established conduct/beliefs in contexts in which propositional/argumentative conflicts are obviated. This inquiry proposes experimental methodologies to measure when double consciousness (via private/inner speech) mediates hypothesis-making. Vygotsky’s conflict of motive at four distinct developmental stages constitutes the foundation for the proposed experiments. Designs draw upon Vygotsky’s ‘double stimulation’ paradigms that force decision-making processes when conflicts of motive surface. Paradigms include forced imitation of one model while ignoring another (imitating bear, not dragon), and altering a visual array to depict logical sequencing accurately (the “Cycles Test”; “The Odd One Out”). These conflicts require children to change their conduct/beliefs to accommodate to atypical states of affairs.
11. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 48 > Issue: 1
Paul Cobley, Adrian Pable, Johan Siebers Editorial: Signs and communicators
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12. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 48 > Issue: 1
Charlotte Conrad Creating reality as a locally tailored interface – an integrational, pragmatic account of semiosis
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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.
13. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 48 > Issue: 1
Peter Kastberg Modelling the reciprocal dynamics of dialogical communication: On the communication-philosophical undercurrent of radical constructivism and second-order cybernetics
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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.
14. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 48 > Issue: 1
Cary Bazalgette Even a two-year-old can do it!: The early stages of learning to understand moving-image media
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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”.
15. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 48 > Issue: 1
Dorthe Duncker Chatting with chatbots: Sign making in text-based human-computer interaction
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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.
16. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 48 > Issue: 1
Chris Barnham Hegel and the Peircean ‘object’
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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.
17. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 48 > Issue: 1
Adrian Pablé Integrating biosemiotics: From a semiological point of view
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This paper is a study in the ‘philosophy of semiotics’. It is centred on a critical approach to the Peircean sign conception, which underlies biosemiotics and the global perspective on signs. The present discussion tackles questions of ontological and epistemological interest, which it does by taking a distinctly semiological point of reference. The semiology which the present critique draws inspiration from is Roy Harris’ integrationism, an approach to human communication which rejects Saussurean semiology – the common target of Peircean semiotics. Integrationism explains signs in relation to human activities. It shares with biosemiotics a view of reality as species-specific, but takes a skeptical position towards the investigation of non-human signs on the grounds that it implies a metalanguage impervious to the radical indeterminacy of the sign. Integrationists take this indeterminacy as the starting point for their reflections on human communication.
18. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 48 > Issue: 1
Johan Siebers Philosophy as communication theory
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There has been comparatively little attention for the fundamental ontology of communication in recent philosophy. Nevertheless, from classical metaphysical accounts of relationality and communal being to the analysis of intersubjectivity in phenomenology and to concrete existence as understood by process philosophy, the communicative structure of the act of being has been, if not explicitly then implicitly, a perennial component of metaphysical reflection. Communication theory can be conceived in such a way that it takes this ontological dimension into account. The ramifications of connecting being to communication in this way are explored in discussion with the conceptualizations of communication in integrationism and biosemiotics. An interpretation of Gabriel Marcel’s existential analysis of “my life” is used to show what philosophy as communication theory (in the strong sense of the notion elaborated here) might look like.
19. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 48 > Issue: 1
Paul Cobley “Who goes there?” Reflections on signs and personhood in Christopher Hutton’s Integrationism and the Self
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20. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 47 > Issue: 3/4
Cary Campbell, Alin Olteanu, Kalevi Kull Learning and knowing as semiosis: Extending the conceptual apparatus of semiotics
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If all knowing comes from semiosis, more concepts should be added to the semiotic toolbox. However, semiotic concepts must be defined via other semiotic concepts. We observe an opportunity to advance the state-of-the-art in semiotics by defining concepts of cognitive processes and phenomena via semiotic terms. In particular, we focus on concepts of relevance for theory of knowledge, such as learning, knowing, affordance, scaffolding, resources, competence, memory, and a few others. For these, we provide preliminary definitions from a semiotic perspective, which also explicates their interrelatedness. Redefining these terms this way helps to avoid both physicalism and psychologism, showcasing the epistemological dimensions of environmental situatedness through the semiotic understanding of organisms’ fittedness with their environments. Following our review and presentation of each concept, we briefly discuss the significance of our embedded redefinitions in contributing to a semiotic theory of knowing that has relevance to both the humanities and the life sciences, while not forgetting their relevance to education and psychology, but also social semiotic and multimodality studies.