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1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 46 > Issue: 4
Alexandra Milyakina Rethinking literary education in the digital age
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This paper discusses the perspectives of literary education in the context of the transforming of the notions of literature, reading, and learning. While everyday semiotic practices are becoming increasingly digital and multimodal, school education in most countries is still largely focused on mediating original literary texts in print and their established interpretations. Less conventional sources of literary information – brief retellings, comic strips, memes, social media posts – tend to make up a large part of the students’ semiotic environment; yet these are usually dismissed by school education as inaccurate and irrelevant. Cultural semiotics, however, allows regarding pulverized versions of texts as a part of a natural educational system – the culture itself. A holistic approach allows not only integrating everyday semiotic practices into a school curriculum, but also revealing the inherent multimodality, transmediality, and creativity of the literary experience. Th e paper explores possible implications of semiotics in three aspects of literary education: multimodality and heterogeneity of literary experience; influence of digital media on the perception habits; reading as a creative building of a whole from different fragments. The overarching goal is to enrich school education through a deeper understanding of literary experience and a widening of the spectrum of acknowledged tools, formats and media. Th e theoretical survey is supported by reallife examples from school practice and recreational reading.
reviews and notes
9. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 46 > Issue: 4
Frederik Stjernfelt A Peirce for the 21st century
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10. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 46 > Issue: 4
Zdzisław Wąsik, Elżbieta Magdalena Wąsik A report on the conference “Ecosemiotic Paradigm for Nature and Culture”
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11. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 46 > Issue: 4
Timo Maran Two decades of ecosemiotics in Tartu
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12. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 46 > Issue: 2/3
Aleksandar Feodorov Peirce’s garden of forking metaphors
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The philosophic system of the founder of pragmatism Charles Sanders Peirce is rarely grasped from the point of view of its metaphoric usage. However, some of his most original yet often misunderstood and contested ideas such as those of ‘matter as effete mind’ and ‘the play of musement’ are metaphoric representations. In the present paper I am offering a new way to discuss the role of metaphors in Peirce’s philosophy by taking a twofold approach to the problem. On the one hand, metaphor itself becomes an object of inquiry. I touch upon the appearances of metaphoric thinking at the level of his classes of signs and metaphor’s relation to abductive inference. I trace those appearances in the process of their becoming from the spontaneity of Firstness towards the actuality of Secondness via the generalizing effects of Thirdness. Then I propose a flexible graphic model of metaphor that is parallel to Peirce’s inherent evolutionism. This model is seen as a “gentle” methodological tool for deriving meaning. To illustrate its applicability I include a playful nod to the literary works of Jorge Luis Borges to show how hard logical thought and aesthetic beauty complement each other.
13. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 46 > Issue: 2/3
George Rossolatos Impossibly good looks: A pragma-ontological approach to unearthing the latent rhetorical structure of anti-ageing advertising discourse
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This paper aims at unearthing the appeals, the argumentative schemes and the modes of rhetorical configuration that make up the rhetorical structure of the anti-ageing skin care product category’s print advertising discourse. To this end, the pragma-ontological approach is put forward as an offshoot of the pragma-dialectical perspective in rhetorical analysis and criticism. The pragma-ontological approach adds interpretative depth to the overt argumentation structure of anti-ageing products’ ads on the grounds of fundamental ontology/existential phenomenology. The analysis points to three levels where the ads’ arguments function: an overt level and two covert ones. On the overt level the ads function against the background of mixed ethos/pathos/logos appeals that buttress an argumentation scheme from values. On a primary covert level, the ads appear to be functioning through an indirect appeal to fear, while resting on an argumentation scheme from consequences. On a secondary covert level, the ads are shown to be appealing indirectly to ontological angst, while manifesting an argumentation scheme per impossibile. The cultural implications for policy-making are highlighted amidst a predicament where anti-ageing claims are attracting heavy criticism.
14. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 46 > Issue: 2/3
James B. Harrod A post-structuralist revised Weil–Levi-Strauss transformation formula for conceptual value-fields
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The structuralist Andre-Weil–Claude-Levi-Strauss transformation formula (CF), initially applied to kinship systems, mythology, ritual, artistic design and architecture, was rightfully criticized for its rationalism and tendency to reduce complex transformations to analogical structures. I present a revised non-mathematical revision of the CF, a general transformation formula (rCF) applicable to networks of complementary semantic binaries in conceptual value-fields of culture, including comparative religion and mythology, ritual, art, literature and philosophy. The rCF is a rule-guided formula for combinatorial conceptualizing in non-representational, presentational mythopoetics and other cultural symbolizations. I consider poststructuralist category-theoretic and algebraic mathematical interpretations of the CF as themselves only mathematical analogies, which serve to stimulate further revision of the logic model of the rCF. The rCF can be used in hypothesis-making to advance understanding of the evolution and prehistory of human symbolic behaviour in cultural space, philosophical ontologies and categories, definitions and concepts in art, religion, psychotherapy, and other cultural-value forms.
15. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 46 > Issue: 2/3
Griselda Zárate, Homero Zambrano Financial discourse of the 2007–2008 crisis: From unpredictability and explosion to predictability
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This paper aims to identify the inflection point in financial discourse, the moment of explosion and unpredictability in the 2007–2008 economic crisis, through an analysis of metaphors, and its relation to the concept of jumps in finance. The corpus is formed by articles dating from 2007–2008 published in The Wall Street Journal and related to the movements of the Standard & Poor’s 500 index (S&P500) of the United States. For the purposes of this paper, two texts are analysed: “Traders in Lehman, AIG held out hope – Friday”, and the speech “Four questions about the financial crisis” by Ben S. Bernanke. What is of particular interest is the transformation of unpredictability to predictability, as incorporated in this type of discourse to indicate a predetermined chain of events, chosen from a wide spectrum of possibilities. The theoretical framework draws on Juri Lotman’s views on the concepts of explosion, unpredictability, inflection point and predictability.
16. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 46 > Issue: 2/3
Camelia Gradinaru GIFs as floating signifiers
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This paper investigates GIFs that use famous paintings and art collages in order to discern if their possible interpretations justify the label of ‘floating signifiers’. For this purpose, I explain what ‘floating signifier’ means and describe what happened with the term when it was correlated with the issues of information and digital materiality. Thus, in new media, the parallel term for ‘floating signifier’ is Hayles’s ‘flickering signifier’. In a subtle manner, GIFs represents perfect instantiation of both concepts. The paper also addresses the main “portrait” of GIFs, examining them in both online (Tumblr, Instagram, Facebook) and offline discursive contexts. The signifieds attributed to particular examples of GIFs, and to GIFs in general, delineate their profile in terms of floating signifiers.
17. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 46 > Issue: 2/3
Riin Magnus, Tiit Remm Urban ecosemiotics of trees: Why the ecological alien species paradigm has not gained ground in cities?
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The transportation and translocation of species beyond their natural habitats is considered to be one of the major causes of biodiversity loss these days. Concerns are growing also about urbanization and the resulting destruction of natural habitats. At the same time, the integration of urban environments into nature protection efforts has brought along the intent to apply the ecological alien species paradigm in cities. Yet, as the practices of urban landscaping demonstrate, this objective has not been achieved. In this article, we propose that the reasons behind it are largely related to the specifics of the city as a semiotic system. Multiplicity of codes and subjects of various origins is contested by the ecological alien species paradigm, yet characteristic of the urban semiotic environment. The city often serves the function of a cultural model, embodying the principles of setting the borders between Self and the Other. Also in this case, the ecological alien species paradigm has to face a different complex of meanings attributed to the Other. We demonstrate how two different models of the city are expressed in the interpretations of alien trees by using pyramid oaks and poplars in Estonia as an example.
18. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 46 > Issue: 2/3
Umberto Eco Giorgio Prodi and the lower threshold of semiotics
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Publication of a translation of the text of Umberto Eco’s talk given in honour of Giorgio Prodi in 1988.
19. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 46 > Issue: 2/3
Kalevi Kull Umberto Eco on the biosemiotics of Giorgio Prodi
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The article provides a commentary on Umberto Eco’s text “Giorgio Prodi and the lower threshold of semiotics”. An annotated list of Prodi’s English-language publications on semiotics is included.
20. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 46 > Issue: 2/3
Umberto Eco Animal language before Sebeok
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Publication of the text of Umberto Eco’s talk given at a symposium held in honour of Thomas A. Sebeok (1920–2001) in San Marino in 2002.