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Sign Systems Studies

Volume 44, Issue 1/2, 2016
Special Issue: Framing Nature and Culture

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Displaying: 1-17 of 17 documents


1. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 44 > Issue: 1/2
Lauri Linask, Riin Magnus Introduction: Framing nature and culture
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2. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 44 > Issue: 1/2
Ernest W. B. Hess-Luttich Urban discourse – city space, city language, city planning: Eco-semiotic approaches to the discourse analysis of urban renewal
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Sustainable Urban Planning has to be understood as a communicative process connecting city architecture, technology, city district management and social infrastructure of neighbourhoods. The focus on sustainability raises the question of the necessary discourse conditions that allow architects and city planners enter into a dialogue with other urban stakeholders, citizens, local administrators and politicians, and discuss which cultural heritage should be preserved and where sustainability takes precedence. Looking at the style of discourse in urban communication brings also its socio-cultural modalities into focus. At the intersection of communication and discourse studies, urban ecology and sociology, the article focuses on the growing interest in architectural communication and, taking current approaches as a starting point, seeks to clarify which conversational maxims and discourse requirements by mediation, moderation, and integration are promising for achieving a new urban quality.
3. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 44 > Issue: 1/2
Tiit Remm Textualities of the city – from the legibility of urban space towards social and natural others in planning
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‘Text’ has been a frequent notion in analytical conceptualizations of landscape and the city. It is mostly found in analyses of textual representations or suggestions concerning a metaphor of “reading” an (urban) landscape. In the Tartu-Moscow School of Semiotics the idea of the text of St. Petersburg has also been applied in analysing particular cities as organizing topics in literature and in culture more widely, but it has not happened to an equal degree in studies of actual urban spaces. The understanding of text as a semiotic system and mechanism is, however, more promising than revealed by these conceptions. Some potential can be made apparent by relating this textual paradigm to a more pragmatic understanding of the city and its planning. My project in this paper is to uncover an analytical framework focusing on the concepts of ‘text’, ‘textualization’ and ‘texting’ in studying the planning of urban environment. The paper observes the case of the urban planning process of the Tartu city centre in Estonia during 2010–2016, and is particularly concerned with the roles that urban nature has acquired in the process of this “textualization” of the local environment, societal ideals, practices and possible others.
4. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 44 > Issue: 1/2
Katarzyna Kaczmarczyk, Montana Salvoni Hedge mazes and landscape gardens as cultural boundary objects
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Despite their obvious functional and stylistic differences, hedge mazes and English landscape gardens have salient symbolic and structural similarities which make them fruitful objects of comparative analysis. Both invert the norms expected of interior and exterior spaces, of human cultivation and “wilderness”, creating landscapes of semiotic uncertainty. Being at once natural and cultural, both types of space present a “problem to be solved” either by reaching a centre or understanding a layout. Both “play” with the notion of boundary by constructing uncrossable and at times oppressive walls from seemingly fragile plant matter or by hiding their boundaries. At the same time there are important differences which make this comparison of boundary spaces even more interesting: hedge mazes and landscape gardens are distinguishable by their respective structural levels, the presence or absence of a centre, their relation to other parts of gardens and connected human habitations.Using Juri Lotman’s notion of hybrid and transitional objects characteristic of boundary mechanisms, this paper explores the semiotically dense nature-culture boundary which these mazes and gardens both inhabit and create. The objects of our analysis are 17th-century English mazes and early English gardens dating from the beginning of the 18th century: mazes at Longleat and Hampton Court, and landscape gardens such as Rousham and Stowe.
5. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 44 > Issue: 1/2
Matthew Clements The circle and the maze: Two images of ecosemiotics
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This article compares the work of Jakob von Uexkull and Charles S. Peirce to elucidate two contrasting yet connected images of ecosemiotics. The intent is not simply to oppose their work, but to explore a tension which has implications for the ethical dimension of this emerging discipline. Uexkull’s functional cycle is associated with the image of a circle, which, while emphasizing the integration of organism and environment, is shown to invoke solipsism, and an overly deterministic depiction of ecological relations. Peirce’s drawing of a labyrinth is taken to represent a maze, which, while exemplifying the evolutionary play of ecosystems, may entail a level of unpredictability that is catastrophically chaotic. The root of these diverging depictions is identified with the role of subjectivity in engendering semiotic relations in the work of both Uexkull and Peirce. Where the more regressive aspects of Uexkull’s theoretical biology are mitigated by a teleological interpretation of life’s underlying causality, orientating agency within Peirce’s work depends upon attention to the idea of the self in his philosophy of signs. In conclusion, Eduardo Kohn’s conception of an ‘ecology of selves’ is cited, and the status of the organism as a living symbol of its environment is reaffirmed.
6. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 44 > Issue: 1/2
Yogi Hale Hendlin Multiplicity and Welt
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This article interprets Jakob von Uexkull’s understanding of different beings’ Innenwelt, Gegenwelt, and umwelt through Deleuzian insights of multiplicity, context, and particularity. This Deleuzian interpolation into Uexkull’s insights acknowledges the absence of a unitary ‘human’ view of nature, recognizing instead that plural viewpoints of cultures, subgroups and individuals understand and interpret natural signs variously not just because of ideology but because of physiology and contrastive fundamental ways of accessing the world. Recent formative research in comparative neurobiology suggests that universal anthropological claims of cross-cultural semiotic similarity are incorrect.Interpreting biosemiotics as the investigation of apprehending the Innenwelt of radically different others (species), such semiotic understandings themselves are not necessarily generalizable between different members of the same species in a group, same-species groups in different natural cultural contexts, or even (as with humans) the same animal at different points of time (based on new understandings, patterns, or events of meaning altering interpretations of self and events). Conjoining Deleuze’s insights of the complexity of multiplicity with Uexkull’s scientific-imaginative system of comprehending other creatures’ ways of understanding their world offers an increased self-reflexivity regarding the simultaneous levels of actual semiotic activity for biosemiotic inquiry.
7. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 44 > Issue: 1/2
Rebecca C. Potter The biosemiotics of Aldo Leopold
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Responding to Jean-Claude Gens’ article, “Uexkull’s Kompositionslehre and Leopold’s ‘land ethic’ in dialogue”, which appeared in Sign Systems Studies in 2013, the article further develops a direct connection between Aldo Leopold’s approach to ecology and Jakob von Uexkull’s umwelt theory. The connection between Uexkull and Leopold is especially evident in Leopold’s descriptions of animal behaviour that he presents in the first part of his seminal work, A Sand County Almanac. In this work specifically, Leopold illustrates the biosemiotic processes described by Uexkull, and does so with a purpose: to reshape our understanding of the biotic community as a place of semiotic interaction.
8. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 44 > Issue: 1/2
Wojciech Kalaga Against the Frame
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The paper explores theoretical foundations of the frame from two semiotic perspectives: that of the Saussurean dyadic sign dominant in the European tradition and that of the triadic sign of the Peircean/American descent. If – within the post-Saussurean agenda – meaning can be fairly easily “framed” and closed in the field of the signified, Peirce’s concepts of interpretant and infinite semiosis implement a mechanism which inherently obliterates the frame. Given this duality of approaches, the contention “No meaning without a frame” is thus true and paradoxical at the same time, and that paradox goes far beyond the Derridean concept of the parergon, which only belongs to both the inside and the outside. The frame, as construed in this paper, is not merely a material or imaginary, inactive partition, but is itself an operational agent which isolates and delineates a text ontologically as the other of the context, and simultaneously subverts that otherness by necessitating further semiosis and its own partial self-erasure. Regarding the interrelations amongst texts and between text and context, the frame is thus envisaged, and investigated in the paper, not so much as a factor of resistance or separation, but as an osmotic boundary facilitating rather than preventing a bi-directional flow of meanings. Putting this in epistemological terms, one may say that interpretation – paradoxically again – requires an enframing of its object, but at the same time it dissolves the stipulated frame and reaches beyond it.
9. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 44 > Issue: 1/2
Pierre-Louis Patoine, Jonathan Hope Literature as a defining trait of the human umwelt: From and beyond Heidegger
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Writers and readers of literature are, among other things, biological entities that evolve under particular political (geographical/historical) conditions. A comparative study of certain texts by Martin Heidegger (1889–1976) can help us establish a fruitful interpretation of this threefold link between literary art, biology and politics. However, careful analysis reveals that Heidegger remains too rooted in an old-world, nationalistic and anthropocentric paradigm. We will attempt to rethink Heidegger’s assumptions on the grounds that literature, a cultural practice, enables us to delineate our natural environment. By reformulating Heidegger’s line of thought, we can more precisely address the plural structure of our biotic and political-literary experiences.
10. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 44 > Issue: 1/2
Ott Heinapuu Agrarian rituals giving way to Romantic motifs: Sacred natural sites in Estonia
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Semiotic mechanisms involving sacred natural sites – or areas of land or water with special spiritual significance – that have been focal points in agrarian vernacular religion have been transformed in modern Estonian culture. Some sites have accrued new significance as national monuments or tourist attractions and the dominant way of conceptualizing these sites has changed.Sacred natural sites should not be presumed to represent pristine nature. Rather, they are products of complex culture-nature interactions as they have been formed in the course of traditional land management as well as different semiotic practices, including ritual and conservationist ones. The existence of sites encompassed by the term defies and blurs the rigid distinction between nature and culture.Individual sacred natural sites and categories of such sites can act as signifiers for a variety of different signifieds concurrently, acting as confluences of different sign systems and thus exemplifying the creolization of these systems as well as bringing about the hybridization of different landscape traditions in certain loci.Estonian literary culture has adopted motifs and narratives that define sacred natural sites more readily from other literary traditions than from the Estonian vernacular tradition; in turn, the vernacular tradition has also adopted and assimilated literary Romantic motifs.
11. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 44 > Issue: 1/2
Hing Tsang Documentary and ecosemiotics: Frames and faces in the work of Johan van der Keuken
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This article argues that the work of the late Johan van der Keuken offers a contribution to ecological semiotics, and that it also defines the relationship between the semiotic animal and nature in ways that avoid glottocentricism. Taking from the recent work of Kalevi Kull, Jesper Hoffmeyer, and John Deely amongst others, I will argue that van der Keuken’s documentaries offer a view of ecology that is broader than a study of bio-physical processes that might reduce ecology to a narrow political issue.In order to support this argument, I will be looking at two contrasting films from van der Keuken – Flat Jungle (1978) and Face Value (1991). The first film examines natural habitats within a confined coastal area in Western Europe, while the second film looks at human beings in the different urban environments of late-20th-century Europe. I will then argue that van der Keuken does not collapse the vital distinctions between umwelt and Lebenswelt, yet his films also succeed at reminding us of their constant interdependence.
12. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 44 > Issue: 1/2
Nelly Maekivi, Timo Maran Semiotic dimensions of human attitudes towards other animals: A case of zoological gardens
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This paper analyses the cultural and biosemiotic bases of human attitudes towards other species. A critical stance is taken towards species neutrality and it is shown that human attitudes towards different animal species differ depending on the psychological dispositions of the people, biosemiotic conditions (e.g. umwelt stuctures), cultural connotations and symbolic meanings. In real-life environments, such as zoological gardens, both biosemiotic and cultural aspects influence which animals are chosen for display, as well as the various ways in which they are displayed and interpreted. These semiotic dispositions are further used as motifs in staging, personifying or de-personifying animals in order to modify visitors’ perceptions and attitudes. As a case study, the contrasting interpretations of culling a giraffe at the Copenhagen zoo are discussed. The communicative encounters and shifting per ceptions are mapped on the scales of welfaristic, conservational, dominionistic, and utilitarian approaches. The methodological approach described in this article integrates static and dynamical views by proposing to analyse the semiotic potential of animals and the dynamics of communicative interactions in combination.
13. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 44 > Issue: 1/2
Ariel Gomez Ponce Ecosemiotic aspects of zoomorphic metaphors: The human as a predator
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Through history, predatory features are used to constructs when constructing textual representations on the human/animal frontier. The predatory act has remained a recurring motif that emerges from a metaphoric system in cultural imagination. An ecosemiotic approach to this topic allows us to understand how specific predatory behaviours constitute a source of meaning: in other words, how an alleged “animal tendency” is appropriated (translated) into various cultural texts through metaphors, creating a rhetorical order. To illustrate this, some features of metaphors of predatoriness in certain texts in Argentinian culture will be reviewed. A particularly vivid example is provided by two species, the cougar and the jaguar, that have generated cultural translations which expand and proliferate into contemporaneity. These translations constitute a form in which culture metaphorizes aggressiveness and interprets certain species from a historical and ideological perspective. The Argentinian cases suggest a revision of how history has treated the cultural other in terms of cultural and biological inferiority.
14. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 44 > Issue: 1/2
Ekaterina Velmezova On semiotic (un)predictability: Tartu Summer School of Semiotics 2015
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15. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 44 > Issue: 1/2
Remo Gramigna Rethinking theoretical schools and circles in the 20th-century humanities
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16. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 44 > Issue: 1/2
Kalevi Kull Alexandr Levich (1945–2016) and the Tartu–Moscow Biosemiotic Nexus
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17. Sign Systems Studies: Volume > 44 > Issue: 1/2
Myrdene Anderson My half-century saturated in semiotics: A spiralling confessional
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