Sociosemiotic readings

Bourdieu, Pierre 1990 [1980]. Structures, Habitus, Practices. The logic of practice. Translated by Richard Nice. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 52-65
The theory of practice as practice insists, contrary to positivist materialism, that the objects of knowledge are constructed, not passivelt recorded, and, contrary to intellectualist idealism, that the principle of this construction is the sysctem of structured, structuring dispositions, the habitus, which is constituted in practice and is always oriented towards practical functions. It is possible to step down from the sovereign viewpoint from which objectivist idealism orders the world, as Marx demands in the Theses on Feuerbach, but without having to abandon to it the 'active aspects' of apprehension of the world by reducing knowledge to a mere recording. To do this, one has to situate oneself within 'real activity as such', that is, in the practical relation to the world through which world imposes its presence, with its urgencies, its things to be done and said, things made to be said, which directly govern words and deeds without ever unfolding as a spectacle. (Bourdieu 1990: 52)
Constructionist view in Bourdieu.
The most improbable practices are therefore excluded, as unthinkable, by a kind of immediate submission toorder that inclines agents to make a virtue of necessity, that is, to refuse what is anyway denied and to will the inevitable. The very condition of production of the habitus, a virtue made of necessity, mean that the anticipations it generates tend to ignore the restriction to which the calidity of calculations of probabilities is subordinated, namely that the experimental conditions should not have been modified. (Bourdieu 1990: 54)
Improbable practices are immediately excluded.
The habitus, a product of history, produces individual and collective practices - more history - in accordance with the schemes generated by history. It ensures the active presence of past experiences, which, deposited in each organism in the form of schemes of perception, thought and action, tend to guarantee the 'correctness' of practices and their constancy over time, more reliably than all formal rules and explicit norms. (Bourdieu 1990: 54)
Habitus produces appropriate behavior.
Overriding the spurious opposition between the forces inscribed in an earlier state of the system, outside the body, and the internal forces arising instantaneously as motivations springing from free will, the internal dispositions - the internalization of externality - enable the external forces to exert themselves, but in accordance of which the specific logic of the organisms in which they are incorporated, i.e. in a durable, systematic and non-mechanical way. As an acquired system of generative schemes, the habitus makes possible the free production of all the thoughts, perceptions and actions inherent in the particular conditions of its production - and only those. (Bourdieu 1990: 54-55)
Internalization of dispositions.
Thus the dualistic vision that recognizes only the self-transparent act of consciousness or the externally determined thing has to give way to the real logic of action, which brings together two objectifications of history, objectifications in bodies and objectifications in institutions or, which amounts to the same thing, two states of capital, objectified and incorporated, through which a distance is set up from necessity and its urgencies. This logic is seen in paradigmatic form in the dialectic of expressive dispotitions and instituted means of expression (morphological, syntactic and lexical instruments, literary genres, etc.) which is observed in the intentionless invention of regulated improvisation. (Bourdieu 1990: 56-57)
Nonverbal repertoire is incorporated capital.
Or rather, the habitus is what enables the institution to attain full realization: it is through the capacity for incorporation, which exploits the body's readiness to take seriously the performative force of the social, that the king, the banker or priest are hereditary monarchy, financial capitalism or the Church made flesh. Property appropriates its owner, conforming with its logic and its demands. (Bourdieu 1990: 57)
Habitus invests the social magic with performative force.
An institution, even an economy, is complete and fully viable only if it is durably objectified not only in things, that is, in the logic, transcending individual agents, of a particular field, but also in bodies, in durable dispotitions to recognize and comply with the demands immanent in the field. (Bourdieu 1990: 58)
Institutions must be inscribed in bodies.
The corrections and adjustments the agents themselves consciously carry out presuppose mastry of a common code; and undertakings of collective mobilization cannot succeed without a minimum of concordance between the habitus of the mobilizing agents (prophet, leader, etc.) and the dispositions of those who recognize themselves in their practices or words, and, above all, without the inclincation towards grouping that springs from the spontaneous orchestration of dispositions. (Bourdieu 1990: 59)
Common code is necessary for social control.
Early experiences have particular weight because the habitustends to ensure its own constancy and its defence against change through the selection it makes within new information by rejecting information capable of calling into question its accumulated information, if exposed to it accidentally or by force, and especially by avoiding exposure to such information. One only has to think, for example, of homogamy, the paradigm of all the 'choices' through which the habitus tends to favour experiences likely to reinforce it (or the empirically confirmed fact that people tend to talk about politics with those who have the same opinions). Through the systematic 'choices' through which the habitus tends to protect itself from crises and critical challenges by providing itself with a milieu to which it is as pre-adapted as possible, that is, a relatively constant universe of situations tending to reinforce its dispositions by offering a market most favourable to its products. And once again it is the most paradoxical property of the habitus, the unchosen principle of all 'choices', that yelds the solution to the information needed in order to avoid information. The schemes of perception and appreciation of the habitus of a non-conscious, unwilled avoidance, whether it results automatically from the conditions of existence (for example, spatial segregation) or has been produced by a strategic intention (such as avoidance of 'bad company' or 'unsuitable books') originating from adults themselves formed in the same conditions. (Bourdieu 1990: 60-61)
Avoiding exposure to disruptive information. #AVOIDANCE of "bad company" or "unsuitable books".

Jensen, Klaus Bruhn 1995. A New Theory of Mass Communication: Constituents of Social Semiotics. The Social Semiotics of Mass Communication. London: Sage Publishing, 55-73.
The origin of the time-in, time-out terminology is in popular culture, in sports. For example, in ice hockey and basketball coaches can call for a break during which to discuss strategy and tactics with their teams. The point is that such a time-out, while apparently suspending action during a moment of reflexivity, addresses and occurs within the total time-in of the game. Similarly, institutionalized cultural activity sucvh as mass media use may suspend other everyday activity, but still takes place in the context of everyday with reference to specific social institutions.
I define time-in culture, first, as the aspect of semiosis which is continuous with and constitutive of other social practices. Comprising the many premises and procedures that serve to orient social interaction, time-in culture is the medium representing and incorporating agency and structure within a context of action. Such situated social semiosis, drawing on face-to-face interactions, mass communication, and other communicative encounters, is a necessary condition for the reproduction of meaningful social relations. Time-in culture is a practice of representation enabling other social action.
Second, I define time-out culture as the aspect of semiosis that may be designated as a separate social practice, and which can be identified by social agents as such. It places reality on an explicit agenda as an object of reflexivity, and provides an occasion for contemplating oneself in a social, existential, or religious rituals and fine arts, mass communication, certainly in a quantitative sense, is the main ingredient of time-out culture in the modern age. Time-out culture is a practice which reflects upon the nature and representation of social reality. (Jensen 1995: 57)
Definitions of time-in and time-out culture. First is more prone to dialogue, second towards monologue. In Berger and Luckmanns terms, time-in would be everyday life as such, and time-out as a problematic episode or an enclave of meaning whereupon to comtemplate everyday reality.
The social-semiotic alternative is to conceive time-out meaning as constituted in conjuction with time-in meaning, by necessity enacting a social purpose with reference to historical context. Communities of communication and inquiry cannot step outside of society or history, but in embracing that condition of semiosis, they participate in the construction of both history and society. (Jensen 1995: 61)
Action's embeddedness in culture.
The concept of 'discourse''is the legacy of textual scholarship in Western philosophy, humanities, and the Logos tradition generally. The assumption has been that language is the primary medium of interchange between humans and reality - in processes of perception, cognition, and action. Contemporary semiotics transcends this position, first, by placing an equal emphasis on other semiotic systems, and, secondly, by studying not just religious, scholarly, or literary 'works,' but equally the contextual, social uses of signs. Discourses, then, is said to include everyday interaction and forms of consciousness, constituting the medium of social construction of reality (Berger and Luckmann, 1966). Hence I define discourse as the use of language and other semiotic systems in social contexts, including reflexive practices such as science and time-out culture. It is through discourse that reality becomes intersubjective as an object of scientific analysis and social conflict. (Jensen 1995: 64)
A note on discourse and other sign systems.

Leeds-Hurwitz, Wendy 1993. Semiotics and Communication: Signs, Codes, Cultures. Hillsdale: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

From Semiotic Theory to Communication Behavior
A third reason to study food, clothing, and objects is that food, clothing, and objects are clearly utilized as forms of communication, thus they are appropriate topics for communication researchers to study. The majority of the theoretical work in communication explicitly considering semiotics, signs, or coders, analyzes language almost exclusively. However, it is equally possible to apply these concepts to the study of social interaction, incorporating the study of nonverbal behavior with the analysis of language. A parallel to the early study of kinesics, proxemics, and paranalguage can be pointed out.
Today these are understood to be major aspects of a particular part of the field of communication and granted their own label, nonverbal communicaion, although their potential value remained unrecognized for many years. Food, clothing, and objects are largely new, potentially critical, aspects of the field of communication. (Leeds-Hurwitz 1993: 75-76)
Nonverbal communication in communication theory.

Objects as Sign and Code (Chapter 6)
There are many types of objects. An object can be any one of the following: a tool (useful for something), a commodity (having exchange value), or a sign (having social value). Or it can be all of these at once. (Leeds-Hurwitz 1993: 128)
An important distinction for further discussion on nonverbal capital.

Culture (Chapter 7)
The majority of semiotic theory fails to make this final analytical step, to move beyond a single code to the culture as a whole and beyond to the mutual influences existing among cultures. As was pointed out earlier, semiotic writing tends to be abstract, more often discussing details of terminology than analyzing concrete behavior. Such discussions have not generally required a larger analytic set than the code. (Leeds-Hurwitz 1993: 157)
A note on semiotic theorizing.
Buried within the concept of continuity is the assumption that the meaning(s) associated with a particular sign is (are) shared by participants and observers. And yet, signs are polysemous, capable of conveying multiple meanings simultaneously. The concept of layering is a logical consequence of polysemy. When an old sign acquires a new meaning yet retains the original meaning as well, that is layering. Layering results primarily either from extended use of a sign over time (so there is opportunity of elaboration) or from multiple audiences using the same sign, attributing different meaning to carious characteristics. (Leeds-Hurwitz 1993: 161)
Layering and polysemy.

Holý, Ladislav and Milan Stuchlík 1983. Actions, norms and representations: Foundations of anthropological inquiry. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Notions and actions (Chapter 2)
To circumscibe meaning, we suggest that it has to do with the processes of understanding, interpretation and expression. It concerns the modes through which people make sense in and of their worlds. When we talk about meaning, we talk about ways in which people understand their world and communicate about it with one another (Dolgin, Kemnitzer and Schneider 1977: 4). Thus, there are two components of meaning: the agents who endow things with meaning and perceive meanings, and the contents of meaning or messages. It is the respective stress on these components which distinguishes the two abovementioned types of approaches, those based on formal linguistics focusing on the message itself, and the phenomenological, intuitionist, Marxist or hermeneutical approaches that tend to focus on the situated actor.
For the structuralist approaches, this holds to such an extent that we can speak about disregarding the actors' interpretative procedures almost entirely. This derives from the basic methodological assumption that the whole culture is structured in a way similar or indentical to the language: 'The indices in non-verbal communication systems, like the seound elements in spoken language, do not have meaning as isolates but only as members of sets. A sign or symbol only acquires meaning when it is discriminated from some other contrary sign or symbol' (Leach 1976: 49). This is the basis of what Turner calls the positional meaning of symbols (Turner 1967: 50-52). When paying attention to the manner in which the object or activity assigned symbolic value is placed or arranged vis-a-vis similar objects or activities, the 'observer finds in the relations between one symbol and other symbols an important source of meaning' (Turner 1972: 1102, 1103). Meaning is understood here not in the sense in which people understand their world and communicate about it with one another but in the sense of the constitution and interrelation of phenomena (objects, persons, relations, etc.). The positional dimension of symbols reveals meaning not only of particular symbols but also of the whole ritual process in which the symbols are employed. (Holy & Stuchlik 1983: 24)
Compare to Darwin's notion of antithesis.
In Leach's taxonomy, the sorcerer's fallacy lies in treating the victim's hair, not as a metaphoric symbol but as a metonymic sign, and then handling the imputed sign as if it were a natural index. The fallacy is compounded by finally treating the supposed natural index as a signal capable of triggering off automatic consequences at a distance (Leach 1976: 31). One of the sorcerer's mistakes which to this is that he does not allow 'for the fact that the victim's hair, when separated from its proper context on the victim's head, changes its "meaning"' (Leach 1976: 33). (Holy & Stuchlik 1983: 27)
Semiosis in magic, explained.
If we do not want simply to observe and report physical movements of people in temporal and spatial sequences, but to study and explain their actions, we can do it only by relating them, implicitly or explicitly, to some notions about such movements, to knowledge, beliefs, ideas or ideals, etc. In practical terms, this means that even when we talk about the study of actions we are necessarily talking about some relationship between actions and notions.
It is in the way actions and notions are related that the second major ambiguity or confusion in the study of actions exists. In the preceeding chapter, we pointed out that quite often verbal statements and observed actions are taken by the researcher to have the same informative status, i.e. to convey information about the same thing. Such treatment of data is possible only if it is assumed that there is some existing reality behind them: social structure, system, form of life, or whatever other term the analyst prefers to use. Both verbal statements and observed actions are veiwed as manifestationf of that structure and, therefore, as informing about its existence and shape in the same way. In theory, very few anthropologists would disagree nowadays with the proposition that structure is at best a property of data. In practice, however, quire a large number of anthropological analyses have been guided by the Durkheimian notion of society as the objective reality making itself manifest in both the verbal statements and the actions of its members. This notion is reaffirmed every time we assume that the verbal statements of the actor, which inform us about their knowledge, are direct and unproblematic descriptions of their behavioural reality, or, in other words, when we confuse the study of actions with the undifferentiated data. (Holy & Stuchlik 1983: 36)
Explaining physical movements as actions in relation with notions.
The notions about actions, explanations for actions, people's theories and ways of accounting for actions, are considered as highly subjective and essentially not related to actions: they can be discarded and the actions will still remain what they objectively are. In their objective form, they can be better explained on the grounds of the researcher's notions. We suggest that such a procedure removes the research from the sphere of social science, because it denies the basic social nature of the phenomena under study. If people's actions are not viewed in terms of their intentions and reasons, then they must be viewed in terms of some external forces or causes of which the people themselves are unaware. Any research carried out along these lines is research into those external causes or forces: the actors are reduced to the role of accidental performers. (Holy & Stuchlik 1983: 43)
The problem with not accounting for notions in explaining actions.

Normative notions (Chapter 5)
Yet the assumption of the intentionality of behaviour has been objected to on the grounds that a large category of actions is performed '...without any effort of will, without resolving or deliberating whether to do them, unintentionally, nonvoluntarily, for no purpose, etc.' (White 1968: 7). It would seem, however, that this objection rests on a certain confusion of the characteristics of behaviour. If 'without resolving or deliberating' is supposed to be identical with 'unintentionally' or 'for no purpose', then it is an untenable identification. Deliberation need not be a perpetually repeated process. For some actions, it can be done only once or a few times, after which the action becomes automatic. But this does not mean that it has no purpose or goal. Equally, the fact that the action is performed nonvoluntarily, does not say anything about its goal-orientation or purposiveness or the intentionality of its performance. A schoolboy may do his homework quire involuntarily, in the sense that he would prefer to do something else, yet he is perfectly aware of the purpose of his action and of the goal which will terminate it. (Holy & Stuchlik 1983: 84)
A note on intentionality and automaticity.
Although, ultimately, the norms are generated by the interactions, the relationship between any given interaction and a norm which is conceived of as determining, guiding or regulating it does not necessarily have to be a direct one. A norm behind any given interaction can emerge not only as a direct cultural response to an ongoing social process but also as the result of an overall adjustment of the whole normative system to the events which are taking place in the given society. (Holy & Stuchlik 1983: 96)
A note on the generation of norms in interaction.

Representational notions (Chapter 6)
Although people's ideas about the social processes in which they are involved are an important part of every representational model, representations are not merely descriptive. People hold notions not only about what the state of affairs actually is: they also hold specific social theories which are statements of basic values and whose important components are ideas about what the state of affairs ought to be. Such notions are usually called ideologies. (Holy & Stuchlik 1983: 100)
Representational notions may be prescriptive or ideological.

Berger, Peter L. and Thomas Luckmann 1966. The social construction of reality : a treatise in the sociology of knowledge. New York: Doubleday.

The Reality of Everyday Life (Chapter 1)
The reality of everyday life is organized around the 'here' of my body and the 'now' of my present. This 'here and now' is the focus of my attention to the reality of everyday life. What is 'here and now' presented to me in everyday life is not, however, exhausted by these immediate presences, but embraces phenomena that are not present 'here and now'. This means that I experience everyday life in terms of differing degrees of closeness and remoteness, both spatially and temporally. Closest to me is the zone of everyday life that is directly accessible to my bodily manipulation. This zone contains the world within my reach, the world in which I act so as to modify its reality, or the world in which I work. In this world of working my consciousness is dominated by the pragmatic motive, that is, my attention to this world is mainly determined by what I am doing, have done or plan to do in it. In this way it is my world par excellence. I know, of course, that the reality of everyday life contains zones that are not accessible to me in this manner. But either I have no pragmatic interest in these zones or my interest in them is indidrect in so far as they may be, potentially, manipulative zones for me. Typically, my interest in the far zones is less intense and certainly less urgent. (Berger & Luckmann 1966: 36)
The zone of bodily manipulation.
As long as the routines of everyday life continue without interruption they are apprehended as unproblematic.
But even the unproblematic sector of everyday reality is so only until further notice, that is, until its continuity is interrupted by the appearance of a problem. When this happens, the reality of everyday life seeks to integrate the problematic sector into what is already unproblematic. Common-sense knowledge contains a variety of instructions as to how this is to be done. For instance, the others with whom I work are unproblematic to me as long as they perform their familiar, taken-for-granted routines - say, typing away at desks next to mine in my office. They become problematic if they interrpt these routines - say, huddling together in a corner and talking in whispers. As I inquire about the meaning of this unusual activity, there is a variety of possibilities that my common-sense knowledge is capable of reintegrating into the unproblematic routines of everyday life: they may be consulting on urgent instructions from the boss, and so on. On the other hand, I may find that they are discussing a union directive to go on strike, something as yet outside my experience but still well within the range of problems with which my common-sense knowledge can deal. (Berger & Luckmann 1966: 38)
Their example of a problematic situation involves nonverbal behavior.

Social Interaction in Everyday Life (Chapter 2)
The most important experience of others takes place in the face-to-face situation, which is the prototypical case of social interaction. All other cases are derivatives of it.
In the face-to-face situation the other is appresented to me in a vivid present I am appresented to him. My and his 'here and now' continuously impinge on each other as long as the face-to-face situation continues. As a result, there is a continuous interchange of my expressivity and his. I see him smile, then react to my frown by stopping the smile, then smiling again as I smile, and so on. Every expression of mine is oriented towards him, and vice versa, and this continuous reciprocity of expressive acts is simultaneously available to both of us. This means that, in the face-to-face situation, the other's subjectivity is available to me through a maximum of symptoms. To be sure, I may misinterpret some of these symptoms. I may think that the other is smiling while in fact he is smirking. Nevertheless, no other form of social relating can reproduce the plenitude of symptoms of subjectivity present in the face-to-face situation. Only here is the other's subjectivity emphatically 'close'. All other forms of relating to the other are, in varying degrees, 'remote'. (Berger & Luckmann 1966: 43)
Face-to-face encounters involve nonverbal exchanges which makes realities impinge on each other.

Language and Knowledge in Everyday Life (Chapter 3)
Human expressivity is capable of objectivation, that is, it manifests itself in products of human activity that are available both to their producers and to other men as elements of a common world. Such objectivations serve as more or less enduring indices of the subjective processes of their producers, allowing their availability to extend beyond the face-to-face situation in which they can be directly apprehended. For instance, a subjective attitude of anger is directly expressed in the face-to-face situation by a variety of bodily indices - facial mien, general stance of hte body, specific movements of arms and feet, and so on. These indices are continuously available in the face-to-face situation, which is precisely why it affords me the optimal situation for gaining access to another's subjectivity. The same indices are incapable of surviving beyond the vivid present of the face-to-face situation. (Berger & Luckmann 1966: 49)
Nonverbal communication here phrased as bodily indices.
Signs are clustered in a number of systems. Thus there are systems of gesticulatory signs, of patterned bodily movements, of various sets of material artefacts, and so on. Signs and sign systems are objectivations in the sense of being objectively available beyond the expression of subjective intentions 'here and now'. This 'detachability' from the immediate expressions of subjectivity also pertains to signs that require the mediating presence of the body. Thus performing a dance that signifies aggressive intent is an altogether different thing from snarling or clenching fists in an outburst of anger. The latter acts express my subjectivity 'here and now', while the former can be quite detached from this subjectivity - I may not be angry or aggressive at all at this point but merely taking part in the dance because I am paid to do so on behalf of someone else who is angry. In other words, the dance can be detached from the subjectivity of the dance in a way in which the snarling cannot from the snarler. Both dancing and snarling are manifestations of bodily expressivity, but only the former has the character of an objectively available sign. Signs and sign systems are all characterized by 'detachability', but they can be differentiated in terms of the degree to which they may be detached from face-to-face situations. Thus a dance is evidently less detached than a material arfifact signifying the same subjective meaning. (Berger & Luckmann 1966: 51)
Detachability of nonverbal signs.


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