TMS of semiotics readings

Winner, Thomas G. 1979. Some Fundamental Concepts Leading to a Semiotics of Culture: An Historical Overview. Semiotics of Culture, Irinis Portis Winner and Jean Umiker-Semeiok (eds.), a special issue of Semiotica, 75-82.
I shall try to show that the Prague contribution lay essentially in three areas: (1) the position that sign systems are not totally immanent, and that they are in complex ways interrelated; (2) the view of function and of the polyfunctional nature of human activity; and (3) the view of the existence of sign systems other than natural language which form a complex system of systems of semiotic codes of all kinds: the various arts, codes of dress, various ethnographic information systems, etc., all of which were seen to co-exist in a vast and complex system of systems. (Winner 1979: 75-76)
Here, he is essentially describing the Prague school foundation for what was to be named as semiosphere by Lotman.
The fertile ideas which originated in Prague in the thirties laid the foundation for modern semiotics, shaping the Tartu-Moscow school of semiotics, the Polish and Czech schools, and much of the semiotics of Western Europe, the Western Hemisphere, and Israel. (Winner 1979: 78)
The Prague school's reach of influence.
...the Prague scholars who were not satisfied with the Saussurian clearly definable, though arbitrary, relation of the linguistic sign to its denotatum, which hardly applied to the aesthetic sign. The aesthetic sign was seen as polysemantic, its diffuse meaning forcing the perceiver's attention on its inner construction. New formulations were advanced concerning such issues as the question of meaning in art, the relation of the work of art to its creator and its manifold perceivers, the complex interrelationship between art and culture and society, the relationships of the different arts to each other, and the evolution of artistic systems. (Winner 1979: 79)
The polysemantic aspect of artistic signs and their complex interrelationship with culture and society are extremely significant.
Portis-Winner, Irene 2002. Semiotics of Peasants in Transition: Slovene Villagers and Their Ethnic Relatives in America. Sound and Meaning: The Roman Jakobson Series in Linguistics and Poetics. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press Books.
Until the demise of communism in Slovenia, no villager would say anything derogatory about another although there were strong internal fissures between families... ...Yet internal conflicts could be deduced from indirect and nonverbal signals such as intonation, facial expression, and general body language. Indeed, in our long hours of conversation, neighbors rarely mentioned each other despite the fact that a mere narrow path separated their homes. (Portis-Winner 2002: 44-45)
Yup, feelings find less censored expressions through nonverbal means.
Connerton's How Societies Remember (1988) postulates that meaning, not limited to the verbal realm, abides everywhere in culture. he strongly emphasizes nonverbal and particularly bodily sources of memory from the innter point of view, sources he believes have not received adequate attention. (Portis-Winner 2002: 46)
That is an extremely useful hint.
The interpretation of objects and persons as metonymic metaphors proves useful to this study. For example, I interpret one of my important informers, an ethnic Slovene farmer, as a striking human sign. His bearing, every gesture, and language are metonymic or indexical of his village of origin and at the same time metaphoric or symbolic (or replicas or transformations) of the village mores. (Portis-Winner 2002: 55)
In this sense Montag is a metonymic metaphor of firemen. He has black hair just like all other firemen have black hair. Until he meets Clarisse, he "walks and talks" like a fireman, never before reflecting about his similarities with other firemen.
Lotman's and Uspensky's analyses take into account that we live in a world where history from the official point of view is made and remade depending on the ideologies of power holders, and where the subjective history of local peoples may conflict with the ideological positions of power holders. (Portis-Winner 2002: 62)
This wording should be kept in mind when reading Orwell's 1984.
According to Wolf, Bourdieu shows that language functions not only as an instrument of communication, but also as one of power (Wolf 1999, 55 referring to Thompson 1984, 46-47). Indeed, this pertains as much to visual as to audible signs and kinetic signs. In Žernovnica, the tax collector entering the village is a human sign of power. His uniform and authoritative bearing sufficiently emphasize his authority. (Portis-Winner 2002: 73)
I drew the same connection with a longer curve - from Butler, through Foucault' to Bourdieu - in my seminar paper.
Lotman, Michail 2000. A Few Notes on the Philosophical Background of the Tartu School of Semiotics. European Journal for Semiotic Studies 12(1): 23-46.
Ju.M. Lotman was a Kantian. Although he does not often refer to Kant's ideas and writings (the most significant references appear in his later works), Kant was his habitual interlocutor over many years, and in his lectures the name of the Köningsberg thinker appeared much more frequently than in written texts. However, even that is not the point. The most fundamental constructs of the Tartu school reveal a clearly Kantian foundation. (Lotman 2000: 26)
Unlike for classical structuralism, for the Tartu school text is not a directly given reality but, as well as language, it is a problem, a black box, a thing in itself. Text is absolutely immanent in relation to extratextual reality, they are in a complementary relation with each other. Text is a closed and independent structure, and it should be studied precisely as such. (Lotman 2000: 27)
Explanation of the concept of text in the Tartu-Moscow school of semiotics.
Lotman, J. M. 1975 [1973]. The Discrete Text and the Iconic Text: Remarks on the Structure of Narrative. Translated by Frances Pfotenhauer. New Literary History 6(2): 333-338.
In the discrete verbal message, the text is made up of signs; in the second case, there are, essentially, no signs: the message is communicated by the text in its entirety. And if we do treat it as discrete, and single out signlike structural elements, this is because of out habit of seeing verbal intercourse as the fundamental, even the sole, form of communicative contact, and a result of making the pictorial text seem like a verbal one. (Lotman & Pfotenhauer 1975 [1973]: 335)
This should be kept in mind when speaking of body motion communication as well. In my seminar paper, the "making of" continuous behaviour seem "discontinuous" was grouped under so-called "epiphenomenal signs" exactly because (unintentional) behaviour is not discrete but may seem discrete when referred to (through language or pictorial representation).
Verbal narration is constructed, first and foremost, by the addition of new words, phrases, paragraphs, chapters. Such narration is always an increase in the size of the text. For the internally nondiscrete text-message of the iconic type, however, narration is a transformation, an internal transposition of elements. (Lotman & Pfotenhauer 1975 [1973]: 335)
This applies to behaviour as well, as non-verbal messages are "fleeting" in time: facial configurations don't accumulate in addition to each other, but replace each other. Only in a recording - say a written description or capturing video - accumulates in an additive manner.
In the iconic text, which cannot be divided into discrete units, the narrative is constructed as the combination of an initial stable state with a subsequent movement. (Lotman & Pfotenhauer 1975 [1973]: 336)
So, in short, nonverbal behavior is foremost an iconic text. But Lotman adds:
Thus, while in primary semiotic systems, two types of narration are possible, in secondary systems of the artistic type, as a result of this clear-cut division in the cultural system, there is a tendency to their synthesis and mutual influence. (Lotman & Pfotenhauer 1975 [1973]: 337)

Lotman, Yuri M. 1990. Universe of the mind: a semiotic theory of culture.Translated by Ann Shukman. Introduction by Umberto Eco. London; New York: Tauris.
...when we are dealing with discrete and non-discrete texts, translation is in principle impossible. The equivalent to the discrete and precisely demarcated semantic unit of one text is, in the other, a kind of semantic blur with indistinct boundaries and gradual shadings into other meanings. If in these other texts we do find segmentation of a sort, it is not comparable with the type of discrete boundaries of the first ones. Given these factors, we are faced with a situation where translation is impossible; yet it is precisely in these situations that efforts to translate are most determined and the results most valuable. For the results are not precise translations, but approximate equivalences determined by the cultural-psychologicla and semiotic context common to both systems. This kind of 'illegitimate', imprecise, but approximate translation is one of the most important features of any creative thinking. For these 'illegitimate' associations provoke new semantic connections and give rise to texts that are in principle new ones. (Lotman 1990: 37)
The generation of new text via translation between incompatible (discrete and continuous) semiotic systems.
...rhetorical texts are distinguished from general language texts by one special feature: namely, while language text are produced by the speaker of that language spontaneously, the explicit rules being apparent only to the researcher who constructs logical models of unconscious processes, in rhetoric the process of producing texts is 'learned' and deliberate; the rules are actively included in the actual text, not only at the metalevel but also on the level of the immediate text structure. (Lotman 1990: 38)
This is important: rhetorical texts are deliberate (intentional) and rules are included in the immediate structure of the text. In behavioural terms, this would amount to being conscious of decorum with the aim of impressing someone. Lotman himself draws up another sense for gestural rhetoric:
The 'rhetoric of figures' belongs to the level of secondary modelling and metamodels; and this distinguishes it from the level of primary signs and symbols. For example, an aggressive gesture by an animal, which serves as a substitute for an actual aggressive act, is an element of symbolic behaviour; in this case the symbol is used in its primary sense. In another example, a symbolic sexual gesture is used in the animal group to indicate submission to the dominant partner and so loses its sexual content; in this instance we can talk of the gesture's metaphorical value and gestural rhetoric. (Lotman 1990: 38)

Shklovsky, Viktor - Art as Technique
And so [automatic] life is reckoned as nothing. Habitualization devours work, clothes, furniture, one's wife, and the fear of war. "If the whole complex lives of many people go on unconsciously, then such lives are as if they had never been." And art exists that one may recover the sensation of life; it exists to make one feel things, to make the stone stony. The purpose of art is to impart the sensation of things as they are perceived and not as they are known. The technique of art is to make objects "unfamiliar," to make forms difficult, to increase the difficulty and lenght of perception because the process of perception is an aesthetic end in itself and must be prolonged. Art is a way of experiencing the artfulness of an object: the object is not important... (Shklovsky)
Here Shklovsky describes the process of defamiliarization. It is a beautiful thought and makes one wonder if art is truly a way of experiencing artfulness, instead of the object, perhaps everyday behavior, too, can be an object of aesthetic ends.
A work is created "artistically" so that its perception is impeded and the greatest effect is produced through the slowness of the perception. As a result of this lingering, the object is perceived not in its extension in space, but, so to speak, in its continuity. Thus "poetic language" gives satisfaction. According to Aristotle, poetic language must appear strange and wonderful; and, in fact, it is often actually foreign: the Sumerian used by the Assyrians, the Latin of Europe during the Middle Ages, the Arabisms of the Persians, the Old Bulgarian of Russian literature, or the elevated, almost literary language of folk songs. (Schklovsky)
This is equally true, I think, for photographs young people today adore. It could well be said that the poses and gestures in typical tumblr pictures must appear strange and wonderful.
Veltruský, Jiří 1981. The Prague School Theory of Theater. Poetics Today 2(3): 225-235.
...all that goes on during the performance centers on the actor, so to speak.It is through him that the other components receive their theatrical function and meaning (Mukařovský, 1941). This does not necessarily presuppose that all he does is strictly integrated in the representation of a dramatic character (Bogatyrev, 1938a; Honzl, 1940a; Mukařovský, 1937). The reason why everything centers on the actor is that he is a real, live person, so that the signs he produces with his own body cannot be reduced to a mere signans/signatum relation (Zich, 1931: 55; Bogatyrev, 1938b; Honzl 1940a; Mukařovský, 1941). In acting, the artist himself is personally present in his work. All the other components appear, therefore, as in some sense less real. (Veltruský 1981: 230)
That is to say, the human sign is more pertinent than other signs.
Zich laid the foundation of the semiotics of theater when he conceptually separated the signans from the signatum in acting, namely the stage figure created by the actor from the character, or dramatis persona, represented by that figure - and when he separated them both from the actor as an artist (Zich, 1931: 55-6). Most of the theoreticians belonging to the Prague Linguistics Circle were reluctant to adopt this concept of the stage figure as distinct from both the actor and the character. (Veltruský 1981: 232)
The idea that the sign has simply two facets, the signans and the signatum, does not quite apply to acting. In a specific work of acting, it is often hard and sometimes utterly impossible to determine what belongs to the stage figure and what to the character. The borderline between the two is blurred, a great many features are part of the signans in some respect and of the signatum in some other. Since in acting human beings, their actions and behavior represent human or antropomorphous beings, their actions and behavior, the difference between similarity and sameness tends to canish (Zich, 1931: 56). (Veltruský 1981: 233)
From my perspective, this three-part distinction is perfectly understandable: in Fahrenheit 451 (1966), the Austrian actor Oskar Werner (1) embodies Guy Montag (2), a character from Ray Bradbury's novel (3). (2) and (3) are similar, but not the same (due to intersemiotic translation, or untranslatability).
Veltruský, Jiří 1987. Structure in Folk Theater: Notes Regarding Bogatyrev's Book on Czech and Slovak Folk Theater. Poetics Today 8(1): 141-161.
Theatricality cannot be fully understood without a study of its roots in everyday life. But if it is to be fruitful this study must avoid confusing distinct categories. The tempration to see theater everywhere is very strong. Let us take the following statement: "Out own life and sphere of work - emploi - which obliges us to play, for most of our life, the part of a teacher, shopkeeper, civil servant, etc., rarely gives us the opportunity to 'jump out' of this role and perform a different one" (Bogatyrev, p. 8). This exercise of an occupation can certainly be called playing a part but the phrase is merely a metaphor. The teacher really is a teacher, the shopkeeper a shopkeeper, the civil servant a civil servant and so on: one teaches, the second sells merchandise, the third does paper work, etc. By contrast, the stage murderer surely does not do away with his fellow actor - not even when it is a rival, whether in love or in casting. In the theater, the closest an actor can come to murder is to simulate it; he can represent it by a sign the signans of which closely resembles its signatum. (Veltruský 1987: 144)
Here is basically the difference between instrumental and communicative behaviors: first refers to actually performing the action; the second to seaming or simulating the action. Real life is instrumental (non-signs), theater is communicational (signs).
The actor's contribution is to create a stage figure which is a structure of signs. Some of these are the actor's own physical characteristics; to put it very crudely, a tall actor cannot create a short figure. Others are artificial, in the sense that they are the products of an art or craft; this applies to the make-up or mask, the dress, etc., but also - up to a point - to the color, the strenght and the pitch of the voice (which can differ to some extent from his own), to the way he moves, gestures, uses his facial muscles, etc. (Veltruský 1987: 153)
Yet again I see my own three-part distinction: (1) physical/biological, (2) artificial/cultural, and (3) personal capabilities.
In theatrical action, each stage figure is interconnected with all the others, as well as with all the other components of theater. Therefore the stage figure also carries a variety of meanings that are related indirectly, if at all, to the character. (Veltruský 1987: 154)
This sounds vaguely related to what Irene Portis-Winner called the human sign.
...such stage objects as raised platforms, chairs and tables are used to draw attention to some characters' importance, dignity, and so on. Their sole purpose is to convey a feature of the character in the simplest possible way: in order to signal the character's importance or dignity the actor merely steps or climbs onto an elevated platform, sits on a chair, takes a place behind a table and so forth. (Veltruský 1987: 157)
Yet again conjuring up the simple connection between being higher and being more important. A simple, yet effective device.
Honzl, Jindřich [1940]. Dynamics of the Sign in the Theater. Ladislav Matejka, Irwin R. Titunik (eds.) Semiotics of Art. Cambridge: MIT Press, 75-94.
...it is not its constructional nature that makes it a stage but the fact that it represents dramatic space. The same can be said about the actors: the actor is usually a person who speaks and moves about the stage. However, the fundamental nature of the actor does not consist in the fact that he is a person speaking and moving about the stage but that he represents someone, that he signifies a role in a play. Hence it does not matter whether he is a human being; an actor could be a piece of wood, as well. If the wood moves about and its movements are accompanied by words, then such a piece of wood can represent a character in the play, and the wood becomes an actor. (Honzl 1976: 75)
The treatment of stage characters as merely a structures of signs enables one to liberate them from human bodies:
Liberation awaits dramatic character, up to now closely associated with human gestures and motions, as it also does the playwright's text, hithero verbal text, and so on for the other devices of dramatic art. And much to our amazement, we are discovering the stage "space" need not be spatial but that sound can be a stage and music can be a dramatic event and scenery can be a text. (Honzl 1976: 76)
This seems a bit schizophrenice: this chair can be a lamp post and this window can be a grave, etc. But Honzl is trying to demonstrate the role of semiosis in the theater devices.
...we cannot tell what a contraption on stage is supposed to signify until it is used by an actor. He has first to sit on it or rock on it or climb out of it. [...] The sign (representative) function of the scenery and props is determined solely by the movements of the actor and by the manner in which he uses them, but even then their representative function is not entirely unambiguous. (Honzl 1976: 78)
It should be cautioned that Honzl is here talking about ambiguous stage props, the function of which "is not carried by either color or shape".
Mukařovský, Jan 1978. Structure, Sign and Function: Selected Essays. Translated and edited by John Burbank and Peter Steiner. New Haven: Yale University Press.
During a performance it seems quite natural that such and such word of the text is pronounced in a certain way or is accompanied by a certain gesture, that its effect manifests itself in a particular manner in the facial expression, gestures, and movements of the actors, and so on. But during rehearsals the spectator would see that the connection of a word with a gesture, and so forth, is the result of an intentional selection from many possibilities, that no component of theater follows automatically from another, and that the theatrical performance is a very complex and dangerously fluid structure. (Mukařovský 1978: 202-203)
Here Mukařovský describes the naturalness with which we glean performances, while the rehearsals avail the tenuous efforts to establish naturalness.
If a statue is part of the set, sculpture is present on stage. Even in such a case, however, the function of the statue is different from what it is off stage. Off stage, for instance, right in the lobby of a theater, a statue is merely a thing, a depiction, whereas on stage it is a motionless actor, a contrast to a live actor. (Mukařovský 1978: 205)
This - difference in function - was pointed out also by Lotman: the icon functions differently in the temple and in a museum. But it should be doubted whether Mukařovský's analogy can be taken very seriously, as a statues of people in public space then become "motionless people".
Lotman, Ju. M. and B. A. Uspensky 1978. Myth — Name — Culture. Semiotica 22(3): 211-233.
In the first instance (descriptive description) [The world is matter] we are referring to a metalanguage (to a category or element of a metalanguage). In the second (mythological description) [The world is a horse] we are referring to a metatext, that is, to a text that fulfills a metalinguistic function with respect to what is given; here the described object and the describing metatext belong to one and the same language. (Lotman and Uspensky 1978: 212)
This is the essence or conclusion of their distinction.
Mythological thinking, from our point of view, can be regarded as paradoxical, but in no way primitive, since it deals successfully with complex problems of classification. Comparing its mechanism with the logical apparatus to which we are accustomed, we can establish a certain parallelism of funtions. (Lotman and Uspensky 1978: 213)
Here they are trying to avoid being normative: mythological thinking is not lesser than logical/scientific/metalingual thinking.
Lotman, Jurij 1976. Semiotics of Cinema. Translated by Mark E. Suino. University of Michigan Press.
Statements of the type "The Volga flows into the Caspian Sea," for a person who already knows that fact, carry no information. Information is the removal of some uncertainty, the destruction of ignorance and its replacement by knowledge. Where there is no ignorance there is no information. (Lotman 1976: 13)
This is Lotman's definition of information which should be compared to other definitions of information and knowledge. An elaboration:
...the quantity of potential information depends on the presence of alternative possibilities. Information is the opposite of automatism: where an event automatically has another as a consequence, no information arises. (Lotman 1976: 13)
In one of his works L. Kulešov quite properly recommended, when discussing the practical methodology of film work, that students train their vision by looking at potential subjects through a piece of paper containing a hole cut in the shape and size of a film frame. The difference between the cisible world in life and on the screen comes about in just this manner. The former is not discrete (it is continuous). While our hearing divides audible speech into words, our vision sees the world as "a single chunk." The world of cinema is the world which we see plus discreteness. It is a world divided into pieces, each one having a certain degree of autonomy, as a result of which we have the possibility for multiple combinations, not available in the real world. The world becomes a visible artistic world. (Lotman 1976: 23)

Tynjanov, Yuri 1977. The Fundamentals of Cinema. Translated by L. M. O'Toole. Formalist theory. s.l.: Oxon Publishing Ltd, 32-54.
The flatness of film (which still does not deprive it of perspective), this technical 'failing' is expressed in the art of cinema through the positive constructive principles of simultaneity of several sequences of visual images, on the basis of which a quite new interpretation of gesture and movement is achieved. (Tynjanov 1977: 35)
On page 39 he puts it in shorter words: "camera angle replans the relations between people and things". An elaboration:
It is quite obvious that in the process of this stylistic transformation (which is necessarily also a semantic transformation), it is not the 'man-as-seen' and not the 'object-as-seen' which are the 'hero' of the cinema, but a 'new' man and a 'new' object - people and objects transformed within the dimension of the art form - that is, 'man' and 'object' of cinema. The visible relationships between visible people are broken down and replaced by relationships between cinematic 'people' - every instant, unconsciously and almost naively - so deeply rooted in this principle in the very basis of the art form. (Tynjanov 1977: 38)
This amounts to what Zich described as the "third" - the dramatis persona in theater.
Here Tynjanov talks about (panto)mime in cinema:

Kull, Kalevi 1999. Towards biosemiotics with Yuri Lotman. Semiotica 127(1): 115-131.
...According to the view which has been adpoted by many contemporary biosemioticians, these [biolocial semiotics and cultural semiotics] are different branches of semiotics. But there also exists another view, which places the semiotics of nature into the framework of a more general cultural semiotics (I would prefer in this case to apply the term 'ecosemiotics', as different from 'biosemiotics' in the sense of the former approach). (Kull 1999: 117)
I had not realized that ecosemiotics embodies the clashing of bio- and cultural semiotics, but it makes perfect sense.
In 1978, the Tartu theoretical biology group, together with similar groups from Moscow and St. Petersburg, organized a conference, 'Biology and linguistics', held in Tartu on February 1-2. One of the key lecturers was Y. Lotman and many of his colleagues participated. (Kull 1999: 117)
I'm noting this down because the very idea of combining biology and linguistics seems enticing.
In the autumn of 1977, when the Section of Theoretical Biology of the Estonian Naturalists' Society had been established, one of the first invited speakers was Y. Lotman. He agreed willingly, but confessed that he did not know much about the topic. The talk was titled 'The forms of collective life' and held on December 15, 1977. At the beginning of the talk, he paid attention to the book by Michel Foucault, Les mots et les choses (The RUssian translation of which had just appeared in 1977), with the subtitle Archeology of Humanities, which contained quite a large number of connections between linguistics and biological taxonomy. (Kull 1999: 121)
Upon first reading of this article, a year ago, I had not noticed this valuable piece of information, which reframes the relationship of Foucault and Lotman for me entirely.
Y. Lotman's lecture 'Two approaches to behaviour', was delivered at the Spring School of Theoretical Biology 'Theory of Behaviour' on May 7, 1982, which took place at Puhtu Biological Station, the former house of Jakob von Uexküll (Lotman 1982). That meeting has remained the largest ethological conference ever organized in Estonia (about 130 participants). Y. Lotman distinguished between two appraoches concerning the question of behavior. The first takes as its starting point the behavior of an individual as the main reality and point of reference, from which scientific modeling of behavioral acts begins. The second view takes as its basis the 'behavioral space' as an integral structure, which is programmed primarily in relation to the hierarchically lower-level program of individuals. According to Y. Lotman,
this leads us to assume that besides the biosphere and semiosphere, it is reasonable to speak about the sphere of behaviour, which is invariant for all living matter and its forms. This would make it possible to move away from pure empirism and to approach typological methods in behavioural research.
According to him, the reconciliation of the two aspects would be the most fruitful. The major part of the lecture was devoted to the phenomenon of asymmetry in semiosis and to brain lateralization. He also made a more general claim, that in any complex semiotic system, a spatial asymmetry arises. (Kull 1999: 122-123)
I quoted this in lenght because the "sphere of behavior" is essentially what I am studying, and recently I managed to find a single page abstract in Estonian of his lecture [link], which in personal communication with Kalevi Kull was claimed to be the only surviving document of the lecture.
Ivanov, Vyacheslav V. 2008. Semiotics of the 20th century. Sign Systems Studies 36(1): 185-230.
Modern studies of endangered languages suggests that no more than 600 languages out of 6,000 that exist in the world may survive in the next generation (Robins, Uhlenbeck 1991). This possible catastrophe of the nearest future might be even more serious than the one studied by the specialists in ecology. Mankind is rapidly losing the degree of linguistic diversity that it had for last thousands of years. (Ivanov 2008: 202)
Like was noted on similar topic in one of Irina Avramets's lectures, sic transit gloria mundi.
Modern neurophysiological research has shown the connection of different forms of rhythmical activity (such as rhytmic music, dance or jogging) to the positive action of endogeneous opioid peptide neurotransmitters like the five amino-acid encephalins, endorphines and dynorphin. The latter are mimicked by the drugs spreading in the modern society. (Ivanov 2008: 215)
Something I already knew, bit didn't have a source on. This explains why jogging and music are addictive.
In the semiotic studies of cinema the first stage consisted of the comparison of a movie's structure and a verbal text. Specialists were interested in finding units corresponding to words and sentences in a cinematographic discourse. (Ivanov 2008: 219)
In my analysis for the course on film semiotics, I followed this first stage by describing the most evident differences in the verbal text and filmic realisation.
Continuous messages that are particularly important for mass media are still much less investigated by semioticians, with the only important exception being film semiotics. (Ivanov 2008: 288)
Another noteworthy passing remark. Noteworthy because it seems to hold true: discrete signs are much more investigated, and studying continuous messages (which compose the overwhelming majority in nonverbal communication) might be fruitful if novel methods are applied.
Pavel Florenskij (1882-1937; executed in the time of Stalin's purges after being kept in a Northern Russian camp for political prisoners) was among the first to suggest the opposition of Logos or "ectrophy" (represented by culture and cult) to the second principle of thermodynamics determining the growth of entropy (cf. Ivanov 1995). Approximately at the same time Szilárd (1898-1964) published his study on the entropy being diminished by an interference of a thinking person measuring a physical process and serving as a paradoxical Maxwell's demon (Szilárd 1929). According to later cybernetic works by Wiener and Brillouin a probable explanation of the difference in the minus/plus sign between the "negentropy" (negatice entropy = Florenskij's ectrophy) or information (in the sense of Shannon's mathematical information theory) and entropy may be understood in a similar vein. Suggesting a special pneumatosphere (from Greek πνεύμα "soul, spirit" to Florenskij) - semiosphere (sphere of signs in the sense of Lotman 1990) based on the principles of exact science. In that case we may say that the works of Teilhard and Vernadskij suggest a general tendency of the growth of the amount of information. The arrow of time in the human biological evolution as well as in the history of noosphere/pneumatosphere/semiosphere is defined by this tendency just as the time direction in the physical world is measured according to the second law of thermodynamics. (Ivanov 2008: 228)
I quoted this footnote at lenght because I'm fairly familiar with notions related to the semiosphere and this is my first acquaintance with the notion of pneumatosphere.
Pavel Florenskij in his posthumous works suggested the importance of organoprojection (the continuation of our body through some technological devices). The same idea was discussed by Niels Bohr in some of his philosophical essays: to him a scientist and his device are united, the constitute one observer. Can a border between a scholar and his library be drawn ... ? (Ivanov 2008: 234)
The continuation of body through extrabodily devices (especially information technology) is an interest of mine also, and it links up with Aldo Leopolds remark on how a true modern person is separated from the rest of the world (especially nature) with "innumerable physical gadgets". References related to Florenskij and pneumatosphere:
  • Florenskij, Pavel A. 1993. Analiz prostranstva i vremeni v hudozhestvennoizobrazitel’nyh proizvedeniyah [Analysis of Space and Time in the Works of Representational Art]. Moskva: Progress. [In Russian].
  • - 1995. Lo spazio e il tiempo nell’arte. [Misler, N., trans.] Milano: Adelphi edizioni.
  • Ivanov, Vyacheslav V. 1995. Florensky: A symbolic View. Elementa 2(l).
  • Szilárd, Léo. 1929. Über die Entropieverminderung in einem thermodynamischen System bei Eingriffen intelligenter Wesen. Zeitschrift für Physik 53: 840–856.


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