Various Seminar Texts

Before turning to texts, I'd like to note that this blog is developing nicely. I am no longer confined to reporting only that I read in books. From now on I shall feel no shame in reporting knowledge gained in lectures and mixing texts from different courses with texts of my own choosing. Other, unconnected (or non-academic) information may also find its way here. For example, I learned an interesting new word from my father: Ilmatala - surematu inimene (everlasting, or never dying person). In crude translation, this Võru word consists of "ilm", a word denoting both weather and the world (a conflation indicative of Estonian worldview), and "tala", a beam or supporting structure (say, a vertical log). I'm not very familiar with this kind of semantic analysis, but it sounds as if ilmatala is a person who, aside from nevery dying also holds the world up or in its place. This reminds me of the film A Man from Earth in which the protagonist is this kind of ilmatala: aside from never getting old, he has been the source of the Jesus myth and played other various roles in the human history. A curious word indeed. Now on to the texts!
Schmitt, Carl 1996. The Concept of Political. Translation, introduction, and notes by George Schwab; with Leo Strauss's notes on Schmitt's essay; translated by J. Harvey Lomax; foreword by Tracy Strong . Chicago; London: The University of Chicago Press
From the lecture I gathered that there is a need for studying unpredictability in politics. In my case, this unpredictable sphere is that of the bodily - nonverbal - behaviour. While the lecturer identified "the political" with the power of discourses, my parallel approach should be identifying "the political" with bodily behaviour (or what Nancey Henley calls "micropolitics"). The lecturer's interest in hegemony, especially the Laclau'an kind (involving signifying orders), indicated at the hegemonic function of "freezing" or "crystallizing" (i or y?) temporary and fluid relations into seemingly permanent or everlasting ones, thus structuring the politicla space and excluding other possibilities as inconceivable. In nonverbal terms, hegemony would involve something to the effect of restructure bodily allowances (who can do what, go where, look like what, etc.).
More related to Schmitt's text, Chantal Mouffe's (2009: 9) definition of these notions under study reveal that "the political" is the dimension of antagonism which is constitutive of human societies and "politics" is the set of practices and institutions through which an order is created, organizing human coexistence in the context of conflictuality provided by the political. In short, almost anything can be "political" but it becomes "politics" when it has to do with institutions which create order in society. Let's see how this view pans out in Schmitt's text.
One seldom finds a clear definition of the political. The word is most frequently used negatively, in contrast to various other ideas, for example in such antitheses as politics and economy, politics and morality, politics and law; and within law there is again politics and civil law, and so forth. By means of such negative, often also polemical confrontations, it is usually possible, depending upon the context and concrete situation, to characterise something with clarity. But this is still not a specific definition. In one way or another "political" is generally juxtaposed to "state" or at least is brought in relation with it. The state thus appears as something political, the political as something pertaining to the state - obviously an unsatisfactory circle. (Schmitt 1996: 20)
The problem seems to be the ambiguity in the concept of "the political". It is generally thought to be something negative, and associated with the state. In the footnotes, Schmitt brings many examples of this kind of usage. The most prominent being the definition of the political which utilizes the concept of power as the decisive factor, especially state power (in, for example, Max Weber's "Politik als Beruf"). For my purposes, the both "the political" and "power" must be distanced from the state and brought into the physio-psycho-sociological field of micropolitics (which, I think, should be radically reviewed and transformed if I am to use it effectively - it cannot remain a feminist concept).
Also, the general definitions of the political which contain nothing more than additional references to the state are understandable and to that extent also intellectually justifiable for as long as the state is truly a clear and unequivocal eminent entity confronting nonpolitical groups and affairs - in other words, for as long as the state possesses the monopoly on politics. That was the case where the state had either (as in the eighteenth century) not recognized society as an antithetical force or, at least (as in Germany in the nineteenth century and into the twentieth), stood above society as a stable and distinct force.
The equation state = politics becomes erroneous and deceptive at exactly the moment when state and society penetrate each other. What had been up to that point affairs of state become thereby social matters, and, vice versa, what had been purely social matters become affairs of state - as must necessarily occur in a democratically organized unit. (Schmitt 1996: 22)
This is exactly what happens in Fahrenheit where the state malforms a social institutions to pursue, basically, political (antagonistic) ends. E.g. smokers don't like books about lung cancer - burn the books about lung cancer! In this way the state interferes into a social or rather cultural matters and disfigures social affairs greatly (up to the point of society becoming dystopic, that is to say).
...it is the total state which no longer knows anything absolutely nonpolitical... (Schmitt 1996: 25)
E.g. in Fahrenheit's case, owning or reading a book is not nonpolitical.
The specific political distinction to which political actions and motives can be reduced is that between friend and enemy. This provides a definition in the sense of a criterion and not as an exhaustive definition of one indicative of substantial content. Insofar as it is not derived from other criteria, the antithesis of friend and enemy correspond to the relatively independent criteria of other antitheses: good and evil in the moral sphere, beautiful and ugly in the aesthetic sphere, and so on. (Schmitt 1996: 26)
A simple analogy with the we/they distinction in cultural semiotics is permissible, but not absolutely necessary. To the list of these "relatively independent criteria" I'd like to add sane and insane in the psychic sphere to comment on Clarisse in Fahrenheit. Yet this would seem to be erronous, as:
The distinction of friend and enemy denotes the utmost intensity of a union or separation, of an association or dissociation. It can exist theoretically and practically, without having simultaneously to draw upon all those moral, aesthetic, economic, or other distinctions. The political enemy need not be morally evil or aesthetically ugly; he need not appear as an economic competitor, and it may even be advantageous to engage with him in business transactions. But he is, nevertheless, the other, the stranger; and it is sufficient for his nature that he is, in a specially intense way, existentially something different and alien, so that in the extreme case conflicts with him are possible. (Schmitt 1996: 26-27)
The distinction relevant in Fahrenheit is a sociocultural, between living with a "family" (actually, people on the telescreens) or actually communicating with real relatives. Also, a clear analogy can here be drawn with cultural sociology: "The ultimate root of the Stranger's threat is therefore somewhat shifted; it is now his penchant for bizarre questions which would not occur to a 'normal' person, for contesting the very distinction which for 'ordinary' people are attributes of the universe itself rather than their views of the world." (Bauman 1973: 130) In effect, the Stranger (Clarisse) by being extraordinary in her environment, creates possibilities for conflicts. And in a way she did cause a conflict, by being more human than the rest she unnerved and transformed Montag, in effect setting a chain of catalytic events in motion.
...all political concepts, images, and terms have a polemical meaning. They are focused on a specific conflict and are bound to a concrete situation; the result (which manifests itself in war or revolution) is a friend-enemy grouping, and they turn into empty and ghostlike abstractions when this situation disappears. (Schmitt 1996: 30)
Now with Henleys micropolitics the situation is sort of the same: she raises the polemics of male domination via nonverbal communication and in a sense creates enemies of men. The relevant difference here being that male domination cannot be overcome by a war or revolution, it is more like "hardwired" into the biological and sociocultural bases of behaviour.
Every religious, moral, economic, ethical, or other antithesis transforms into a political one if it is sufficiently strong to group human beings effectively according to friend and enemy. (Schmitt 1996: 37)
This is general enough to merit parallel with cultural semiotics, the antithesis being that of languages, codes and texts.
Humanity as such cannot wage war because it has no enemy, at least not on this planet. The concept of humanity excludes the concept of the enemy, because the enemy does not cease to be a human being - and hence there is no specific differentiation in that concept. That wars are waged in the name of humanity is not a contradiction of this simple truth; quite the contrary, it has an especially intensive political meaning. When a state fights its political enemy in the name of humanity, it is not a war for the sake of humanity, but a war wherein a particular state seeks to usurp a universal concept against its military opponent. At the expense of its opponent, it tries to identify itself with humanity in the same way as one can misuse peace, justice, progress, and civilization in order to claim these as one's own and to deny the same to the enemy. (Schmitt 1996: 54)
Especially important passage, as this seems to be a common technique in much warfare. In cultural semiotics terms, a culture constructs it's own antithesis, an anti-humanity. The next passage is equally revealing:
The concept of humanity is an especially useful ideological instrument of imperialist expansion, and in its ethical-humanitarian form it is specific vehicle of economic imperialism. Here one is reminded of a somewhat modified expression of Proudhon's: whoever invokes humanity wants to cheat. To confiscate the word humanity, to invoke and monopolize such a term probably has certain incalculable effects, such as denying the enemy the quality of being human and declaring him to be an outlaw of humanity; and a war can thereby be driven to the most exreme inhumanity. (Schmitt 1996: 54)
Nuff' said.
Eco, Umberto 1983. Does Counter-culture Exist? Translated by Jenny Condie. In: Robert Lumley (Ed.) Apocalypse Postponed. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 115-128.
If the word culture indicates the possession of a stock of knowledge, then clearly the term counter-culture can mean only one of only two things: either the lack of any such stock of knowledge, or the possession of another knowledge. (Eco 1983: 115)
This is an obvious implication, but a valuable one. In dystopic fiction, the protagonists are (at least in Fahrenheit and 1984) actively looking this another knowledge, another way of looking at and exlaining the political world at large.
'Counter-culture' may in such circumstances be a political or civic act that challenges the model of the cultured and refined individual dedicated to the cult of the useless. (Eco 1983: 118)
Yes, counter-culture may be related to political acts.
In its democratic aspects this idea gives rise to appeals for the diffusion of culture among the lower classes. But precisely because practical and manual knowledge are excluded from it. A car mechanic is not a cultured man. The knowledge that goes by the name of culture in this sense is theoretical knowledge that demands a certain detachment from immediate necessities and from action with a direct practical purpose. Therefore this idea of culture also entails a measure of idleness as a necessary condition for cultural growth. (Eco 1983: 118)
I would not make this distinction. Practical knowledge is still knowledge and diverse/relative in nature.
Look at dissident groups, dropouts, underground communities, people who experience discrimination on the grounds of sex or power, income or luck. A counter-culture of this type proudly adopts a separate language and is identified by expressions of frustration and anyway uncontrolled impulses and desires. It rejects power and integration. The representatives of this counter-culture today are those who practice absenteeism, the autoriduttori, Metropolitan Indians, draft dodgers ... and so on, right up to the extremes of rejection embodied by the mystics of the P.38, terrorists, the homeless and stateless. (Eco 1983: 118-119)
This fits well with the "resistance" movements in dystopic fiction, e.g. "the book people" in Fahrenheit 471.
Culture 3 is the anthropological definition. It comprises the complex of institutions, myths, rites, laws, beliefs, codified everyday behaviour, value systems and material techniques elaborated by a group of humans. Compared to the two preceding concepts, this has an apparently neutral character. (Eco 1983: 119)
Yup, this is the definition I prefer, as opposed ot the ethical or aesthetic definitions which are not value-neutral.
In this context, there are no counter-cultures, just other cultural models. At most, a counter-culture might be identified as an alternative model which the dominant culture is unable to absorb. (Eco 1983: 120)
This makes sense. In Lotmanian sense, counter-culture would then be the non-dominant and/or peripheral culture.
Mauss, Marcel 1973. The Techniques of the Body. Economy and Society 2(1): 70-88.
I deliberately say techniques of the body in the plural because it is possible to produce a theory of the technique of the body in the singular on the basis of a study, an exposition, a description pure and simple of techniques of the body in the plural. By this expression I mean the ways in which from society to society men know how to use their bodies. (Mauss 1973: 70)
This expression is interesting. I've never met it before, but the value of it is self-evident: techniques of the body are ways in which people know how to use their bodies. This comes close to phenomenological "bodily knowledge", but seems more concrete.
For many years in my course in descriptive ethnology, I have had to teach in the shadow of the disgrace and opprobium of the 'miscellaneous' in a matter which in ethnography this rubric 'miscellaneous' was truly heteroclite. I was well aware that walking or swimming, for example, and all sorts of things of the same type, are specific to determine societies; that the Polynesians do not swim as we do, that my generation did not swim as the present generation does. But what social phenomena did these represent? (Mauss 1973: 70)
As an ethnographist, Mauss is of course most interested in intercultural differences in behaviour. This matter of swimming is highly reminiscent of La Barre ("The Cultural Basis of Emotions and Gestures").
A kind of revelation came to me in hospital. I was ill in New York. I wondered where previously I had seen girls walking as my nurses walked. I had the time to think about it. At last I realised that it was the cinema. Returning to France, I noticed how common this gait was, especially in Paris; the girls were French and they too were walking in this way. In fact, American walking fashions had begun to arrive over here, thanks to the cinema. (Mauss 1973: 72)
Ah! Paul Ekman commented on his research in New Guinea that one of the reasons for doing such extensive intercultural research, especially in places where white man had not been seen before, was the cultural transmission of behavioural patterns from cinema (as I remember, this touched upon Brazilians who were quite familiar with American films). Mauss's comment is earliest on this subject (let's call it kinesic interference).
Hence I have had this notion of the social nature of the 'habitus' for many years. Please note that I use the Latin word - it should be understood in France - habitus. The word translates infinitly better than 'habitude' (habit or custom), the 'exis', the 'acquired ability' and 'faculty' of Aristotle (who was a psychologist). It does not designate those metaphysical habitudes, that mysterious 'memory', the subjects of volumes or short and famous theses. These 'habits' do not just vary with individuals and their imitations, they vary especially between societies, educations, properties and fashions, prestiges. In them we should see the techniques and work of collective and individual practical reason rather than, in the ordinary way, merely the soul and its repetitive faculties. (Mauss 1973: 73)
Ah! An earlier use of the term habitus (than Bourdieu), and actually referring to techniques of the body (rather than structuring structures). Now I feel less guilty for using this term in my seminar paper.
And I concluded that it was not possible to have a clear idea of all these facts about running, swimming, etc., unless one introduced a triple consideration instead of a single consideration, be it mechanical and physical, like an anatomical and physiological theory of walking, or on the contrary psychological or sociological. It is the triple viewpoint, that of the 'total man' that is needed. (Mauss 1973: 73)
The general theme reminds me of Freedman's review in Semiotica of Paul Bouissac's research on "horse's gait in Muybridge's work", brought over to the human sphere, especially the acrobatic act. Mauss's triple consideration seems somewhat untenable (or outdated?) in nonverbal communication research. There seem to be close to none studies of the mechanical and physical aspects of expressive movements; anatomical and physiological factors are included, to a degree, in Silvan Tomkins and Paul Ekman (e.g. facial muscles). The psychological or sociological considerations are well known (Cicourel's Cognitive Sociology comes to mind).
What takes place is a prestigious imitation. The child, the adult, imitates actions which have succeeded and which he has seen successfully performed by people in whom he has confidence and who have authority over him. The action is imposed from without, from above, even if it is an exclusively biological action, involving his body. The individual borrows the series of movements which constitute it from the action executed in front of him or with him by others. (Mauss 1973: 73)
It is interesting that Mauss, too, calls instrumental (goal- or purpose-oriented) behaviour biological action (just as the Moscovites did at the 1961 Semiotics conference). The prestigious imitation aspect is elaborated by Edward T. Hall in The Silent Language. He differentiates between formal learning (by being taught or educated) and informal learning (by observation). In crude communication theory notions, these would be object-channel (participation) and meta-channel (observation). In any case, Hall's case was equally instrumental, as his example was learning to ski.
I call technique an action which is effective and traditional (and you will see that in this it is no different from a magical, religious or symbolic action). It has to be effective and traditional. There is no technique and no transmission in the absence of tradition. This above all is what distinguishes man from the animals: the transmission of his techniques and very probably their oral transmissions. (Mauss 1973: 75)
An elaboration of the techniques of the body. I guess effective could be equated with functional in terms of cultural semiotics. I'm not so sure about traditionality, as this does not seem to be a common notion in the vocabulary of cultural semiotics (perhaps a sign of the Soviet times?). In any case, the transmission of culturally formed behaviours is almost self-evident.
The body is man's first and foremost natural instrument. The body is man's first and most natural instrument. Or more accurately, not to speak of instruments, man's first and foremost natural technical object, and at the same time technical means, is his body. (Mauss 1973: 75)
What a delightful quote! Might come handy if I finally get around to discussing instrumental behaviour more closely.
I am a lecturer for you; you can tell it from my sitting posture and my voice, and you are listening to me seated and in silence. We have a set of permissible or impermissible, natural or unnatural attitudes. Thus we should attribute different values to the act of staring fixedly: a symbol of politeness in the army, and of rudeness in everyday life. (Mauss 1973: 76)
Ah! What incredible familiarity. It automatically calls to mind Michel Foucault's discussion on the teaching regime of Ancient Greek Therapeutae community in The Hermeneutics of the Subject (Foucault 2005: 343). He elaborates that listening involves more than silence, but "a certain active demeanor" (e.g. "being attentive"). I made a crass connection between this active demeanor and power relations, and it seems that I'm not that far off from Mauss's understanding that the question of permissible and impermissible behaviour is involved.
Take the way of closing the fist. A man normally closes his fist with the thumb outside, a woman with her thumb inside... (Mauss 1973: 76)
I cannot take this at face value. I have to try it out myself by asking some female acquaintances to make a fist. If proven to be true above chance level, this could be an interesting factoid, instead of simply a suggestion. On a cruel note, this could become something to stick to the faces of people who try to achieve gender equality by disregarding anatomical and physiological differences in sexes; a gentle reminder that we can't equalize instincts.
There are supposed to be societies with exclusively masculine descent and others with exclusively uterine descent. The uterine ones, being feminised, tend to dance on the spot; the others, with descent by the male, take their pleasure in moving about. (Mauss 1973: 82)
This comment, referring to M. Curt Sachs' history of dancing, brought to mind a scene I witnessed at the Estonian Hip-Hop Festival in 2007. An African-American male was c-walking around an Estonian female. On a very primitive level, this could be interpreted as the female being "on display" while dancing, and the male exerting himself in proving his strenght, stamina or skill.
Everyone knows what a back-heave is. (Mauss 1973: 83)
Uh... Umm.. ...no. I don't. But there is also a language-barrier and I understand that Mauss is being rhetoric (for a lack of a better word, writing in the manner of his era). Quoted here, also out of context, as I should find out what a back-heave is and join the inclusive club of "Everyone". For an overview, a list of techniques of the body enumerated by Mauss must be compiled, as these categories may very well be one possibility for a "typology of behaviour" (in the sense of Y. Lotman's "Kaks lähenemisviisi käitumisele").
  1. Techniques of birth and obstetrics: positions of giving birth;
  2. Techniques of Infancy: Rearing and feeding the child, Weaning;
  3. Techniques of adolescence: schooling (manners and postures);
  4. Techniques of adult life: Techniques of sleep, Waking: Techniques of rest; Techniques of activity and of movement (walking, running, dancing, jumping, climbing, descent, swimming, forceful movements), Techniques of care for the body (Rubbing, washing, soaping, Care of the mouth), Consumption techniques (eating, drinking), Techniques of Reproduction, Techniques of the care of the abnormal (massages);
My rendering of these categories aren't perfect, but neither are these categories inthemselves, as these could be infinitely widened to encompass the whole of human activity. From the perspective of my own field, there could probably be such additions as Techniques of expression of emotion or Techniques of gestural communication or Techniques of proprioceptive significance, but all of these belong to different nomenclatures and seem inexplicably unsuitable with Mauss's approach.
What emerges very clearly from them [these lists of techniques] is the fact that we are everywhere faced with physio-psycho-sociologial assemblages of series of actions. These actions are more or less habitual and more or less ancient in the life of the individual and the history of the society. (Mauss 1973: 85)
Physio-psycho-sociological assemblages of series of actions! My jargon sense is tingling! Also, what is Anthropophyteia?
Let us go further: one of the reasons why these series may more easily be assembled in the individual is precisely because they are assembled by and for social authority. (Mauss 1973: 85)
The aspect of being assembled by social authority (e.g. prestigious imitation, as it was called earlier) is quite clear. Being assembled for social authority, on the other hand, is a wholy different matter, one relatable to social power.
Shklovsky, Victor 1994. Art as Technique. In: D. Lodge (Ed.) Modern Criticism and Theory: A Reader. London; New York: Longman, 16-30.
If we start to examine the general laws of perception, we see that as perception becomes habitual, it becomes automatic. Thus, for example, all of our habits retreat into the area of the unconsciously automatic; if one remembers the sensation of holding a pen or of speaking in a foreign language for the first time and compares that with his feeling at performing the action for the ten thousandth time, he will agree with us. (Shklovsky)
I'm not exactly sure what is the semantic difference between habitual and automatic. But I do appreciate the coincidence of the expression "for the ten thousandth time" and some (folk-psychological, I guess) suggestions that to master something completely, one has to perform it for ten thousand hours (this was said about gaming or playing World of Warcraft, if I remember correctly).
Such habituation explains the principles by which, in ordinary speech, we leave phrases unfinished and words half expressed. In this process, idealy realized in algebra, things are replaced by symbols. Complete words are not expressed in rapid speech; their initial sounds are barely perceived. Alexander Pogodin offers the example of a boy considering the sentence "The Swiss mountains are beautiful" in the form of a series of letters: T, S, m, a, b. (Shklovsky)
I did not notice it upon first reading, but this kind of analysis was performed by Y. Lotman on Pushin's sidenotes, when "Usl. o sm. 25; U o s. R.P.M.K.B: 45" signifies "Uslyshal o smerti Riznich 25 iyulya 1826 g; Uslyshal o smerti Ryleeva, Pestelya, Murav'ena, Kakhovskogo, Bestuzheva 24 iyulya 1826 g" (Lotman 1990: 27).
Anyone who knows Tolstoy can find several hundred such passages in his work. His method of seeing things out of their normal context is also apparent in his last works. Tolstoy described the dogmas and rituals he attacked as if they were unfamiliar, substituting everyday meanings for the customarily religious meanings of the words common in church ritual. (Shklovsky)
I'm not so sure how defamiliarization and context are related (though speculation on this topic seems simple). Tolstoy's technique of description has a weird wording (or rather, order), but the essence seems to be substituting "words common in church ritual" with "everyday meanings", thus transforming "the sacred" into "the everyday". Exactly the opposite technique was used by Albert Mehrabian in presenting the experimental result that "in a standing position, the greater the directness of orientation toward the addressee, the greater was the eye contact with the addressee" into a lenghty mechanical or physical description in kind of esoteric psychological codes: "that for communicators who are in a standing position, shoulder orientation (i.e., the number of degrees that a plane perpendicular to the plane of the subject's shoulders is turned away from the media plane of his addressee) correlated - .41 with eye contact".
...it is easier to march with music than without it, and to march during an animated conversation is even easier, for the walking is done unconsciously. (Shklovsky)
A valid truism. P.S. check out Herbert Spencer's The Philosophy of Style.
Hjelmslev, Louis - Eelmärkmed keeleteooriale [no reference]
Absoluutses isolatsioonis pole ühelgi märgil mingit tähendust. Iga märgitähendus tekib kontekstis, mille all me mõtleme situatsioonilist või otsest konteksti, ei ole oluline, kumba, kuna piiramatus või produktiivses tekstis (elav keel) saame me alati transformeerida situatsioonilist otseseks kontekstiks. (Hjelmslev)
I am not so sure if "the situational" can so easily be transformed into "the contextual". I believe there is a pertinent different between these two notions, two different ways of looking at what surrounds the object (object in the general sense, be it a sign, event, etc.). I'm not yet able to draw a clear distinction, but in general terms I believe the situation to refer to a living-being human social situation, what surrounds an occurrence; and context refer to the thin layer of significant object around the object. My language is lacking here, but situation seems more broader than context. E.g. situation contains also the insignificant, but context only the significant stuff. I don't know. Maybe I could be clearer if I refer to an earlier remark in this text:
...“märk” on funktsiooniga defineeritud. “Märk” funktsioneerib, määratleb, tähendab; “märk” vastandatuna mittemärgile on tähenduse kandja. (Hjelmslev)
Thus, "context" would contain only that which functions and signifies, and "situation" also that which does not function and signify. In my mind, the situation is a room, a space, a real situation; and context is a collection of signs around a sign, as in a verbal text.
Keeli ei saa niisiis kirjeldada kui puhtaid märgisüsteeme. Eesmärgi järgi, mis neile tavapäraselt omistatakse, on nad ennekõike märgisüsteemid, kuid nende seesmise struktuuri järgi on nad ennekõike midagi muud, nimelt märkide konstrueerimiseks kasutatavate figuuride süsteemid. Seega on keele kui märgisüsteemi definitsioon lähemal analüüsil osutunud ebarahuldavaks. (Hjelmslev)
This makes a whole lot more sense than the last time I tried to read Hjemslev. As I understand it, language is not a sign system, but rather a system of figures used to construct signs. The analogy with kinesics seems valid also, as we don't take single kines or kinemes to be be signs in themselves but rather figures out of which signs (in this sense, "kinemorphic constructions") are constructed.
Tomberg, Jaak 2012. Ärkamine düstoopiasse: utoopilise vormi mitmetimõistetavusest [no reference yet, in press]
Nii More, Bacon kui ka Campanella pakuvad lugejale oma paremasse maailma üksnes „giidiga tuure” ehk väljamõeldud maailmakorra isoleeritud, staatilist liigendust ega kajasta oma täiuslikke ühikonnakordi nende ajaloolises eksistentsis (tõeliselt narratiivsed on üksnes raamjutustused selle kohta, kuidas üks või teine vaatleja utoopiasaarele või külluselinna satub ja sellele oma vaatepunkti lisandumise kaudu vormilise juurdepääsu tagab). (Tomberg 2012: X4)
This I have not thought about before, but it seems valid enough: the utopic fictions of More, Bacon and Campanella are mere "guide tours" to these fictional worlds, while dystopic fiction usually constructs a narrative. On the one hand, we have a protagonist who wishes to be part of a perfect world, and on the other hand a protagonist who becomes unseddled with the dystopic world he is living in (as Tomberg puts it, he "wakes up"). The difference could be a superficial one, though, because these utopias were written in the first half of the last millenia, but dystopias I am interested in were written in the first half of the last century. They were created in markedly different periods in the history of literature.
Nimelt ühendab suurt hulka düstoopianarratiive üks sisuline motiiv – narratiivselt struktureeriv moment või ärkamishetk, mil loo peategelane jõuab kriitilise teadvuseni. (Tomberg 2012: X8)
This is the point at which the protagonist realizes that something is terribly wrong.
Toimuvat teisendavat jagunemist düstoopilises fiktsioonimaailmas võiks lugemiskogemuse seisukohalt kirjeldada järgmiselt: klassikalised düstoopianarratiivid saavad oma tõelise algus- või põhjuspunkti hetkest, mil pealtnäha õnneseisundi saavutanud, takistusteta ja isetoimivas ühiskonnas ärkab keegi n-ö subjektina, kellenagi, kellel on ühtäkki ümbritseva suhtes kriitiline teadvus. Ning see keegi näeb äkitselt, „silmade avanedes”, et tema ümber valitseb süsteemi repressioonidel põhinev totalitaristlik õudusunenägu, millele kõik ülejäänud on nüüd, tema uuest vaatepunktist, alati olnud allutatud nagu mingisse kriitikameeleta õnneunne. (Tomberg 2012: X10)
Tomberg looks at this from the perspective of subjectivity, but clearly there are other ways to interpret this "waking". The perspective I am aiming for consists not so much of recognizing the repression of subjectivity, but of re-embodiment, achieving new patterns of behaviour and/or techniques of the body (I'm already borrowing from Mauss).
  • Sargent, Lyman Tower 1994. The Three Faces of Utopianism Revisited. Utopian Studies 5.1: 1–37.
  • Truffaut, Francois 1966. Fahrenheit 451. Universal Pictures.
  • Zamjatin, Jevgeni 2006. Meie. Tlk. M. Varik. Tallinn: Tänapäev.
  • Levitas, Ruth; Sargisson, Lucy 2003. Utopia in Dark Times: Optimism/Pessimism and Utopia/Dystopia — Baccolini, R; Moylan, T (toim.) Dark Horizons. Science Fiction and the Dystopian Imagination. New York; London: Routledge, lk 13–27

Hardesty, Donald L. 1972. The human ecological niche. American Anthropologist 74(3): 458-466.
Odum (1959: 27), following the lead of Elton (1927), has defined the ecological niche as the functional role or status of the organism "within its community and ecosystem resulting from the organism's structural adaptions, physiologicla responses, and specific behavior." Odum compares the niche to the profession or way of life of the organism while noting that the habitat is equivalent to its address. The way of life is more precisely specified by Hutchinson (1957, 1965) as the total requirements of survival for the organism. Consequently, the niche comprises all those conditions necessary for the organism to exist. (Hardesty 1972: 458)
Here, the ecological niche is equivalent with conditions for survival.
The human community was equated with the ecological community and the niche was considered to be the functional position of the invidual or group within that community. Keyfitz, for example, has observed that "one's niche may be the teacher, stockbroker, or truck driver; it requires skills that others lack or involves work that others do not want to do" (Keyfitz 1969: 60). Durkheim (1933, ch. 3) anticipated this usage of the niche by viewing human society as an interrelated complex of specialized occupations and personalities. (Hardesty 1972: 459)
Here skills can indeed be connected with techniques of the body: to achieve a niche, it is necessary to acquire a set of practices others cannot or will not acquire.
Hutchinson (1957, 1965) has conceptualized the ecological niche so as to render it more useful for focusing upon the principal determinants of man-environmental relations. The niche, according to Hutchinson, is a Euclidian hyperspace whose dimensions define the environment within which an organism can survive for long periods of time. The hyperspace has two manifestations: (1) the fundamental niche, an abstraction of the conditions of survival for the organism when it is not competing with others; and (2) the realized niche, the conditions of survival for the organism competing with others in the real world. For example, the human species is potentially capable of occupying a large number of environments, and a human population, without competition, would expand into all of these. However, in reality the human population must compete with microorganisms, with pests, such as insects and weeds, and with other human populations, so that the actual expansion is considerably less than expected. (Hardesty 1972: 460)
Thus, the fundamental niche signifies the possible and realized niche the actual.
An operational definition of the multidimensional niche depends upon proper conceptualization of the requirements of survival for the species and its populations. According to my thinking, any species, including man, survives because it is able to establish and maintain a network of energy relations with the environment providing sufficient energy flow to allow at least replacement reproduction. It follows that the dimensions of the niche space include all of those factors affecting energy exchange. In man, energy's exchange is predicated upon biology, ecology, and culture, and all of these variables must enter into the definition of the human ecological niche. (Hardesty 1972: 461)
Ah! Energy... From the course on social semiotics I am now aware that there is a parallel universe to semiotics in systems theory and much of it is predicated on biological theories of energy circulation (here, flow and maintenance). Yet these notions seem foreign and I am weary (or afraid?) to use them liberally.
  • Cohen, Y. 1968. Culture as Adaption. In Man in Adaption: The Cultural Present. Y. Cohen, Ed. Chicago: Aldine. pp. 40-60.
  • Klopfer, P. 1962. Behavioral Aspects of Ecology. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall.
  • Vayda, A., Ed. 1969. Environment and Cultural Behavior. Garden City, N.W.: Natural History Press.
  • Vernadsky, W.I. 1945. The Biosphere and the Noosphere. American Scientist 33:1-12.
  • Washburn, S., and F. Howell 1960. Human Evolution and Culture. In The Evolution of Man. S. Tax, Ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. pp. 33-56.

Patrick, Ruth 2000. Biological diversity in ecology. In: Keller, David R. and Frank B. Golley (eds.) The Philosophy of Ecology: From Science to Synthesis, 119-123.
Species in the complex [the ecological community] do not merely respond to a particular environment but create new conditions through their interactions with each other. (Patrick 2000: 119)
This is reminiscent of the Uexküllian/Meadian claim that organisms create, contruct or modify their own environment. Here this constructive aspect has been widened from organism-environment interaction to include organism-organism intraction. Social constructionism in animals? No, symbiosis.
Diversity is a generalized term that refers to the structure of the community. In a sense, it expresses the genetic variability existing in in the taxa that occur together and, therefore, the adaptive capacity of the assemblage. Thus, the measure of diversity is not merely a count of presence but rather it is a measure of the structural and functional interactions of the community. (Patrick 2000: 119)
The word structural and functional are so very familiar, yet I have very little to draw on in ecological interaction: it is simply not my field. At best I can deduce that the important aspect in diversity is not simply the genetic variability, but the adaptive interrelation of various organisms and their environments (plural in the Uexküllian sense).
Patten, Bernard C. and Eugene P. Odum 1981. The cybernetic nature of ecosystems. The American Naturalist 118(6): 886-895.
Energy, matter, or information coming from the environment causes the system to respond; this reaction is transmitted as energy, matter, or information output back to the environment. (Patten and Odum 1981: 886)
At this point I'm already confused about the word "energy". The pair "energy and matter" sound right, but information alongside these seems fallacious: energy and matter do not necessitate a subject or an organism as "information" does. It almost seems that the authors borrowed from Wiener's information theory but couldn't figure out how to dispense with "information". Why is it here? What has ecology to do with information? On the other hand the answer is probably given and I am simply too unknowledgeable to eat myself through the cybernetic jargon.
Ecosystems do not appear to be connected by an information network, although certain of their living components interact by informational means; absence of an information network means absence of information-mediated feedback (p. 321). (Patten and Odum 1981: 888)
Okay, yes, ecosystems contain both living and nonliving matter and living matter interacts via information. But where is this "controller" or teleological feedback system? Is that a "spirit of the river" kind of thing? We are assured that "In ecosystems there are no low energy (informational) causes producing high energy effects." Yet without an example this seems to remain a mere suggestion.
Ecosystems do damp environmental perturbations, but this is based on physical or chemical rather than cybernetic principles. They also contain information, but this is a property of their constituents [e.g. organisms] and the information is not linked to form an integrated whole [e.g. "control" with goals]. (Patten and Odum 1981: 888)
Yeah, okay, making more sense. I was agitated in the beginning, but now it seems as if there is some sense in this after all.
They [Engelberg and Boyarsky] equate cybernetic systems to the teleological type of system pictured in figure 1c. They would expect of a cybernetic ecosystem: (1) that it be actively goal directed [teleological], presumably with an explicitly identifiable (i.e., centralized) goal setter more scientifically acceptable than a deity [a genius loci for example]; (2) that it possess an anatomically distinct, information based, communication network; (3) that this network span all constituents in global feedback closures; and (4) that the source of stability and purposeful regulation reside in the feedback organization and not be a concomitant of noncybernetic principles establishing the background conditions for existence. In short, these authors require that an ecosystem be a superorganism, and because it is not, they deny its obvious cybernetic character based on other legitimate grounds. (Patten and Odum 1981: 888)
All well and good, but I am yet unable to imagine this "obvious cybernetic character" of ecosystems (mainly because of my scarce if not nonexistant knowledge of ecosystems). On a different note, since Y. Lotman used similar cybernetic principles as a base for his cultural semiotics, there is a markedly analogous problem: is culture a superorganism or holistic agency (e.g. Waldstein 2008: 154)? In any case, this article has alrady proven itself to be very exciting.
We hold that ecosystems are cybernetic. Our preferred model is that of figure 1b in which the cybernetic attributes emerge passively out of large and complex, decentralized system organization. The interplay of material cycles and energy flows, under information control, generates self-organizing feedbacks with no discrete controller required. (Patten and Odum 1981: 888)
Okay, so ecological systems involve primary and secondary subsystems but no Controller or teleological action. In short, no one superorganism controls the material cycles and energy flows, but the multifarious ecological processes are cybernetic in the sense that there is decentralized feedback between different subsystems. Thus far the rebuttal has been successful, I am mostly convinced.
Analogy, and the willingness to accept it, are the keys to identifying the cybernetic machinery of the ecosystem. (Patten and Odum 1981: 888)
In view of my last comment, this sentence would warrant a "Ya blew it" meme, but no, metaphorical thinking is not forbidden here.
The set point of human temperature is 36.775 +- 0.475° C (Prosser 1950: 362)
Factoid noted.
The principal function of an ecosystem is to make possible the orderly cycle of life. This means cleaning up the residues from past cycles and converting them to forms that can initiate and support new cycles. It is a materialistic business. Consequently, the primary network in ecosystems is the system of conservative (noninformational) energy-matter flows resulting from a variety of materialistic transformation and exchange processes. These processes are mainly tropic, so the food web is the most fundamental element of the conservative network. (Patten and Odum 1981: 890)
The discussion on this goes further, but is pretty much clear that the principal function attributed to an ecosystem here is that of reproduction, a holistic life-cycle. At the end of the paragraph the authors suggest that besides the primary function of making possible the orderly cycle of life, there is a "secondary informational network superimposed upon the primary one which regulates the conservative processes", in effect organizing the ecosystem through informational means, whatever they may be.
They are all the factors, processes and interactions that we collectively know as natural history which serve to mediate the movement or transformation of energy-matter. They are all the nonconservative uses by organisms of the physical media (air, water, soil, sediment); ... (Patten and Odum 1981: 890)
I would like to generalize that "the invisible wires of nature" is basically the effect which living matter impresses upon nonliving matter, but this seems to be my own preconceived bias. The authors claim that nonconservative processes also includes "the grand laws which define the conditions of existence (gravity, conservation, dissipation, limiting factors, etc.)", which in some way "are all part of the information network". I still have very little idea how.
What the issue of the cybernetic versus noncybernetic nature of ecosystems reduces to at this point is philosophical acceptance or rejection, respectively, of a systems point of view. (Patten and Odum 1981: 890-891)
"Ya blew it", again. Yet I have close to none knowledge about "unregulated Darwinian struggles", thus my own evaluation is basically worthless.
One can see that it is only language conventions and the nature of our models that prevent recognition of information mapping in ecosystems. (Patten and Odum 1981: 891)
With this, I agree completely, because I don't agree with their use of the word "information" in saying that "The solar radiation "contains information" which instructs the producers to "secrete" more photosynthate." Clearly my understanding of "information" might be very different from these authors. I tend automatically to identify information with semiotics notions, thus "information" cannot be contained in solar radiation - only primary producers may "create" information on the basis of solar radiation.
Behavioral displays of organisms, protective and flash coloration, mimicry, flowers, and many other signal phenomena elicit large effects from small causes. (Patten and Odum 1981: 891)
This is an agreeable list of biological signal processes. Further on there are examples of substances that tend to be concentrative (amplifying energy-matter flow), like radioactive isotopes and pesticides, but this again is a world wholy unknown to me. In the last pages the authors introduce many examples from the "myriad of feedback pathways" which should be convincing that an ecosystem is in effect cybernetic and this is the "source of stability" in ecosystems.
To us, "environment" means environment unspecified, but "ecosystem" is environment specified. The ecosystem is the level of organization concerned with the orderly, not chaotic, processing of energy-matter in the biosphere. ... The balance of nature calls for a conjugate action-reaction kind of organization that creates order where there could be chaos as a matter of implicit design that simply evolved over geologic time. That design ... in which a diffuse, decentralized, and anatomically indistinct informational subsystem regulates the primary energy-matter subsystem to achieve order. (Patten and Odum 1981: 894)
It is at this point that I realize that I have taken the word "ecosystem" at face value, presumed it to be a given. In fact, I had never before thought that "ecosystem" implies a systems approach to ecology. Well, now I know. Although the two "Ya blew it" moments instill the feeling that all of this shouldn't be taken as a given also, it has been an "intellectually arousing" read.
Wegner, Daniel M. 2006. Self is Magic. In: J. Baer, J. C: Kaufman and R. F. Baumeister (Eds.) Psychology and Free Will. New York: Oxford University Press. [reference doubtful, manuscript]
Imagine a magician who can make things happen merely by thinking of them. This magician thinks “I’d like the lights on,” and before you know it...there is light! Right there and then, a hand has reached out and turned on a lamp. (Wegner 2006: X2)
Neat thought, but speculatively outdated: soon enough one does not have to reach out and turn the lamp on, but merely thinks about turning the lights on and a computer-interface reads the neural signal and sends out a wireless signal that indeed turns the lights on as if by magic.
But to believe itself magical, this entity [robot or computer constructed to believe in its own magic] would need to have one property we don’t often appreciate in the cognitive toolkit of the standard human: It would need to have incomplete self-knowledge. Perceiving magic of any kind requires that we don’t fully understand how something has happened. (Wegner 2006: X3)
Getting right to the point: human self-knowledge is incomplete and resorts to magic in causal theories; a perfect self-aware robot or computer would not possess this quality. It would not be mystified by what it cannot explain causally.
Belief in magic may be fun and even a source of delight, but it also can entail childlike naiveté, delusion, or just plain foolishness. Seeing one’s own causal influence as supernatural is part of being human, though, so rather than ruing this human tendency or calling it foolish, it is psychological science’s job to understand it. (Wegner 2006: X4)
I am not a psychologist, but even I enjoy descriptions of magical thought, i.e. in Holy & Stuchlik (1983: 27) and Lee (1959: 101). Surely there must be a more comprehensive analysis of the semiotics of magic out there, but I have yet to find it.
Participants obeying the experimenter reported what Milgram called an agentic shift: “the person entering an authority system no longer views himself as acting out of his own purposes but rather comes to see himself as an agent for executing the wishes of another person” (Milgram, 1974, p. 133).
Agentive shift is an interesting term. I should keep this in mind for thinking about commands (for example, in the military).
When that angry fellow atthe bar says he’s going to break a pool cue over your head, you have a signal indicating what might happen. The interesting feature of such signals is that they can save both of you the trouble of actual physical harm. Communications of intention serve the purpose of making many potentially costly social actions unnecessary because the statement itself causes preventive responses. (Wegner 2006: X24)
Yes, verbalization of intention can lead to intention not leading to action. Reportedly this issue (display of dominance and submissions replacing actual physical conflict) was discussed already in Darwin's Expressions.
Reicher, Stephen 2004. The Context of Social Identity: Domination, Resistance, and Change. Political Psychology 25(6): 921-945.
I argue that many contemporary uses of the social identity tradition - most notably, the reduction of the tradition to claim that mere division into groups necessarily leads to intergroup discrimination - are prone to such myopia and such distortion. (Reicher 2004: 922)
That is, cultural semiotics terms, identifying with a self-description and establishing a we-category does not automatically lead to identifying them with the enemy; or even to discriminate them from us as easily as it might sound.
Our biology demands that we are cultural animals, and hence animals whose behavior cannot be explained directly in terms of biological imperatives. The very flexibility of our biological existence renders a different type of informational systems necessary, the cultural system. Because we have no genetic system of information for human behavior, we require a cultural system. (Reicher 2004: 927)
This passage draws heavily on Geertz (1993). I am not so sure about the statement about genetic system of information for human behavior (remember instincts?).
We can define ourselves either in terms of what makes us unique compared to other individuals (personal identity) or in terms of our membership in social groups (social identity). (Reicher 2004: 928)
I'm sure this distinction is contained in many a textbooks on social psychology, but I have yet to come across such simple wording in any of my readings.
The key point to remember is that social identity is simultaneously something intensely personal and important to me as an individual, but also something that, in substance, cannot be reduced to me as an individual but is rather a cultural and historical construct. (Reicher 2004: 929)
Being a social animal implies being socially constructed (aside from personal choices).
...from a political perspective, the shifts in peoplehood categories are not merely something to be observed and commented on; they are the very stuff of politics. Politics is about the creation of copnstituencies, the mobilization of social forces, the making of peoplehood. (Reicher 2004: 941)
This should be compared to other definitions of politics at my disposal (Schitt, Hewitt, etc.).
Butler, Judith 2004. Bodies and Power Revisited. In: Dianna Taylor and Karen Vintges (Eds.) Feminism and the Final Foucault. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 183-194.
In Discipline and Punish, he writes, for isntance, that "systems of punishment are to be situated in a certain 'political economy' of the body" (1979, 25). And when he attempts to situate the way body is "directly involved in a political field," he describes the process this way: "Power relations have an immediate hold upon it; they invest it, mark it, train it, torture it, force it to carry out tasks, to perform ceremonies, to emit signs" (1979, 25). Here the body is described not merely in its docility, but in its vulnerability to coercion. It is "forced" to do certain things, and it does them in accord with the demands made upon it. (Butler 2004: 183)
Of course Judith Butler has investigated Foucault's perspective on the relation between the body and power in depth. This passage resonates so much with my own work, it is incredible.
The power imposed upon a body is to be understood as part of the "political technology of the body," a technology that operates through a "micro-physics" exercised in the form of a "strategy" (1979, 26; 31, French). (Butler 2004: 183)
Ah! If I identify "political technology of the body" with Mauss's "techniques of the body" and "micro-physics" with Henley's "micropolitics", then Butler has essentially already drawn the connection I was still about to make. To bad I am unable to decipher the rest of the article (I don't understand nor speak foucaultese as well as I could).
Butler, Judith 1989. Foucault and the Paradox of Bodily Inscriptions. The Journal of Philosophy 86(11): 601-607.
The body is a site where regimes of discourse and power inscribe themselves, a nodal point or nexus of relations of juridical and productive power. And, yet, to speak in this way invariably suggests that there is a body that is in some sense there, pregiven, existentially available to become the site of its own ostensible construction. (Butler 1989: 601)
Oh boy, I can already feel this article going down the road of "power constituting bodies".
I shall argue in the following that, whereas Foucault wants to argue - and does claim - that bodies are constituted within the specific nexus of culture or discourse/power regimes, and that there is no materiality or ontological independence of the body outside of any one of those specific regimes, his theory nevertheless relies on a notion of genealogy, appropriated from Nietzsche, which conceives the body as a surface and a set of subterranean "forces" that are, indeed, repressed and transmuted by a mechanism of cultural construction external to that body. (Butler 1989: 602)
Yup. I am not so sure about the immateriality or ontological dependence of the body onculture, as I like to think of human body evolutionally preceding culture as such. Yet I also cannot deny the sociocultural construction of body (it's shape, it's parts, it's significance, etc.). The turnoff for me is that Butler and Foucault seem to talk about the body as opposed to what the body does. There is a vivid lack of activity in these philosophical discussions on the body.
Iedema, Rick 2003. Multimodality, resemiotization: extending the analysis of discourse as multi-semiotic practice. Visual Communication 2(1): 29-57.
The term multimodality, as used here, is a technical one aiming to highlight that the meaning work we do at all times exploits various semiotics. In talk, we mobilize language as sounded speech, and we further ‘mean’ through gestures, posture, facial expression, and other embodied resources such as physical distance, stance, movement or stasis. (Iedema 2003: 39)
That is, multimodality includes nonverbal communication, or "embodied resources". This wording probably draws from van Leeuwen and his "semiotic resources" (resource is here something to be analyzed, or material for analysis).
Multimodality, then, provides the means to describe a practice or representation in all its semiotic complexity and richness. Importantly, a multimodal account does not a priori privilege any one semiotic over another, although the practice itself may of course foreground one particular one. The foregrounding of one is often accompanied (or achieved) by the backgrounding or ‘automatization’ (Halliday, 1982) of other semiotics, to the point where they appear so normal and natural as to become ‘invisible’. (Iedema 2003: 39-40)
Foregrounding means making something "the most prominent or important feature". Most semiotics foregrounds language, I tend to foreground nonverbal modalities. That is why nonverbal communication is not "invisible" to me: in fictional literature I tend to dwell on the bodily aspects described, and in everyday life I get intellectually aroused when I hear someone else talk about "body language" (lately, while walking to a lecture, someone was explaining proxemics via Pease to someone else).
Latour coined the terms ‘shifting out’ and ‘delegation’ to capture what is at stake in the shift of meaning from, for example, someone asking those arriving to shut the door behind them, to a written notice saying ‘please keep this door closed’, to a hydraulic door-closing device (Latour, 1992: 250ff). This ‘delegation’ concerns the translation of some original concern into increasingly exosomatic, mechanical and therefore context-like realities (Latour, 1993, 1996). Important for our concerns, Latour’s focus is on the intersemiotic shifts, or resemiotizations, at the heart of this displacement from talk, to writing, to technological device. Central also to Latour’s account is the issue of how an increased number of financial, industrial and productive resources are required to realize such shifts. (Iedema 2003: 42)
The wording here suggests that Latour actually coined the notion of delegation, while etymology tells us that it has been around since late 15th century and comes from the Old French delegat or Latin delegatus, meaning "to send as a representative". Of course there are different kinds of delegation, in corporate culture this means something like "to send your workload to someone else", and here it means distancing semiotic processes from the body (the exosomatic aspect of it). In this sense it may come in handy, but requires actually reading Latour.


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