AC: Jelena Grigorjeva

Jelena Grigorjeva

1. Does autocommunication organize the self/ego or information/knowledge or something else?

I suppose that self-communication as such is such a miracle that demonstrates us a very interesting phenomenon. If we can communicate with somebody in our self that means this somebody is present in our self. So we can speak about at least two different partners of communication in us. Who are those partners of communication? Definitely this aspect organizes our self-reflection because we understand ourself or in communication with the others, but then we go inside ourself and share this experience with whom... This is the major question as it seems to me at the moment of our semiotic discipline as such. Because we admit that we can communicate with ourselves then we communicate through some instance that makes us different inside our self. And this instrument or, I would rather say, this partner organism is language. So we are always communicating with our self as well as with others by means of language. What it organizes then - everything. Without language we cannot communicate, without language we cannot understand our selves. Then, we are always understanding our selves by means of this intermediary instance, language.

I'l rephrase the question. Autocommunication qualitatively restructures something. What is that something: is it yourself or is it the information?

This is the core question: what structures language? Can you answer this question: what structures language? That was my question now during the last session by the way: what is structure? If we take off this instrument, language, in the general sense - in semiotics we use language in a very broad sense as you know. So, then, what is left? And it seems that there is nothing left. Still we feel that language is not equal to us, to our self, what ever it is.

Do I understand correctly, then, that you are treating every sign system as a language?

Yes, this is the basic statement of semiotics. We treat all sign systems as a kind of language. Those systems - they determine different languages, multiple languages, but still any sign system is a language.

This is something different from the [pre-written] questions, but how do you feel about Charles Morris's claim that we should dispense with terms like "language" and "sign" and "meaning" because they are too vague?

Yes, if he would suggest something better then we could discuss this question. Actually it does not even matter how we call those things, the description is functional. Language is just a means for transmitting information in system[atic?] way. So any system can be used as a language. What is a system? System is a set of elements and rules of using them. And this system forms a filter. We filter the whole outer so-to-say world into our mental image or phantom that we create of ourselves first of all.

2. When is a text autocommunicational: upon first reading, upon repeated readings or in any reading?

Of course in every reading. If nobody reads the text there is no text. We, interpreters, introduce a system to every object, text including. The matter that this text, given text for example, were composed already in comprehensible language is another thing. It is not obligatory, we can read any object as a text, introducing this system approach. But of course unpredictability, that means sense, increases when we have two equal partners of communication, one generating text, the other interpreting. But only in reading text can come into being at all.

I'll rephrase the question in a more specific way. This question stems from Henry Broms and he has his own theory of autocommunication that claims that not every text is autocommunicational, because if the text does not contain accurate information... For example, if you read Anna Karenina you won't know basically anything about Russian railway but you do enjoy Anna Karenina and you get something inspirational from it. It communicates with you even though it doesn't give you any specific information.

It gives some information, that's all. And what kind of information you extract from this text depends on you and your task, your aim, pragmatics. What do you want to learn from Anna Karenina? About railways in Russia in the second haly of the 19th century? Usually not, that is about psychology. But of course all of this ... is not alien to this text. The author has the right to compose this text in a desired way. The author has his or hers task, pragmatics, and interpreter has the same set, and they internally relate with each other. So this is a dialogue with the author.

3. How is autocommunication related to the notion of feedback?

I suppose that everything about communication is about feedback. There is no communication if we do not get any feedback. So feedback is an important checking moment of the very fact that this act of communication had happened. This is a simple scheme: stimuli-reaction. No reaction, no communication. So that is why feedback is built directly into the process of communication. And autocommunication is the same. I would say that autocommunication is some particular case of any kind of communication. It is simply a higher level of understanding of the process of communication: talking to yourself as if you have constructed the other communicative partner. So feedback from yourself will look as: Oh! I have learned from myself something new by means of language of course.

4. How does a culture communicate with itself?

I do not understand the question. Why do you think that culture communicates with itself?


This is an assumption. Maybe I do not join this assumption.

In a general sense, culture is mixed in with the notion of autocommunication and one of the interpretations by Lotman is that culture is a singular message that humanity sends to itself.

Yes, in this sense then...

But what about in the sense that culture itself is an artifical intelligence, it is a personality so to say and, uh, how does it communicate with itself?

I suppose that self-communication is still possible only by means of something else, that is, the instrument of language. So culture of course communicates with itself when we take some historical restricted period. We can say that authors who wrote their text in the 19the century communicate with authors who started in the 20th century. We communicate with them. I communicate with my teachers Juri Lotman and Zara Mints by means of their text. Does it mean that culture communicates with itself? But the borders of this self is very very vague. When we go to the question of bordering, so to say what is the self of culture, it is simply impossible. When you go to those frontiers of different languages, of different rites and riddles, it is a complex of multiple sign systems and they communicate with themselves in this or that... whatever, culture... Human life...

An acceptable answer would have also been that every time someone writer or creates a text, a veritable new text with new meaning, then culture is in fact communicating with itself through this new text.

But again, through language. Texts are products of language, culture is a product of language, practiced by its organs, humans in our case, or dogs in the case with dogs. So this is a collective phantom we agreed to call our culture, or our language.

How do you feel about the proposition that culture is also a language?

No, I think that culture is a product of language and that's why we can extract the rules and regularities of language, practiced by this or that community and this all forms culture, memory, language skills, its organs of language, members of this society or community and so on. So this a multidimensional whole.

5. Is thinking a form of autocommunicatian?

With this I agree totally. Thinking is a form of autocommunication. Thinking is arranging your impulses that you get from organs of sense, what you perceive, and then express them, represent them in different ways: in words, in pictures, maybe in body movements and so on, but the very process of this translation of course takes place in personal individual brains. This is a process of thinking.

This question stems from Mikhail Bakhtin actually, from his understanding of thinking as internal dialogue and is also related to these closely related terms like intra-personal communication, intra-psychic communication and intra-subjective communication - and they are framed as forms of thinking.

Yes, I suppose this is a very clear classification. Quite acceptable, even at this moment.

6. Is autocommunication an interiorized form of social relations? (the case of internal companions)

This is the case of internal companions - people inside your head who you can talk to. Like Juri Lotman claimed that he has internal conversations with other intellectiual persons.

Yes. I suppose yes. It can be formulated this way. Interiorized form of social relations. You think in a dialogue, when it happens, it is always with society, social relations. It is all about your function within this or that community.

I'll rephrase the question as: do you have any internal companions?

Yes, of course. Loads of them. Since my childhood I used to play [with] dolls, for example, and this is a specific self-constructed actual partner of communication, invisible friend. I'm always followed by a whole bunch of invisible friends, talking to me, including my teachers Lotman and Zara. But they are here, in my brain.

Also, extending this question... Eva claimed that every time you read a text you let the consciousness of the author inside yourself and you can communicate with that foreign consciousness. How do you feel about that?

Yes, I would say that this is wishful thinking. We do not know whether we can reconstruct or approach to another's mind, author's mind. What we perceive is determined by our personal cultural background and we can never achieve total understanding of the other. It doesn't mean whether it is Lev Tolstoy or your schoolmate. Never ever. But we can make negotiations about it. With the dead author it is very hard to do but with alive partners it happens sometimes - understanding. But in a way I think that all acts of communication - all acts of self-communications are communication acts and all self-communication are communication acts in a way.

7. How are autocommunication and automodels (self-description) related?

But it is self-evident that in the process of thinking - let us call autocommunication thinking simply, maybe it will help - in this process you create a picture, a worldview, smaller or bigger, more general or less general, more specified, less... This is a model and this model will be of course self-model, first of all. Everything that we model or describe by means of language is always our mind. So was it the answer?

To be truthful I do not know the answer to this one. Most of these questions do not have a right or wrong answer.

But, now, I did not ask right or wrong, I asked if it is an answer.

I presume that self-description is one outcome of autocommunication.

And some other outcomes? Examples...

Well, actually, that is number eight, qualitative structuring of information. That is the most common [example].

8. Can you come up with an example on the spot of how AC qualitatively restructures information?

It's so complicated question.

The common example which Lotman draws would be that you're writing a poem and then you hear, for example, the train rhythm and it inspires you to create a certain rhythm in your own poem. Can you invent or remember your own examples of how self-communication changes something specific?

I could answer but this answer would be too general - not an example, per se, but I suppose it's not a satisfactory answer. So let us skip this question.

9. Can autocommunication occur through the transfer of messages in space (instead of time)?

I know this distiction by Juri Lotman but I disagree with it because we can only speak about preferences. "Time and space" is an analytical distinction. Timespace is one continuum and we can only discuss the question of preferences. So all we can discussed is this Tolstoy's text, for example, it is communication in time. Tolstoy communicates with us readers and it is not self-communication in this sense but self-communication also happens as in space so in time, this is the law.

I can rephrase the question in a more suitable way because the factor of time, the importance of it here is to create this difference between me and myself, so can you think of any other ways to create this difference so that autocommunication will be meaningful?

No. The only way is this gap between you and you by means of language and that takes time; that takes both time and space, always. So you are not equal, the next moment world changes. The whole system of semiosphere that Lotman describes is not static but in permanent change, constant change, mutable, and of course - this is Heraclites - you cannot enter one and the same flow [of the river] twice. We change in time and that's why we can communicate with ourselves in time and so on.

The lotmanian tenet here would be that the change in time is necessary for there to occur another code, because the message doesn't change - what changes is the code and through code, generally, you yourself. So the rhythm is actually a syntactical code that changes the message.

Yes, of course it does, it changes the message.

10. Are self-perception and self-awareness forms of autocommunicaton?


Now this is a question that is very near and dear to me because this evades language. Because self-perception and self-awareness are not language phenomena, they are very immediate.

Mm... I don't think so. You cannot perceive yourself without contact with the otherness; the otherness in the more general sense.

Let's take the example of kinesthesia. For example, I am not looking at my hand but I know what it's doing. Is this autocommunication?

Why not?

Why not.

The major question here is that again we cannot define the main term that we're using here. We use the term auto- or self- and what does it mean? Again we turn to the same question that I pronounced during the last [conference] session: If we take [away] the language - in the general sense - of a human being, what is left? What is self-perception if you do not decode information? And decoding information is all about the otherness. At least with the help of language a man can stay alone on isolated island with himself by means of language, because we are never alone. We bear this something that is not equal to us. We are not equal to language, all of us feel it. We describe language, we follow it, see the laws, but we are not language. Language is somehow different to us and that's why self-perception is about this. We have different senses, different channels, we accumulate this information. Those senses are channels, filters... of what? Nobody knows. We get the result of self-perception, for example, because we are constructed this way, formed. A set of filters collecting information worked by our brain by means of language. First of all verbal language, of course, for humans. So this is a very uncertain point about self. What is this self? Where are the borders of this self?

What do you think?

I think in such a way that we are all organic stuff at least in this world. We are a manifestation of language principles. It embodifies itself in us, in its organs. And that's why it develops in different ways like the forest or a whole landscape with different languages, different branches of those languages and so on and so on. The very fact of self-communication proves that we've got access to the next level of cooperation with language, with this other that inhabited the whole organic stuff on this earth. We go to this access to understand is here with language, but who are we? And proceed from this point to cooperate with language consciously.

We are running out of time [before the next presentation at the conference]. What if we skip two questions and move on to question thirteen?

13. How (do or) would you view personality as an individual set of socially significant codes?

This is something that Lotman has said and many have repeated but no one has taken it up and developed it. So what do you think abouti this claim that personality is an individual selection of socially significant codes.

Yes, I suppose yes. But if we understand socially significant codes rather widely as any kind of communication with the environment then in this sense I would agree, because if we reduce this field of... It is again about definitions and restricting our terms. If we reduce social life only to, I don't know, being included into professional hierarchies then it will not work. But if we'll expand it wider then I totally agree. This is a set of socially significant codes or codes of communication, skills and possible system of filters, again, set of filters, different filters.

14. Is there a difference between autocommunication and self-communication?

This is a question about terms.

Until we have not defined what is self we cannot discuss this aspect as well. Maybe in the term of autocommunication it is more theoretical, it is more clear the aspect of creativity. Self does not bear this meaning of being active in generating statements, in generating systems. But in auto- you take responsibility on your behalf, separating yourself from language. Although I know that I am determined by language I still by my own will accept responsibility of acting and speaking. And this is my part of cooperation with all the set of socially significant codes. My responsibility - this is authorship - and that can make a difference.

15. How do you communicate with yourself?

In various ways.

Well, name a few.

But all the text that I produce are first of all a product of self-communication. I cooperate with language although, in a paradoxical way, the more you train in language the more you learn to operate language. The less you participate in the process of generating statements in this language you do it absolutely automatically. I can produce my thought in language -in words or using keyboard - in real time. I have no gap between my thought and fixating this thought in language because I am trained in this language. I achieved it through learning and this is really a paradox because it seems that if language is different to us then the more you train the more you should resist the otherness of language but in my case it goes another way.


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