Welcome 2014


Posts Are Not Articles. Most academic bloggers write fewer than 1000 words per post. I like my students to begin exploring an idea in a post that may grow into a formal piece of writing. This means a less formal but still appropriate tone, a laying out of concepts, perhaps one post at a time as writers do research or think through a problem. Blogs can make excellent logs of research projects, in fact, so faculty can assess student performance and students can review records of what they found, and did not, during the process.
[Source: Writer's Web: Effective Academic Blogging]
My posts are definitely longer than 1000 words, but then again I mostly (or even only) quote. I do explore ideas in my posts that "may grow into a formal piece of writing". To this end, today I'm going to reflect on some ideas that I wish to approach, maybe even form into formal writings, in the coming year (2014). In that sense this blog is an "excellent log of research projects". The ideas below have appeared in more or less explicit form as scatterings among various posts. There is no-one to assess my performance, as such, but presumably I will be able to assess myself in the future.

On that note I'd like to make a few #metablog remarks about the future-orientedness of semiosis that I've come to embrace this year. Namely I've taken a liking to Peirce's contention that thinking consists in engaging at an earlier time in cognition that one will understand at a later time. I understood this intuitively when I started blogging in 2007 - whatever I write right now will become significant in the future when I'm more knowledgeable and able to as-if "see through myself". The logic behind this is simple: whatever ideas or theories I am grappling at the moment, I will continue to grapple with them for some time, at least until I've figured them out and can leave them behind. Fortunately or unfortunately most ideas and theories are not simple matters, at least not in semiotics.

One part of this is that I am aware that when I write long or complicated texts, there is no-one better suited to read and understand them than myself in the future. In 2008 I started blogging with exactly this aim in sight - writing walls of texts "uninviting" enough to take away any urge to actually read them. The idea was that one does not have to use esoteric language or codes to "hide one's meaning" but it is enough to spread the meaning out as a long text. This worked great - I didn't have almost any readers.

Another part of it is mnemonic. I am also aware that my memory is less than perfect and if I want to truly remember something, I'll have to write it down. This contention has served current blog well, as I've managed to accumulate a wealth of knowledge that is ultimately stored in a single 1000+ page PDF file. Recollecting an obscure idea or notion is merely a Ctrl+F away.

But enough of this sentimentalism. At one point I'll revisit all of the #metablog-related quotes and write a post explicitly discussing blogging.

Personal jargon

Over the past few years, reading and studying semiotics, I've concocted some esoteric terms of my own. I'm sure there's a component of vanity in all of this, but right now these terms serve as shorthands for some ideas that I'd like to write about some day. Labeling certain quotes with these terms, I can later find them when necessary. At the moment I consider these terms to be half-baked or "in development", which is why I'm not going to quote anyone but try to formulate their significance and signification from the top of my head.

This term originates from Allan Pease, whom I otherwise detest. I've taken up this term because it seems to fit my conception of someone who studies nonverbal behaviour and communication. I don't think there are a lot of nonverbalists, strictly speaking, because most researchers who approach nonverbal phenomena do it from one discipline or perspective or another. A true nonverbalist, which I don't think even I quality to be called, studies nonverbal communication only or focally. In the loose sense of the term, most anyone can be or become a nonverbalist when watching people and observing their behaviour. I'm still in the process of elucidating the different varieties of nonverbalism.

An utterly worthless term, but one I enjoy because of its simplicity. It may sound like schizophrenia, but that's not it at all. I would translate it (intralingually) as sign-mindedness or (interlingually) märgimeelsus. The Estonian translation better captures the essence of this term, as phrenos is not only mind but "diaphragm, heart, mind"; that is, meel captures not only mind but also sense perception as well as memory, mood, etc. In the full sense of the term as I imagine it, semiphrenia is the belief that signs do operate the mind, sense, memory, mood, and other stuff. I'd add that one does not absolutely have to be a semiophrenic to be a semiotician, but it certainly helps. Its relation to pansemiotics is as of yet still open.

RA Scion begins his track "Ex Oriente Lux" with: "Primordial confluence, matchless induction, concourse incomparable, full-phenomenal function, fortune foreordained, close-spill radiate, shine star elucidate, show 'em how to move through time and space!" So it might seem like just another more obscurer than thou word that almost no-one ever uses intelligibliy. I got it from Nauta (1972: 201) in the sense that information in concursive "when behavior is mediated by representation". I intentionally left out the rest of the quote to suit my limited needs: that of representing behaviour via various sign systems and modalities. Very simplistically, concourse concerns verbal representation of nonverbal behaviour.

I made up this term by obviously dicking around with the title of the movie Inception that was about "dreams within dreams". Somatoception is about "bodies and behaviours within dreams". It sounds "very scientific", like proprioception, but signifies an easily explainable phenomenon that can also be called simply "body imaginations" or even "bodily imagery". Just like concourse, this term carves out a slice of life that would otherwise go either unnoticed or get lost in the wealth of ways to describe or label it. For me it's just another neat little shorthand for collecting quotes and discussing it without using too many words.


"Reembodying Semiotics of Culture"
Read it online. In May this year I had my first formal publication. The paper set out to reembody semiotics of culture - the aim was to "reintroduce" nonverbal communication to our local brand of textualist semiotics. In the paper I put forth the notion of concourse. I wrote it last December.

"Semiootilised lähenemised autokommunikatsioonile"
I finished this paper five days ago. It's my first academic writing in estonian. I tried to give an overview of notions and theories similar to autocommunication (or self-communication) in various writers (Peirce, Mead, Morris, Ruesch, Jakobson and finally Lotman). I've been interested in autocommunication for a while now but in this paper I didn't manage to put forth "nonverbal self-communication" which is my true aim, a theory of the nonverbal self, so to say. If all goes well, though, it will appear in Acta Semiotica Estica in spring 2014.

"Somatoception" / "Kehakujutlused"
I had the idea to pull a prank this summer. The idea was to write a very serious-looking paper about body imaginations with references that are completely made-up bunk. Then Kiwa approached me with an option to write an "experimental literature" piece, e.g. a fake scientific paper. I finished the English text in the beginning of December and the estonian translation today. It will appear in Olematute Raamatute Antoloogia ("An Anthology of Non-Existent Books") in spring 2014.

Now I'd like to ponder some pieces that may or may not become formal publications in 2014.

The Regulative Function of Nonverbal Communication

Taking a course or Roman Jakobson this semester I've come to compare his communication model to that of Jurgen Ruesch. Perhaps the significant difference is that the latter has seven elements instead of six. Jakobson dispensed with the back-and-forth nature of communication as well as the thing that makes back-and-forth transmission possible, the seventh element, effect. Then I discovered, while reading random zoosemiotics, that Ekman and Friesen's category of regulators, which the abandoned soon after inventing it, might originate from the study of primates. My "original" idea is to put effect back into the communication model and associate it with the "regulative function". That is, every act of communication is ideally also an act of regulation. Communicators mutually regulate each others behaviour. If done well I can use this notion to appreach the relation of power and nonverbal communication, especially in dystopian fiction where the impersonal totalitarian regime makes regulation omnipresent. This may or may not become by BA thesis.

Intersemiotic Translation and Concourse

Another outcome of reading Roman Jakobson is the exact definition of intersemiotic translation. Namely, the process is unidirectional - from verbal to nonverbal, not vice versa as it is sometimes imagined. That is, my long-held doubt that "intersemiotic translation" doesn't really capture concourse (which "translates" nonverbal behaviour into verbal symbols). The idea is to compare these notions as well as some others with some thoroughness and see if intersemiotic translation or transmutation or even Langer's symbolic transformations can elaborate types of concourse or concursivity in general. It would be nice to publish it in the journal of intersemiotic translation.

Dreams and Bodies

Since writing "Somatoception" was so fun, I'm thinking about giving it another shot, writing under a pseudonym again and taking another "pranky" approach. That is, I may use actual sources this time, but I would make it an "artistic text" by writing it in an archaic manner imitating the earliest papers I've read (from the 1940s-1960s) and instead of actually publishing it make a fake JSTOR-paper out of it. It'd be fun to try to make it look as if it was actually published in the early 70s and downloaded from JSTOR's database. I would probably just upload it to academia.edu

And that's it. That's basically all the development I can recount this year. It has certainly been a productive year, but I haven't advanced academically and if I do finish BA then it will probably occur in 2015, because I'm taking another academic vocation to fix my health.


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