The City and the Sign (3)

Choay, Françoise 1986b[1965]. Urbanism in question. In: Gotdiener, M. and Alexander Ph. Lagopoulos (eds.), The Ciy and the Sign: An Introduction to Urban Semiotics. New York: Colubia University Press, 241-258.

The large city is thus criticized successively from a series of different angles; in the name of democracy and political empiricism by Jefferson; in the name of a metaphysics of nature by Emerson and mainly by Thoreau; finally, as as function of a simple analysis of human relations, by the great novelists. All these writers, in unison naively place their hopes in the restoration of a kind of rural state which they think is compatible, with a few reservations, with the economic development of industrial society and which alone will ensure the safeguarding of liberty, the blossoming of personality and true community. (Choay 1986b[1965]: 243-244)
Compare this to Powys and what he writes about living in the modern city.
The desire for efficiency is first of all manifested in the importance given to the question of health and hygiene. The obsession with hygiene focuses around the notions of sun and greenery. It is linked to the contemporary advances of medicine and physiology, to the practical applications deriving from them, as well as to the new role ascribed after World War I to the care of the body and exposure to sunlight. These objectives will lead the progressivist planners to explode the old closed space in order to de-densify it, in order to isolate, in sunlight and greenery, buildings which are no longer attached one to the other, but have become autonomous "units." (Choay 1986b[1965]: 246)
This sounds prety Foucaultian (especyally the care of the body). The theme is the relation between the city and the health of the human body.
For typological analysis, Sitte substitutes relational analysis; the street is a fundamental organ, the guiding forms are no longer those of buildings but those of places of passage and of meeting, which means streets and squares; and greenery itself, practically eliminated from the urban center by Sitte, is carefully shaped when, occasionally, it appears in certain residential neighbourhoods. (Choay 1986b[1965]: 252)
New term: guiding forms. One can assume that these are the structures of built environment that structure social actions in the city.
The ideological principles on which he founds Broadacre are those of a faithful disciple of Emerson. The big industrial city is accused of alienating the individual by the artificial. Only contact with nature can restore man to himself and permit a harmonious development of the whole person. ... (Choay 1986b[1965]: 254)
This is awfully similar to Powys's view. He insists that the city is overcrowded and makes it difficult for the modern man to achieve a productive solitude. Perhaps for this reason he himself reclined to a mountain cabin to write his literary works.

Lagopoulos, Alexandros Ph. 1986b[1975]. Semiological Urbanism: An Analysis of the Traditional Western Sudanese Settlement. In: Gotdiener, M. and Alexander Ph. Lagopoulos (eds.), The Ciy and the Sign: An Introduction to Urban Semiotics. New York: Colubia University Press, 259-287.

The opposition "social language - speech" is closely related to the opposition "code - message" of information theory and corresponds to the oppositions "structure - event" and "system - procedure." (Lagopoulos 1986b[1975]: 261)
More additions to the code/message, type/token, etc. distinctions.

Gottdiener, M. 1986b. Recapturing the Center: A Semiotic Analysis of Shopping Malls. In: Gotdiener, M. and Alexander Ph. Lagopoulos (eds.), The Ciy and the Sign: An Introduction to Urban Semiotics. New York: Colubia University Press, 288-302.

A reading of the sign systems which can be found at the mall is organized by recognizing that signification occurs with reference to two separate orders of meaning - the one paradigmatic and the other syntagmatic. The first is with regard to the design motif of the mall itself, or the associational axis of the mall and the second consists of an analysis of the ways in which the separate elements within the mall have been engineered to fit together in metonymical concordance. I shall consider these separately, provided the observation is made clear that the latter depends heavily on the former. (Gottdiener 1986b: 292)
If there is metynymical concordance, can there also be metaphorical concordance? Would this simply involve the paradigmatic order of meaning?
Recently the motif which Kropkind calls "Ye Olde Kitch" has become popular. This follows its success in such places as Fanuil Hall in Boston. Orange County, California has a mall which reproduces this form, called "Olde Towne." As one approaches it a large sign with the logo "Olde Towne" frames its entrance. The mall is neither old nor a town, instead these signifiers float disembodied and detached from their signifieds, a fundamental characteristic of the advertising form, as Baudrillard has observed (1968). The free-floating signifiers are used to denote the code of the mall; its invocation of nostalgia. They serve to prime consumers for the necessary acceptance of futher encounters with more disembodied signifiers on the advertising form just inside the entrance from the parking lot. (Gottdiener 1986b: 194)
Similarly, the Tartu mall Tasku ("Pocket") has framed its entrance to look like the columned entrance of the main building of the University of Tartu, thus cashing in on the "university town" motto of the city.
First, malls have ugly, blank walls on their outside, as all activities are turned inward. In fact, from the parking lot most malls look like concrete bunkers with an occasional logo of a department store serving as the only break in a monolithic pattern of bricks and steel. The purpose of this design is to prevent loitering outside the mall and to quicken the pace with which shoppers leave their cars. According to Stephens (1978) this denial of the street outside can be called "introversion," because the mall design captures the self-enclosure, protectionist atmosphere of the Medieval Castle. (Gottdiener 1986b: 296)
Huh. Tartu Kaubamaja (diagonally across the street from Tasku) has this kind of ugly monolithic steely outside look and a "Hi-Tech Urban" interior. Loitering outside of it is indeed a bit uncomfortable, because there is almost nothing to look at and one side of it is even covered with metallic mirrors, amounting to even more uncomfortable setting. This may explain why so many claim that the building is an ugly box. It is intentionally and instrumentally so.
In a number of cases the entrance is a large open space, like a town square, which includes some form of special attraction not directly related to shopping itself. (Gottdiener 1986b: 197)
Yup. In Tasku there is a place with something like park benches. In Tartu Kaubamaja there is a square where they sometimes exhibit cars for some reason. In fictional worlds, for example in Olev Remsu's Kurbmäng Paabelis, there is an apple tree garden inside the mall (a ludic center).
Among the group of stores within any mall there is a hierarchy of identifiability and importance. Malls work principally because of the presence of a few large department stores which pull in customers. Their location defines the overall floor plan, with speciality shops filling up the intervening space between the big draw giants. (Gottdiener 1986b: 299)
Similar rationale organizes the layout of super markets: the dairy products, which draws the most buyers, is placed at the far end of the mall, so that the buyer has to walk through the entire store to get to the dairy products. In my local Konsum, the farthest item is eggs (just after the dairy products).
The mall works, therefore, because it harnesses the instrumental control of space to the desires manufactured by modern society. (Gottdiener 1986b: 301)
Presumably, the mall in just one example of increasingly more (instrumentally) controlled spaces in modern cities.

Boudon, Pierre 1986b[1978]. Re-writing of a City: The Medina of Tunis. In: Gotdiener, M. and Alexander Ph. Lagopoulos (eds.), The Ciy and the Sign: An Introduction to Urban Semiotics. New York: Colubia University Press, 303-321.

Mauss still believes it is possible to develop a sociological theory of symbolism, whereas what in fact has to be sought is the symbolic origin of society. (Levi-Strauss 1950:xxii)
We will try to understand how the semiotic analysis of these spatial data can be as rich in information as those given by the social system as concerns the description and explanation of a value system governing a culture. (Boudon 1986b[1978]: 305)
This aspect of Mauss has eluded me. It seems like a good idea to make my way towards his main writings (as soon as humanly possible).
Thus, the space of the city appears to us as the definition of a series of more and more complex operations of articulation, starting from a definite number of discrete elements.
Any combination of organisms is a function of all operations which have led to it. Inversely, any modification induced in the set acts on the meaning of the composing elementary unit, distorts them in view of new relations and different finalities. (Berardi 1970-71:38)
And it is in this sense that we speak of a "language of places" as a system of traces inscribed on a territory, marks and references for which we shall have to decipher the meaning, until the final recomposition of this cultural entity; the set, defined in terms of rules (and sequences of associated elements), will be the indications of what can be seen, read, or even said, and by contrast of what cannot be: the un-seen, un-read, un-said, either because it is culturally absent in comparison with other sets, or because of social occultation. (Boudon 1986b[1978]: 305)
It looks like we're going down the road of the action-inscribing-environment perspective. There have been numerous mentions of something like this (topographies of behaviour, etc.) that could end up specifying such a view in more detail.
There would be, first of all, redundancy (which the notion of system does not allow) [...] (Boudon 1986b[1978]: 310)
What in the world do you mean? Redundancy is a necessary feature of any system. This is especially clear in Jakobson's notion of code (a system of signs). Redundant features are not unnecessary, the fulfill an important function.

Gottdiener, M. and Alexander Ph. Lagopoulos 1986b. Glossary. In: Gotdiener, M. and Alexander Ph. Lagopoulos (eds.), The Ciy and the Sign: An Introduction to Urban Semiotics. New York: Colubia University Press, 323-327.

Code. The term applies to different areas of a semiotic system. In all cases it indicates a set of elements and the rules governing their organization, i.e., a structure. Jakobson's concept of code corresponds to Saussure's langue, and his concept of message to Saussure's speech. (Gottdiener & Lagopoulos 1986b: 323)
But his concept does differ a bit from Saussure's, as I understand it. Jakobson adds the notion of redundancy to code, for example.
Connotation. The level of signification relating to value systems. More analytically, the level of the expression of a connotative system is by itself a semiotic system (consisting of a level of the expression and a level of the content). (Gottdiener & Lagopoulos 1986b: 324)
I think this should be reconsidered in light of the original meaning of connotation (essentially, conception).
Corpus. A whole constituted by a finite set of texts, which is constructed in view of the analysis of the object to which it corresponds. (Gottdiener & Lagopoulos 1986b: 324)
Thus, the selection of dystopian works in my analysis constitutes a corpus.
Denotation. The level of signification relating to the direct conception of things. More analytically, in a denotative system, neither the level of the expression nor the level of the content is by itself a semiotic system. (Gottdiener & Lagopoulos 1986b: 324)
In its original meaning, this is actually connotation.
Exo-semiotic. Term used by Lagopoulos and referring to the material world as opposed to the universe of signs, also referred to as "non-semiotic." (Gottdiener & Lagopoulos 1986b: 324)
Equivalent of "extra-semiotic" in another nomenclature.
Logo-technique. According to Barthes, a language artificially constructed by a decision-making group. (Gottdiener & Lagopoulos 1986b: 325)
In another nomenclature, this is just formalized language (as opposed to natural language).
Proxemics. A branch of semiotics aiming at the study of the use the subjects make of space in order to signify. (Gottdiener & Lagopoulos 1986b: 326)
Huh. I'm pretty sure this is significantly different from what Edward Hall had in mind (especially in relation with "in order to signify").
Reference. The relation of a semiotic element with another element to which it corresponds. For the Anglo-American tradition, this other element, the referent, is a non-semiotic reality. Greimas dismisses as positivist this point of view and believes that the term always applies to intra-semiotic relations, a belief based on his position that reality is also a positivist and rejectable concept. For a Marxist, these points of view of Greimas are idealist, and a non-semiotic domain exists along side [sic] the universe of signs. (Gottdiener & Lagopoulos 1986b: 326)
This problematic is also apparent in Jakobson's referential function (especially in relation with the "nonverbalized" elemets).
Semiotics. The scientific domain which studies culture viewed as a set of systems and processes of signs. It also studies psychological systems, and for some authors extends to biology. Today this term is equivalent to semiology. (Gottdiener & Lagopoulos 1986b: 326)
It appears that this definition is borrowed from the Tartu-Moscow school. Other definitions of semiotics don't remark the aspect of viewing culture as a system of systems of signs as readily.


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