Beginnings of the Semiotics of Culture

Salupere, Silvi; Peeter Torop and Kalevi Kull 2013. Preface. In: Salupere, Silvi; Peeter Torop and Kalevi Kull (eds.), Beginnings of the semiotics of culture. Tartu Semiotics Library 13. Tartu: University of Tartu Press, 5-10.

The intensive work of the 1960s on the semiotic approach to the study of texts, at first literary texts and later other kinds of cultural texts, and the duscissions at the Tartu Semiotics Summer Schools in Kääriku (Salupere 2012), led to the formation of an understanding of the possibility for an integral approach to culture from the semiotic point of view. It is marked by the use of the term semiotics of culture that came into use since 1970. (Salupere, Torop & Kull 2013: 5)
And this work continues, almost half a century later. The notion of cultural text is still unclear to some.
A thorough analysis of the Theses has been produced by Irene Portis-Winner and Thomas Winner (1976). (Salupere, Torop & Kull 2013: 6)
And now I know what I'm reading next.
In 1992, Lotman wrote "Theses towards a semiotic analysis of Russian Culture" as a study programme for the Department of Russian Culture in the Institute of World Culture at Moscow State University (published in Russian and in English - Lotman 1994a; 1994b), and focused on some specific characteristics of Russian cultural history. See also Torop 1999. (Salupere, Torop & Kull 2013: 6, footnote 2)
The 1973 theses can similarly be thought of as the general research programme of the institute of semiotics.

Salupere, Silvi and Peeter Torop 2013. Introduction: On the beginnings of the semiotics of culture in the light of the Theses of the Tartu-Moscow School. In: Salupere, Silvi; Peeter Torop and Kalevi Kull (eds.), Beginnings of the semiotics of culture. Tartu Semiotics Library 13. Tartu: University of Tartu Press, 15-37.

It is difficult to give a comprehensive description of the environment in which the semiotics of culture was born. It grew out of a certain atmosphere, and was shaped by Russian Formalism with its critical reception of Saussure by J. Tynyanov and R. Jakobson, the theses of the Prague linguistic circle, L. Hjelmslev's glossematics, N. Chomsky and generative linguistics, Malinowski's scientific theory of culture, C. Levi-Strauss' structural anthropology, N. Wiener's cybernetics, and numerous other authors and theories. (Salupere & Torop 2013: 16)
I am only familiar with Tynyanov and Jakobson from this list.
[...] Juri Lotman was searching for a disciplinary sythesis - a fact that was first noticed by Karl Eimermacher who used the term "integrative culturology" in his articles on Lotman both in German and in Russian (Eimermacher 1974, 2001). Integrative is an appropriate word, taking into account Lotman's special position in the typological studies of culture. The term 'integrative" proposed by Eimermacher is accurate in the case of the Tartu-Moscow School in at least two respects. On one hand, the members of the school were active in different fields from Slavistics to Oriental studies, and their methodological explorations reflected the explorations of contemporary human and social sciences. These include, first and foremost, R. Barthes' meditations on language and his vision of semiology as a part of linguistics, and the attempt by C. Levi-Strauss to integrate different disciplines on the axis of cultural or social anthropology. An important place in the integrative nature of the Tartu-Moscow School belonged to R. Jakobson's concept of an integrative science of communication in which semiotics as the discipline studying the communication of all messages would include linguistics as the study of only linguistic messages, while also being related to social anthropology and economics as research into social communication. (Salupere & Torop 2013: 16-17)
I was not aware that TMS took Jakobson's concatenating view of these sciences so seriously. Also, compare this to Sebeok's or Mead's conception of semiotics as the advanced study of communication.
R. Posner's lengthy treatment of semiotics of culture proves a good example. He considers E. Cassirer as a direct precursor to cultural semiotics as Cassirer's classification of symbolic forms is similar to the clossification of sign systems:
Cultural semiotics is that subdiscipline of semiotics which has cluture as its subject. According to Cassirer, it has two tasks:
  1. The study of sign systems in a culture (in the sense of Herder or Tylor) with respect to what they contribute to the culture,
  2. The study of cultures as sign systems with respect to the advantages and disadvantages which an individual experiences in belonging to a specific culture.
(Posner 2005: 308)
The works of the TMS were quite well known in Germany; numerous works on semiotics of culture were published there, while a separate conception called evolutionary cultural semiotics was developed by W. A. Koch who also founded a new series titled Bochum Publications in Evolutionary Cultural Semiotics. Koch saw culture as
a phenomenon whose true integrative potentialities have not yet been fully discovered or explored. For a semiotics thus conceived, structure and process are not different phases of reality and/or science but rather mere faces of a unitary field. In the view of this series, then, any fruitful attempt at semiotic analysis will be based on premises of macro-integration - or evolution - and of micro-integration - culture. (Koch 1989: v)
For evolutionary cultural semiotics evolution means the dynamics of cultural environment as semiosis that evolves from verbal and pictorial media, to start with, towards printed media and then telemedia. Today this process is continued in the environment of new media. It is a movement from immediate communication towards the diversification of forms of mediated communication and the understanding of communication forms, with the cultural value of technological evolution becoming a part of both history of science and that of culture. (Salupere & Torop 2013: 18)
Posner's 2005. "Basic tasks of cultural semiotics" is available online in manuscript form. Koch's reference goes: Koch, Walter A. 1989. Bochum publications in evolutionary cultural semiotics: Editorial. In: Koch, Walter A. (ed.), Culture and Semiotics. Bochum: Studienverlag Dr. Norbert Brockmeyer, V.
Disciplinary logic demands that culture be declared the research object of semiotics of culture. In his memoirs, A. Pjatigorskij, one of the founders of the Tartu-Moscow School, discusses the reasons why the TMS became the study of culture: "Universal method needs a universal object and unavoidably that will be culture" (Pjatigorskij 1994: 326). Pjatigorskij believed the primary cause was Russian culture:
We thought we wrote about culture from an outside point of view, but it led us from inside. [...] Thereafter the method was ontologized that has led to object naturalization (not only "how I understand culture" but how one culture understands other cultures and itself). (Pjatigorskij 1994: 326-327).
Pjatigorskij emphasises that the definition of culture cannot be separated from the observer, since culture is a metaconcept, i.e. a concept of description and self-description (Pjatigorskij 1994: 326), and understanding the observer is as important as understanding the observed, since "the language of world description cannot exist simply because there is no single natural language that can be used to describe the world as a single object of study" (Pjatigorskij 2002: 9). Let us note that while for Pjatigorskij such naturalisation was methodologically erroneous, since as the researcher is located inside the culture, it is difficult for him or her to take a meta-position and remain objective, Boris Usponskij, another author of the Theses, considers such unity of the object and the researcher to be a positive trait. In a talk given in 1981, Usponskij describes the path travelled over 20 years, starting from the extrapolation of linguistic methods to non-linguistic objects and finally reaching the semiotics of culture. He subscribes the success of the TMS to the application of the dualist model typologically characteristic of Russian culture in the genesis of the TMS, which united two different traditions: the Moscow tradition of linguistics and the Leningrad tradition of literary studies (Uspenskij 1994: 268). (Salupere & Torop 2013: 20-21)
And again, these problems are still revelant today. The metaconcept problem is exactly why Randviir dismisses the semiosphere. And Pjatigorskij's "naturalisation" concerns the culture as a collective "I" (that is, the cultural level in Ruesch's communication system).
No matter how unusual we might find the idea that the concept of human culture itself presupposes the existence of certain initial freedoms and restrictions [just as in language - S.S., P.T.], it is supported by a simple argument. A system not organised in such a fastion is not a language, i.e. it cannot be used for storing and transferring information. Culture, however, is a communicative system by definition. (Lotman 1967a: 6) (Salupere & Torop 2013: 22)
...Which is why I deem it necessary to read up on Ruesch and Bateson who explored the possibilities of communication systems.
In his article "Literary fact" from 1924 he wrote: "Literary fact is heterogeneous, and in this sense literature is an incessantly evolutioning order" (Tynyanov 1977: 270). Understanding of literary order or system is very close to the notion of function:
A literary system is first of all a system of the functions of the literary order which are in continual interrelationship with other orders. [...] The evolution of the structural function occurs rapidly; the evolution of the literary function occors over epochs; and the evolution of the functions of a whole literary system in relation to neighbouring systems occurs over centuries. (Tynyanov 1977: 277)
Literary order is just one functional order together with the order of everyday life, the order of culture, the social order. The study of literary evolution presupposes the investigation of connections first of all between the closest neighbouring orders or systems, and a logical path leads from the structural to the literary function, from the literary to the verbal function. This follows from the position that "evolution is the change in interrelationships between the elements of a system - between functions and formal elements" (Tynyanov 1977: 281). (Salupere & Torop 2013: 23)
When is termed "series" in Jakobson and Tynyanov (1928), is here termed "order" and seems to amount to a "system".
As predecessors to semiotics of culture, Tynyanov's works are also where the idea of conceiving cultural artefacts through the dynamics of boundaries is derived from. A text can be delineated in different ways as a text in a certain language, as a representative of a certain literary genre, as an expression of a literary-historical style, as a social message, as an artistic text - in other words, conceptualised and correlated with the cultural environment to different extents. A complex understanding presumes a parametric approach, and different sides of parametric analysis are reflected in the Theses which state that culture is both a text and a system of texts. (Salupere & Torop 2013: 24)
This is extremely relevant, for it points out how defining the borders of a text is a matter of perspective - of which "order" it is correlated with.
[...] if the first sentence of the Proposals reads: "The initial premise is that all human activity concerned with the processing, exchange, and storage of information with the help of signs possesses a certain unity", then "with the help of signs" has been omitted in the Theses, since there was no longer any need to stress that in 1973. (Salupere & Torop 2013: 24)
And yet I feel that there is a need to stress it now, so that we could pinpoint the most explicitly semiotic aspect - the informational function of signs - and compare it to other approaches (Nauta 1972, for example).
The most universal feature of human cultures is the need for self-description. Every culture has its own specific means for it, its languages of description. Languages of description facilitate cultural communication, perpetuate cultural experience, and model cultural memory. The coherence of culture is based on the repetition and interpretation of the same things. The more languages of description a culture has, the richer it is. (Salupere & Torop 2013: 25)
This is the most commonsense explanation fo the self-description aspect. In this sens, self-description is necessary for a culture to constitute a "supraindividual self".
  1. Language as primary modelling system
  2. Secondary modelling systems:
    1. Language as higher sign system (myth, literature, poetry);
    2. Language as metalanguage or part of metalanguage (criticism and history of art, music, dance etc.);
    3. Language as model or analogue (language of film, dance, music, painting, etc.).
Based on this classification, language as a primary modelling system is the human being's main means of thinking and communicating. As a secondary modelling system, language is the preserver of culture's collective experience and the reflector of its creativity. As a metalanguage, natural language in the translator and interpreter of all nonverbal systems, and from the methodological perspective, especially during the 1960s and 1970s, language offered cultural analysis the possibility of searching for discrete (linguistic) elements also in such fields of culture in which natural language either does not belong to the means of expression, or does it only partially. (Salupere & Torop 2013: 25-26)
That is, language is primarily a "social modelling system" (Jakobson 1971 [1967]: 676 ) and secondarily a system that further cultural systems are based on and which influence "the way the whole society conceives of the world" (Mukařovský 1976[1938]: 161-162)
First, however, we must ask how the term "ustrojstvo" has found its way into the metalanguage of Lotman and his co-authors. Without delving too deep into history, it is clear that it originates in the Moscow group, the circles of mathematicians, linguists, and cyberneticians. In a book published in 1965 by two authors of the Theses, we find an important definition that can be used as a starting point: "A device [устройство] (automaton, human, or animal), interacting with the environment surrounding it, processes the information it receives about the environment and about the device itself" (Ivanov, Toporov 1965: 6). It is clear from this that it is sometimes more concerte, more static, something given, and our position is that the most logical translation should be "device", that has not been used by the translators so far. (Salupere & Torop 2013: 28)
This quote from Ivanov and Toporov seems to capture some fundamental aspects of Lotman's "device of culture" as well: that it interacts with the non-culture that surrounds it and it possesses some information about itself (e.g. self-description).
The distinction is also missing in Universe of the Mind (1990): see, for example, the table of contents: "Text as a meaning-generating mechanism" (смыслопорождающее устройство) and "Rhetoric as a meaning-generating mechanism" (механизм смыслопорождения). (Salupere & Torop 2013: 29)
Jäta meelde: tekst on tähendusloome vahend; retoorika on tähendusloome mehhanism.
Culture's "model of itself, the myth of the culture about itself which appears at a certain stage", and "the orientation of culture" are presented as important unifying mechanisms of culture. (Salupere & Torop 2013: 31)
I'm once again reminded of Olev Remsu's Kurbmäng Paabelis in which a dictatorial regime assigns a new creation myth every year. These are written by school students and the best one is selected. The creation myths that Remsu lists by way of example include the story of Jesus as well as that of Kalevipoeg.
Culture's model of itself is based on the dynamics of self-descriptions, on the balance between three main types of self-models - self-models that register its current state, self-models based on a necessity to change the situation, and theoretical models, the relationship of which to reality is not clear at the moment of their creation but might become so in the future. (Salupere & Torop 2013: 31)
This is extremely interesting. Compare this to Ruesch's intero-, proprio- and exteroception. Also, compare it to the so-called goffmanian triad (self, other, situation).
[...] the question of the difference and combination of metalanguages. This problem, too, was first stated by R. Jakobson, who wrote in his article "Metalanguage as a linguistic problem", published in 1956: "Language must be investigated in all the variety of its functions" (Jakobson 1985: 113). In the context of this article, this means that the TMS does not attempt to create a new canonical metalanguage in its search for the disciplinary bases of semiotics of culture. Just as culture is based on the diversity of languages of self-expression, so is the science studying culture based on the diversity of metalanguages. Semiotics of culture as a discipline creates a methodology that accepts this diversity of object and metalevels. (Salupere & Torop 2013: 34)
This, too, is a kind of ethics of terminology.

Lotman, Juri M. 2013 [1970]. Proposals for the programme of the 4th Summer school on secondary modelling systems. In: Salupere, Silvi; Peeter Torop and Kalevi Kull (eds.), Beginnings of the semiotics of culture. Tartu Semiotics Library 13. Tartu: University of Tartu Press, 41-43.

[...] we shall also admit another approach, according to which all of them examine particular aspects of the semiotics of culture, of the study of the functional correlation of different sign systems. (Lotman 2013[1970]: 41)
This means that semiotics of culture is inherently syncretic and interested in the mutual influence of sign systems. In my case this concerns the relationship of verbal and nonverbal systems.
Special consideration should be given to the question of the relationship between primary and secondary cultural languages. Is such two-tier construction fundamental to the structure of culture, and what makes it functionally essential? Is natural language the only primary system? What ae the traits that a system must possess to be able to function as a primary system - or a secondary one? (Lotman 2013[1970]: 42)
Here we see that Lotman was not dogmatic about the modelling systems theory. Sebeok's restructuring can thus be deemed acceptable and Mihhail Lotman's framing of modelling systems as "relational notions" is spot on.
Description of the influence of some particular semiotic system on others, i.e. "The role of painting in the semiotics of poetry of this or that era", "The role of cinema in the structure of the language of contemporary culture". (Lotman 2013[1970]: 42)
This is one of the specific directions that Lotman suggests conducting investigations. Again, the two-tier division into primary and secondary modelling systems (sign systems) should not be taken as face value but investigated. The relationships between sign systems are not "set in stone" but in continual evolution. Cf. Tynyanov above on the relationship between literary facts and other orders/series.
Culture and non-culture. The struggle against culture as a cultural problem (analogy: the problem of forgetting as a component of the mechanism of memory). Culturoclasm and kulturträgers in the history of culture. The question of structural reserves in culture (barbarians for the Antiquity, pagans for Christianity, ignoramuses for rationalists, the People for the Enlightenment as the sphere for the expansion of culture). (Lotman 2013[1970]: 42)
The struggle against culture is also related to the last thesis: "Observance of rules and the struggle against rules becoming a rule by itself" (ibid, 43). I've compared the question of culture vs non-culture to contemporary advance of internet and social media. Here Wikipedia's "outreach program" is a good example - it goes out into third world countries (e.g. parts of India) in order to start creating wiki pages in those languages almost by force - that is, instead of letting people come to wikipedia and edit for free, wikipedia goes to those people and pays them to edit wikipedia in their language. This is a means to bring non-digital-natives to the internet. In this case the internet is synonymous with "culture" and non-culture is everything in the "outernet".
10. Culture as collective memory. The continuity of culture provides a collective with awareness of their existence. The possibility of studying culture as organized memory. [...]
13. Culture as a sphere of social conflicts. The struggle for collective memory. Socially prescribed norms of remembering and forgetting. (Lotman 2013[1970]: 43)
I skipped a couple of theses to show how he defined culture as memory and then brought the "power" question into this discussion by asking who has the right to determine this memory.

Lotman, Juri M.; Vjacheslav V. Ivanov; Aleksandr M. Pjatigorskj; Vladimir N. Toporov and Boris A. Uspenskij 2013. Theses on the semiotic study of cultures (as applied to Slavic texts). In: Salupere, Silvi; Peeter Torop and Kalevi Kull (eds.), Beginnings of the semiotics of culture. Tartu Semiotics Library 13. Tartu: University of Tartu Press, 53-77.

[1.1.0.] In investigations of a semiotic-typological nature the concept of culture is perceived as fundamental. In doing so we should distinguish between thec onception of culture from its own point of view and from the point of view of a scientific metasystem which describes it. According to the first position, culture will have the appearance of a delimited sphere which is opposed to the phenomena of human history, experience, or activity lying outside it. Thus the concept of culture is inseparably linked with the opposition of its "non-culture". (Lotman et al. 2013[1973]: 53)
The sphere of culture is delimited. One can only presume that if there is a sphere of human history, experience and activity outside of it, then there is also history, experience and activity inside it.
[1.3.1.] Thus, from the position of an outside observer, culture will represent not an immobile, synchronically balanced mechanism, but a dichotomous system, the "work" of which will be realized as the aggression of regularity against the sphere of the unregulated and, in the opposite direction, as the intrusion of the unregulated into the sphere of organization. At different moments of historical development either tendency may prevail. The incorporation into the cultural sphere of texts which have come from outside sometimes proves to be a powerful stimulating factor for cultural development. (Lotman et al. 2013[1973]: 56)
I did not expect to see the notion of regulation play such an important role here. It is clear that organization goes hand in hand with regulation. The "aggression" of regulation is especially interesting. I may very well use this thesis to bring my "regulative function" to a cultural level.
[1.3.3.] The cultural function of the tension between the inner (closed) and the outer (open) spaces is clearly revealed in the structure of houses (and other bulidings). In making a house, man thereby partitions off a part of space which - in contrast with the outer sphere - is perceived as culturally assimilated and regulated. However, this initial opposition acquires cultural significance only against a background of continual breaches in the opposite direction. Thus, on the one hand, the closed "domestic" space begins to be perceived not as the antipode of the outside world, but as its model and analogue (for example, the temple as an image of the universe). In this case the regularity of the temple space is transferred to the outside world, suppressing the sphere of irregularity (the aggression of the inner space against the outside). (Lotman et al. 2013[1973]: 57)
This thesis could very well be used for the semiotics of the city. All that is necessary is to extend the house metaphor from a single building to a complex of buildings - the city.
[3.0.0.] The relationship of the text with the whole of culture and with its system of codes is shown by the fact that on different levels the same message may appear as a text, part of a text, or an entire set of texts. (Lotman et al. 2013[1973]: 58)
I think a similar point applies on signs generally. What, for example, is the difference between signs and distinctive features? How are they related? In any case this is, as was pointed out above, something Tynyanov discussed in relation with literature.
[3.1.0.] Out of the entire totality of messages in a natural language, culture distinguishes and takes into account only those which may be defined as a certain speech genre, for example, "prayer", "law", "novel" and others, that is to say, those which possess a certain integral meaning and fulfill a common function. (Lotman et al. 2013[1973]: 58)
In short, a cultural text (kultuuritekst) is a text has a cultural meaning and function. That is, the meaning must be shared and the text must be functional in some sense: prayer in religious context, law in judicial context, novel in literary context, etc.
[3.2.1.] Text and sign. The text as an integral sign; the text as a sequence of signs. The second case, as is well known from the experience of the linguistic study of the text, is sometimes regarded as the only possible one. Yet in the overall model of culture another type of text is also essential, one in which the concept of the text appears not as a secondary one derived from a chain of signs, but as a primary one. A text of this type is not discrete and does not break down into signs. It represents a whole and is segmented not into separate signs but into distinctive features. In this sense we can detect a far-reaching similarity between the primacy of the text in such modern audiovisual systems of mass communication as the cinema and television, and tho role of the text for systems in whcih, as in mathematical logic, metamathematics, and the theory of formalized grammars, language is understood as a certain set of texts. The fundamental distinction between these two cases of the primacy of the text consists, however, in the fact that for audiovisual systems of the transmission of information and for such comparatively earlier systems as painting, sculpture, the dance (and pantomime), and ballet, the continuous text may be primacy (the whole canvas of a painting, or a fragment of it in the event that separate signs are segmented in the painting), and a sign appears as a secondary notion, definable in terms of the text, whereas in formalized languages the text may always be represented as a chain of discrete symbols assigned as elements of an initial alphabet (of a set or a vocabulary). (Lotman et al. 2013[1973]: 58)
Cf. "Thus a painting can present the entire appearance of a thing in front of a viewer's eyes at once, whereas poetry must depict the same thing in parts, gradually, in time: for poetry a state changes into events." (Mukařovský 1976[1944]: 241) Mukařovský was discussing Gotthold Ephraim Lessing's Laocoön.
[3.2.1.] For television the basic unit is the elementary life situation, which before the moment of television (or of filming) is in an a priori manner, unknown and irresolvable into elements. (Lotman et al. 2013[1973]: 59)
Verify this with Andrejevic's Reality TV: The Work of Being Watched.
[3.2.4.] Since memory is incorporated into the channel of communication between sender and receiver in cultures possessing the means of externally fixing the message, a distinction is made between the potential receiver ("my distant descendant" in Baratynsky's poetry) and the actual receiver. (Lotman et al. 2013[1973]: 61)
Memory here involves "externally fxing the message" in signs that last through time (e.g. words on a paper, a text). This at the same time verifies that Jakobson's channel is indeed Ruesch's medium but at the same time negates the conflation of message in Ruesch and Lotman - in the former, not very many messages or signs are "fixed", while for Lotman fixation or textualisation is at the heart of the matter (of cultural semiotics). Also, compare this type of "memory" in the communication system to the Revzin's and Bakhtin's memory component in the communication models (e.g. not memery in the channel but common memory in sender and receiver, both having distinct but somewhat overlapping memories).
[3.2.4.] The existence of memory in the channel of communication can also be associated with the reflection, in the structure of genres, of communication features which sometimes can be traced back to the preceding peiod (the "genre memory", according to M. M. Bakhtin). (Lotman et al. 2013[1973]: 62)
It can, indeed. But I see a rather more interesting conjunction between the notion of the culture text (or cultural text) and Bakhtin's genre memory. Not sure if anyone has studied this conjunction.
We should distinguish the nontext from the "antitext" of a given culture the utterance which the culture does not preserve from the utterance which it destroys. (Lotman et al. 2013[1973]: 62; footnote 13)
This is a notable distinction. It should be remembered, for example, that in the early 1930s, the nazis didn't burn all books whatsoever (as they did in Bradbury's fantasy novel) but antitexts only - the books that were deemed dangerous to the nazi regime. I also think that these notions could be borrowed for a more general or even behavioural semiotics in terms of nonsigns and antisigns. In gestural studies, at least, this would be simple: the nonsign-gestures are the ones that a cultural group doesn't recognize as significant; the antisign-gestures would be the ones that the given cultural group does recognize as significant but assigns to a negative, forbidden, or unwanted signification.
[4.1.1.] Hde traditional history of culture takes into consideration for each chronological section only "new" texts, texts created by the given age. But in the real existence of culture, texts transmitted by the given cultural tradition or introduced from the outside always function side by side with new texts. This gives each synchronic state the features of cultural polyglotism. Since on different social levels the speed of cultural development may not be identical, a synchronic state of culture may include its diachrony and the active reproduction of "old" texts. (Lotman et al. 2013[1973]: 63)
This is Jakobson's "permanent dynamic synchrony" applied to culture and texts instead of language and variance/invariance of its subcodes, styles or elements.
[5.2.2.] The representation of a text in a natural language might be described by proceeding from an idealized diagram of the work of an automatic machine which would trnsform the text, successively developing it from the general intention to the lower levels; in this transformation each of the levels or some combination of different levels might be in principle correspondent to the recoding of the text by means of an output mechanism (see Fig. 1). (Lotman et al. 2013[1973]: 66)
Compare this (diagram, below) to Jakobson view of language as a completely semiotic system, "a system of signs from the largest components (discourses) to the smallest ones (the distinctive features)." (Waugh & Monville-Burston 2002[1990]: xviii)
[5.2.2.] Fig. 1. General diagram of the recording of a linguistic text by levels. (Lotman et al. 2013[1973]: 67)
I recreated the figure because I've had to open this book several times merely to look thin figure up.
[6.0.0.] From the semiotic point of view culture may be regarded as a hierarchy of particular semiotic systems, as the sum of the texts and the set of functions correlated with them, or as a certain mechanism which generates these texts. If we regard the collective as a more complexly organized individual, culture may be understood by analogy with the individual mechanism of memory as a certain collective mechanism for the storage and processing of information. The semiotic structure of culture and the semiotic structure of memory are functionally uniform phenomena situated on different levels. This proposition does not contradict the dynamism of culture: being in principle the fixation of past experience, it may also appear as a program and as instructions for the creation of new texts. (Lotman et al. 2013[1973]: 68)
This is Lotman's version of omne symbolum de symbolo, e.g. "culture begets culture" or more specifically, culture begets culture texts.
[6.0.0.] Moreover, it is possible given a fundamental orientation of culture toward future experience to construct a certain conditional point of view from which the future appears as the past. For example, texts are being created which will be stored by our descendants; people who perceive themselves as "public figures of the age" seek to perform historic deeds (acts which in the future will become memory). Cf. the aspiration of people of the eighteenth century to choose heroes of antiquity as programs for their own behavior (the image of Cato is the distinctive code which deciphers the entire lifelong behavior of Radischev, including his suicide). The essence of culture as memory is especially clearly shown in the example of archaic texts, particularly folklore texts. (Lotman et al. 2013[1973]: 68)
It is indeed possible, drawing from the individual-culture analogy, that cultures have their own anticipations, expectancies, plans, etc. towards the future, just like individuals do.
[6.0.1.] Not only do the participants in communication create texts, but the texts also contain the memory of the participants in communication. Therefore the assimilation of texts of another culture leads to the transmission through the centuries of certain structures of personality and types of behavior. The text may appear as a condensed profram of the whole culture. The assimilation of texts from another culture results in the phenomenon of polyculturality, in the possibility, while remaining within one culture, of choosing conventional behavior in the style of another. (Lotman et al. 2013[1973]: 68)
This Lotman addresses later, in "The Semiotics of Culture and the Concept of a Text" for example, especially in: "Revealing a capacity to condense information, it [the text] acquires memory." (Lotman 1988 [1981]: 55)
[6.0.2.] For the period beginning with the Proto-Slavic and continuing in individual Slavic traditions down to modern times, the collective mechanism for the storage of information ("memory") ensures the transmission from generation to generation of fixed rigid schemes of texts (metric, translinguistic, etc.) and whole fragments of them (loci communi with respect to folklore texts). The most ancient sign system of this type - in which literature is reduced to the embodiment, by means of ritual formulas, of mythological plots handed down from generation to generation - on the level of social interpretation may be synchronized with rigidly determined systems of relationships in which all possibilities are covered by rules correlated with the mythological past and with cyclical ritual. On the contrary, more advanced systems, in groups whose behavior is regulated by the memory of their real history, correlate directly with the type of literature in which the basic principle becomes the search for devices which are statistically the least frequent (and which therefore carry the greatest amount of information). (Lotman et al. 2013[1973]: 68-69)
This is almost like the orationes logoi (elements of discourse) bit from Foucault (2005: 359).
[6.0.2.] In all such cases, in the process of reconstruction there occurs the problem of eleminating the noise superimposed on the text as it is transmitted through the diachronic channel of communication between generations. In this connection, phenomeno revealed in secondary modelling systems can be compared with the evident dicrease in complexity (and increase in simplicity) of the organization of the text on the morphological level during the transition from the Indo-European to the (late) Proto-Slavic period during which the law of open syllables was operating (by simplicity here we mean a decrease in the number of elements and the rules for their distribution). (Lotman et al. 2013[1973]: 69)
This is very encourageing for distinguishing synchronic metacommunication (a la Ruesch & Bateson) from diachronic metacommunication (a la Torop and Topovic). Cf. (Torop 2000: 23).
[6.1.0.] The pursuit of heterogeneity of languages in a characteristic feature of culture. (Lotman et al. 2013[1973]: 70)
Very general and seemingly very true.
[6.1.1.] This principle is revealed when a socially lower system becomes axiologically higher. The specific functions of the second Slavic language (usually Old Church Slavonic) in such a pair of structurally equivalent languages makes the material of Slavic cultures and languages especially valuable, not only for the investiggation of problems of bilingualism but also for explaining a number of processes hypothetically associated with bilingualism and polylingualism for that genre, the approximation to the spoken language as one of the social functions of poetry; cf. the idea of the "secularization" of the language of Russian poetry in articles by Mandelstam). (Lotman et al. 2013[1973]: 70)
A similar case could be made for a semiotically "lower" system - such as facial expressions - becoming axiologically higher than the natural language (e.g. snapchats gaining prominence over SMS). (Also, while SMS is short for "Short Message Service", snapchat should be called SVMS (f)or "Short Visual Message Service".)
[6.1.3.] As a system of systems based in the final analysis on a natural language (this is implied in the term "secondary modelling systems", which are contrasted with the "primary system", that is to say, the natural language), culture may be regarded as a hierarchy of semiotic systems correlated in pairs, the correlation between them being to a considerable extent realized through correlation with the system of the natural language. (Lotman et al. 2013[1973]: 171)
Here it turns out that "a system of systems" is the basis for the idea of secondary modelling systems. This also links up with Jakobson's fondness for hierarchies. That is, compare language and culture in Jakobson and Lotman.
[6.1.4.] The proposition concerning the insufficiency of only one natural language for the construction of culture can be connected with the fact that even a natural language itself is not a strictly logical realization of a single structural principle. (Lotman et al. 2013[1973]: 71)
They make this comparison themselves: for Jakobson, language is not a homogeneous structure but composed of what he called sub-codes or speech styles.
[6.1.5.] Under secondary modelling systems we understand such semiotic systems, with the aid of which models of the world or its fragments are constructed. These systems are secondary in relation to the primary system of natural language, over which they are built - directly (the supralinguistic system of literature) or in the shape parallel to it (music, painting). (Lotman et al. 2013[1973]: 72)
What I call concourse, or the sub-code of language dealing with body motion communication, is a secondary modelling system in this sense: concursive use of language models human bodily behaviour and communication.
[6.2.0.] It may be of particular interest to uncover the same regularities of the construction of a text (of a typical baroque text, for example) using material of predominantly continuous (pictorial) and predominantly discrete (verbal) texts. On this level an important problem is that of film making as an experiment in translating a discrete verbal text into a continuous one which is merely accomponied by fragments of the discrete (for example, Iwaszkiewicz's Birch Wood and Wajda's television film of it, in which the role of the verbal text is reduced to a minimum in view of the significance of the music for the film's sound track). (Lotman et al. 2013[1973]: 72)
Whaddayaknow, intersemiotic translation!
[7.0.0.] In conformity with the traditional aims of Slavistics, comparativistic problems may be interpreted here as the transmission of texts through different channels. (Lotman et al. 2013[1973]: 73)
Weirdly, languages begin to function as channels...
[7.0.1.] The problem of Slavic-non-Slavic contacts of the transmissions associated with them requires a very broad understanding of the entire culture under consideration, including the "sublinguistic systems" of custom, life style, and technology (including trades); non-Slavic influences - frequently more noticeable in these areas (and in the sphere of linguistic terminology associated with them) - only in subsequent stages can be detected in the secondary supralinguistic systems, which here clearly reveal how the differ in principle from the "sublinguistic" systems, which are not constructed on the basis of the signs and texts of a natural language and cannot be transposed in them. In contrast with this principle, which was characteristic of the late periods of contact with Western cultural zones, the earlier contacts with Byzantium affected primarily the sphere of secondary modelling systems. (Lotman et al. 2013[1973]: 74)
Here nonverbal is not "nonverbal" or "nonlinguistic" but rather "sublinguistic", or even "extralinguistic".
[8.0.2.] In recent years the interest of specialists in structural poetics has been concentrated on the study of interlevel relations; so onomatopoeia, for example, is studied not without regard for sense but in relation to sense. The process of recoding by level interweaves the results of different stages of the reduction of parts of a synthesized text to a sign, which is really embodied in the auditory or optical signal. The possibility of experimentally dividing the different stages in the process of synthesizing a literary text remains problematical because its surface structure, which is defined by formal limitations, may influence the deep figurative structure. This specifically follows from the ratio discovered on the basis of poetics, β ≤ γ, according to which, given an increase in the coefficient β, which indicates the extent of the limitations imposed on the poetic form, there must be an increase in the quatity γ, which defines the flexibility of the poetic language, i.e., specifically, of the number of synonymous paraphrases achieved through transferred and figurative word usage, unusual word combinations, and the like. Therefore the divcovery of the extent of formal limitations in works on comparative Slavic poetics, the establishment of such information-theory parameters of individual Slavic languages as flexibility (γ) and entropy (Η), and the specification of the aims and possibilities of translation from one Slavic language to another, turn out to be different aspects of the same problem, which may be investigated only on the basis of preliminary research in each of those fields. (Lotman et al. 2013[1973]: 75-76)
Flexibility and entropy also play a role in my study of concourse: it is a matter of whether certain words and phrases were coined by a specific author or was it a part of common discourse, or did the author "flex" the words or phrases, etc.
[9.0.0.] In the union of different levels and subsystems into a single semiotic whole - "culture" - two mutually opposed mechanisms are at work:
  1. The tendency toward diversity - toward an increase in differently organized semiotic languages, the "polyglotism" of culture.
  2. The tendency toward uniformity - the attempt to interpret itself or other cultures as uniform, rigidly organized languages.
The first tendency is revealed in the continual creation of new languages of culture and in the irregularity of its internal organization. Different spheres of culture have inherent in them a different extent of internal organization. While creating within itself a source of maximum organization, culture also as need of relatively amorphous formations which only resemble structure. In this sense it is characteristic to distinguish systematically, within the historically given structures of culture, spheres which are to become, as it were, a model of the organization of culture as such. It is especially interesting to study various artificially created sign systems which strive for maximum regularity (such, for example, is the cultural function of the ranks, dress coats, and badges of rank it the "regular" state of Peter the Great and his successors - the very idea of "regularity", in becoming a part of the uniform cultural unity of the age, constitutes an additional quantity in the motley irregularity of the real life of those times). Of great interest from this point of view is the study of metatexts: instructions, "regulations", and directions which represent a systematized myth created by culture about itself. Significant in this respect is the role played at different stages of culture by language grammars as models of organizing, "regulating" texts of various kinds. (Lotman et al. 2013[1973]: 76)
I think I've found a passageway to combine discussions of the category of regulators (Ekman, Carpenter), the communicative regulation function (Jakobson, Ruesch) and the social control of signs (Morris, Mead) with cultural semiotics.
9.0.1. The role of artificial languages and of mathematical logic in the development of such branches of knowledge as structural and mathematical linguistics or semiotics can be described as one of the examples of the creation of "sources of regularity". At the same time these sciences themselves in the overall complexity of twentieth-century culture play, on the whole, an analogous role. (Lotman et al. 2013[1973]: 76)
Metalanguages are also a source of regularity and regulation.
9.1.0. Scientific investigation is not only an instrument for the study of culture but is also part of its object. Scientific texts, being metatexts of the culture, may at the same time be regarded as its texts. Therefore any significant scientific idea may be regarded both as an attempt to cognize culture and as a fact of its life through which its generating mechanisms take effect. From this point of view we might raise the question of modern structural-semiotic studies as phenomena of Slavic culture (the role of the Czech, Slovak, Polish, Russian, and other traditions). (Lotman et al. 2013[1973]: 77)
Yup. Especially if the science is the semiotics of culture.

Lotman, Juri M. and Boris A. Uspenskij 2013. Heterogeneity and homogeneity of cultures: Postscriptum to the collective theses. In: Salupere, Silvi; Peeter Torop and Kalevi Kull (eds.), Beginnings of the semiotics of culture. Tartu Semiotics Library 13. Tartu: University of Tartu Press, 129-132.

1.1. Culture's ability of transforming the surrounding entropy in[to] information, of creating within itself radically new languages and texts, as well as its bond with the mechanism of collective memory, allow it to be considered as a collective person, in particular, comes to be the bearer of collective intelligence. (Lotman & Usponskij 2013[1979]: 129-139)
Compare these to Mihhail Lotman's scheme of communicative, mnemonic, and creative. Mis-matching these notions, collective memory obviously carries the mnemonic function; the collective person would seem to be communicative and the collective intelligence would concern creativity.
2.1. In the comparative study of cultures the idea according to which cultural influence presupposes that the involved cultures would have reached a common stage of development is considerably widespread. The similar influences the similar, and each culture selects, in the heterogeneous repertoire of existing texts, that in which it sees itself. Undoubtedly, such a selection takes place. (Lotman & Usponskij 2013[1979]: 130)
I am equally sure that such a phenomenon occurs equally on the individual level. We may read the same texts but we will inevitably draw widely different ideas from them.


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