SemioMemes


I don't always create memes, but when I do, they are about semiotics.

 Well, this one is self-explanatory. Join the team!

We are not even sure that such a thing like "mirror neurons" exists (studies here and here) - and if they do, we are not sure what's their real function (see here and here ). Nevertheless, far too often, when things get though and it is difficult to explain something, someone will stand up and claim that all can be explained with mirror neurons! It's just like alien theories in archaeology: instead of facing complexity or - worse - the unknown, we prefer the "magic" solution. And, unfortunately, hard sciences often become a place for lazy humanists without the necessary competences to go and find some "scientific" solution that sounds just right in the positivist paradigm we are leaving in. But they're not. Rant over. 
Long live complexity. 


This guy is French semiotician Roland Barthes (a pretty important one). One of his well known books is Mythologies in which he approach different French modern myths* such as the striptease, Einstein's brain, the new Citroën and so on.
Why this image? Well, check this.


*Not in the sense that they are not true - as the English word might seem to suggest. For Barthes modern myths are cultural phenomena that acquire some religious features in order to attempt to connect with a perceived moral past.



 
Semiotics has often flirted with mathematics, trying to create a "scientific" metalanguage able to describe language and signification. This led to some complicated formulas, puzzling if approached out of context.
(The one in the meme is from A Theory of Semiotics by Umberto Eco).


Yep, semioticians use quite a lot of weird words. The complicatedness of the metalanguage is not (only) to show off, though. Having precise words with well defined meanings is pretty useful when you analyse ill defined phenomena (as all the humanistic ones). At least you avoid to argue for years on lexicon instead of ideas (cough cough... ludologists vs narratologists... cough cough).



Another entail of a strict metalanguage is that many common words have a different definition if used inside the discipline. In semiotics a textis defined as a “concrete object of a communication, an autonomous and well-defined segment of the process axis”. That is: movies, pictures, paintings, songs, comics, advertisement and, in some sort, also cities and cultures - all texts.


We all know Umberto Eco for the best-seller “The Name of the Rose”, but he has been also an important exponent of “interpretative semiotics”. Works such as: “A Theory of Semiotics”, “The Limits of Interpretation” and “Six Walks in the fictional woods” are considered milestones of the discipline.
By the way, if you read it carefully, also "The Name of the Rose" is a book about semiotics...


Remember that thing on metalanguage? One of the most important semiotic concepts elaborated by Umberto Eco is the concept of “Encyclopedia” - which is not the book from Diderot and Dalambert, but the sum of all knowledge available to a reader in order to interpret a text.


Yep, metalanguage again. The term “actor” is used by Greimas (the founder of generative semiotics) to indicate a concrete entity, situated at the surface of the text, which is figurative, animated and susceptible of individuation.
In other words it is a concept related to the idea of character (as used in Propp), but more precise (because it focus on its role in narrative) and general (according to Greimas also a flying carpet or a trading company are actors).



In the canonical narrative schema outlined by Greimas a Subject is struggling against an Anti-subject in order to acquire an Object of Value. Even if this schema can be applied to all kind of narrative, following Propp's analysis on Russian fairy tales, the latter are often used as examples, and princesses embodies the typical Object of Value.
By the way, in the animated picture Jasmine is upset exactly for this reason: she want to be able to make her own choices and, therefore, to become Subject of her own narration.


Derived form the logic square of Aristotle, the “semiotic square” is one of the more famous tools of semioticians. It is used to investigate an opposition between concepts articulating them in contraries (in the example “public space” vs “private space”) and sub contraries (“social space” and “intimate space”) and examining all the different relations between them.



This guy is actually Juri Lotman, eminent member of the Tartu-Moskow Semiotic School and founder of Cultural Semiotics. Eclectic scholar he focused on the diachronic and synchronic study of art and cultures. Lotman is also famous for theorizing the “Semiosphere”: the ensemble of all significant items, texts, customs and practices of human kind.











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