Ehhhh…: A Story of Unreadable Annotations By: Carson Collier

During undergrad I took an ‘Anthropological Theories’ class. One of the PowerPoint slides was dedicated to semiotics, and my professor spent a solid five minutes trying to explain this concept to the class. Back then it was a very difficult concept to grasp. And…Muchmuchmuchlater

… nothing has changed.

With that, I present some of the notes I jotted down while reading for this week:

Martin Irvine, “The Grammar of Meaning Making: Signs, Symbolic Cognition, and Semiotics”

“We will not seek to follow or establish a doctrine, but develop the best and clearest tools for thought and models for meaning processes that we can assemble from an interrelated knowledge base across many disciplines” (p.1)

  • My biggest issue: We are trying to create the testable models to measure meaning processes, but wouldn’t the process of coming up with a testable model be a meaning process itself? How does this work?

“However close we can get to describing the neuro-bio-cognitive bases of the symbolic faculties, we will also need to recognize that “meanings aren’t in our heads.”” (p. 12)

  • This reminded me of agency, the idea humans act independently, but only within in the social constructs of the community. That being said, I ask: Do these meanings come from our surroundings and are then produced in our heads? Is there always an outside factor triggering our thoughts? If this is true, and we are not always aware of said ‘outside factors’ are hiding in the unobservable interfaces of the human mind?

Martin Irvine, “Semiotics, Symbolic Cognition, and Technology: A Reader of Keys Texts” 

“Now spoken sounds are symbols of mental experiences, and written marks are symbols of spoken sounds.” (p. 2)

  • Honestly, I just think this is very nice, you go Aristotle!

“…something only becomes a sign when interpreted as such in a system of correlations understood by someone in a community sign-users acting intersubjectively as cognitive agents.” (p. 15)

  • So according to Peirce a sign has to be understood by a community. Are there limits to what a community can be? How many agents are needed for a community? For instance, if I come up with something arbitrary, like a nickname for my computer, would that count as a sign if I am the only one aware of the nickname? Or is it not the actual nickname itself that is the sign, but the concept of nicknames within a community?