A convergence with an open-ended future – Lauren Neville

Unexpectedly, I find myself facing existentialism at this time of reflection. As this is my second course with Professor Irvine and second year in CCT, I have noticed a sense of dramatic and unanticipated growth in my understanding of my own meaning systems. Last year, in Leading by Design I began further conceptualizing boolean logic, cognitive distribution, layers of abstraction, and architectures of complexity. However, our work in semiotics has changed even my perception of self and of the reality I had built.

Signs are not simply images or words, they are context filled relationships that we have with each other. We render a symbol as a culture and interpret the symbol as a culture and because of that we are ever-presently engaging in a network of complex relationships with each other. Our speech, art, written word are all predetermined and therefore, we share a constant distributed cognition. What I once perceived as my personal judgements of music have now been explained to me as the collection of past interactions and relationships I have had with other music from our culture.

Because signs and symbols act as networking nodes, it now makes sense to me that semiotics is the obvious path to computation. It seems that throughout time, we have been getting closer to this convergence and valued the shared cognition that could link many people and concepts into hub-like spaces. The early book wheels of the Renaissance, Babbage’s difference engine and Sutherland’s Sketch Pad are not simply tools, but act as symbolic meaning making hubs. It seems obvious now the most important part of this evolution was the Internet in which cognitive distribution through relational symbol systems could be shared at the speed of light. 

Of course, this convergence and finally the development of the Internet does not imply an end-all be-all to our progress in meaning making systems. On the contrary, we have just opened up many new doors for making and creating as the affordances of graphical user interface and interaction designs begin to allow our culture to discover and explore our fantastical symbolic renderings of the world far beyond what we could have anticipated. I believe that advanced mathematics, social networks and planetary systems can only now be explored because of our abilities to utilize billions of cultural relationships to make symbolic representations of our universe. As I noted in my first post in this course, we should contemplate C.S. Peirce’s statement, “A sign is something by knowing which we know something more. The whole universe is perfused with signs.”