At the core of this article is an interview to Boris Uspenskij, in which the protagonist of the Tartu-Moscow School (currently Head of the Laboratory of Linguistics and Semiotics at the National Research University “Higher School of Economics” in Moscow) develops on semiotics and the sense and aims of semiotic research, communication and its central role in human consciousness, semiotic theory and methodology. The interview is introduced by a brief essay, in which, by presenting and outlining the main thesis of Ego Loquens (one of the most recent works by Uspenskij) and its articulations, the author’s reﬂections on the semiotics of communication emerge
In the autumn of 2015, Star Wars once again rattled the world with a new episode, The Force Awakens. The first movie of the series was released in 1977, and ever since the 1980s emerging new episodes have turned this epopoeia into a recognizable mass cultural text that is well-known all over the world nowadays and which has been transformed into a wide range of forms such as series, comic strips, video games, toys, stickers and other forms of mass culture. However, what happens when a mass cultural text gets fused into a new context of political discourse? What kinds of unpredictable clashes of meanings might be evoked on the threshold of mass culture and ideology, dominative hierarchy and democratic masquerade, or even communist and capitalist semiosphere? What mythological meanings appear when a fictional hero acquires a real body and becomes a politician? The present paper puts forward a semiotic analysis of the eccentric performance of Darth Vader the politician in the contemporary Ukrainian political life. The case employs the concepts of text and transmedial world, as well as notions of remediation and resemiotization, in order to make sense of how political masquerade appears in the semiosphere of the Ukrainian spectator. In addition, the paper introduces the examples of semiotic interaction between the contemporary fictional character Darth Vader, his namesake politician, and the collective memory of both: the traditional culture and the Soviet ideological past.
Saussure’s quest for constitutive features of language resulted in his formulation of two fundamental principles: first, the bipolarity of the sign, according to which neither form nor meaning of a sign exists as of itself, outside of their mutual relation; and second, the arbitrariness of that relation, i.e., the fact that their link is based solely on convention. The purely relational nature of language, the fact that its entities have no positive identity of their own result in the unceasing development of language whose direction and results can be neither programmed nor predicted. In the first half of the twentieth century, Saussure’s idea of language as a pure “structure” was interpreted in a static way, as a matrix of relations whose elements occupy secure positions in the overall relational network. When critique of the structural approach has been raised in the 1960–1980s, Saussure’s champions tried to distance Saussure’s “genuine” views, ostensibly expressed in his private papers, from his posthumously published Course, which was declared unreliable or even falsified. The present paper argues that the problem with interpreting Saussure arises primarily from the way his works were read by different generations and in different intellectual contexts. Saussure’s work needs to be examined in the context of its own time, as an integral part of the philosophical revolution of the turn of the twentieth century.
In 1976 Richard Dawkins coined the term meme as a way to metaphorically project bio-evolutionary principles upon the processes of cultural and social development. The works of Dawkins and of some other enthusiasts had contributed to a rise in popularity of the concept of memetics ("study of memes"), but the interest to this new field started to decline quite soon. The conceptual apparatus of memetics was based on a number of quasi-biological terms, but the emerging discipline failed to go beyond those initial metaphors. This article is an attempt to rebuild the toolkit of memetics with the help of the more fundamental concepts taken from semiotics and to propose a synthetic conceptual framework connecting genetics and memetics, in which semiotics is used as the transdisciplinary methodology for both disciplines. The concept of sign is used as the meta-lingual equivalent for both the concepts of gene and meme. In the most general understanding, sign is a thing which stands for another thing. In genetics this translates into gene that is a section of DNA that stands for the algorithm of how a particular biomolecule is built. In memetics, the similar principle works in meme that is a thing that stands for the rules of how a particular cultural practice is performed.
Peirce aspired for the completeness of his logic cum the theory of signs in his 1903 Lowell Lectures and other late manuscripts. Semeiotic completeness states that everything that is a consequence in logical critic is derivable in speculative grammar. The present paper exposes the reasons why Peirce would fall short of establishing semeiotic completeness and thus why he would not continue seeking a perfect match between the theories of grammar and critic. Some alternative notions are then proposed.