Hunch, symptom, clue

I sold most of my bit coin last November and made a bit of a profit. Should I buy some more now it’s gone down in price? How do you reason under uncertainty? From a hermeneutical perspective we are always in an uncertain condition, though you might as well call it “contingency.” How you interpret,…More

Marx on nonsense

“Either this man is dead, or my watch has stopped” (Marx). I’ve been wrestling with C.S. Peirce’s idea that any moment of communication is potentially made up of three aspects that he labels firstness, secondness and thirdness. Here, the philosopher Gilles Deleuze (1925-1995) comes to my aid. Deleuze invokes Marx  — not Karl Marx, but…More

Nonsensical signs

“A tweeting egg! This struck Alice as very odd; she had only ever heard of birds being able to tweet. But then again, birds did come from eggs, so it made sense they should have this ability from the outset” (52). That’s Alice’s first impression of Trumpty Dumpty sitting on a wall in the satirical…More

Semiotic shock

In his 1903 article “Nomenclature and divisions of triadic relations, as far as they are determined,” C.S. Peirce outlined 10 classes of signs based on 3 combinations of 3 terms. Whatever his classifications tell us about categories of signs and meanings, there’s a seductive geometry to his formulation, and some anomalies. His three semiotic terms…More

Index fever

In writing about the post-digital condition, media commentator Florian Cramer identified a “semiotic shift to the indexical”(22) and away from symbols. The indexical relationship is a direct connection between an object and its sign, as if the sign is caused by its object (as smoke or soot are caused by fire). According to C.S. Peirce,…More

Encrypted city

Urban metaphors are powerful in the world of computing. The reverse is also true. Computing brings metaphors to bear on how we think of cities — as flows of data, networks, circuits, grids and an Internet of things, as if cities are made up of bits, memories (RAM), sensors, actuators, and with communication systems, inputs,…More

End of nature

In what sense is nature ended? It is not just that natural environments have been polluted, over-managed, or subjected to human control, but nature has changed its meaning. This question provides a further touch point for nature and semiotics. Writing in the 1980s, environmental writer Bill McKibben said of nature that it  “is now a category like…More

Unaugurate

To inaugurate is “to take omens from the flight of birds.” At least, that’s how the OED explains the word’s derivation — from the Latin inaugurāre. Nature as a source of signs related to events that might affect human beings comes under the category of what the American Pragmatic Philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce (1839-1914) called an “indexical…More

What does architecture represent?

For the architectural semiotician, buildings and building elements operate as signs, pointing to something other than themselves. So for the semiotician one of the key roles of architecture is to represent. For the semiotically informed, the things of nature are amongst the targets of representation, evident in floral and foliated ornamentation, frescoes of nature scenes, shapes that resemble tree…More

Whatever happened to architectural semiotics?

Few would deny that architecture communicates, and in that sense is a language, or at least like a language. As pointed out by the philosopher and semiotician Umberto Eco architecture does something else as well: it functions. So a substantial tiled roof not only communicates protection from the elements, but functions to provide such protection. Occasionally the two become…More