Some thoughts on Cybersemiotics:

“Peirce operates with a triad composed of a sign vehicle (the Representamen), an Object (a certain aspect of reality), and an Interpretant that is a more developed sign in the mind of the perceiver/observer/communicator. These three categories were so basic that he called them Firstness, Secondness and Thirdness… In the sign process, Representamen is first,
Object is second, and Interpretant is third. In Cosmogony, mind is first, matter is second, and evolution is third. In cognitive psychology, perception is first, experience is second, and understanding is third. Ontologically, chance is first, mechanical law is second, and the tendency to make habits is third. Peirce defines his Firstness as a chaos of living feeling with the tendency to assume habits.”

– Soren Brier, Cybersemiotics: Why Information Is not Enough

In Pierces semiotic Triad, the symbol is Primary – the representaion of an object. As one assumes this primacy, the open ontological chaotic “system” becomes a closed system upon evaluative parameters. Within this closed system, a triad can be developed between the representation, what it represents, and the interpretation. Although, the object it represents is in many ways outside of the triad. I think the object must take on a purely denotative (“topographical”) role, and not an ontological role. So, most of the object becomes lost in the system. Also, at another corner, the interpreter takes on another role where certain aspects of it become lost in the evaluative importance of the symbol. The symbol becomes full, where the others become partial. The system already has within it possibilities of other systems, as well as the possibility of merging these systems through cybersemiotics.

The interesting thing about systems, I’ve found, is that they are analagous to different types of lenses – The lense of our eye to the “lense” of an electron microscope.  As with our eyes, when we focus on a single point in space, the point is of primacy as everything else becomes peripheral. Focul Points and periphery seem to be the general problem of all human enterprises. The steroscopic vision is unnatainable. It can only be attained through transrational means, where the focul points merge with the periphery in equilibrium. The only way to eliminate evaluations, isolated systems, high and low probability, plausibility and implausibility is to eliminate the current paradigm of rationality and go beyond it, but not without it. That is, if you’re not shooting at pragmatic targets, but at a chaotic ontological “totality”.

Though, ontology will never be total as it will always be reduced to mnemonic metaphors.

Sub-symbolic and pre-logical neural networks – the organic matter of the brain, in other words – in a few fancy terms is, what I think our linguistic and logical (meaningful) faculties emerge from. These neural networks are physical structures in a (cybernetic) autopoietic (automatically produced) feedback loop with perception. They are considered foundational to perception, even. For instance, the nerve endings in the eye (the retina) process light into perceptual information by transforming light into a digestable nerve-compatible material, that the optic nerve sends to nine nuclei that relay this information into the visual cortex which actually makes the initial signals from the optic nerve more complex. This example, I think illustrates how nerve digestion and processing of light is an increasingly complex process that is a pre-logical, sub-symbolic material process. After the additive complexity within the primary visual cortex, it becomes even more complex as the brain, through neural communication and organic mutation, processes the perception with hyper-complex (cannot predict it mathematically) logical and symbolic faculties. This hyper-complex structure of “buzzing” neural networks become meaningful only to the extent that “difference makes a difference”. What this means, I think, is that meaning is not something that nerologists will find in the brain. It is emergent from neural networks – but these neural networks are a historically continual process; meaning that there is never a physical gap in the evolution of bodies (and brains).

Evolution is a continuity that never ceases, in other words. Neg-entropy is an explanatory tool that combines thermodynamic entropy with informational entropy in hopes of creating a new evolutionary theory that combines matter, energy, and information. (Soren Brier) Meaning, then, under this theory is understood to be a methodological combination of Cybernetics, Neurology, thermodynamics, linguistics (particularly Wittegenstein’s language games), and semiotics in a field called, Cybersemiotics.

So where, how, and when perception becomes meaning, can only be answered partially right now, I think.


I Heart Huckabees “head banging scene”

By using a jejune experiment, I think Smithson is pointing out the obvious in relation to the absurd, as usual through his subtle satire. By saying “prove” in the use of a jejune experiment, he is commenting on the fetishes of culture (of his time), by saying, in essence, a child playing in a sandbox does not need a probability equation to make him/her believe that he cannot make the sand reverse back into pure black and white. I think you need to read Smithson with a bit of a sense of humour, sometimes. It’s pretty funny, considering that an unenculturated, unknowledgeable child might believe in the irreversability of entropy (via a sandbox) moreso than some adults may believe so because of the probabilistic “conclusions” and methods of the sciences. In doing this, he is most certainly not berating the Sciences at all, but most likely pointing out the absurdity of believing otherwise.

It’s a mockery. This is what happens when people believe in certain highly probable things, like entropy or an external world.

Smithson might attribute the fetishes for “proof” and lack of belief to a very fundemental misunderstanding of language due to “the mania for literacy”. He continues in the essay to write, “References are often reversed so that the “object” takes the place of the “word”. A is A is never A is A, but rather X is A. The misunderstood notion of a metaphor has it that A is X – that is wrong.” The word is not the object, yet this might be the fundamental misconception of language that extends outward into our cultural biases about “art movements”, rather than our more acute cultural biases about art and the artist, or an idea and its creator. The fetish for literacy, to paraphrase Smithson, is due to language fears. These language fears are a cultural phenomenon, where the size of your vocabulary might be an expression of your language fear. The labels of “art movements” are curiously long-winded and innacurate, which is why some artists, and historians put quotes around them. They have become a convention where categorical limits are necessary, but the meaning of the term brings to mind something completely different than what it’s referring to. It might be more appropriate, for convention’s sake, to name periods in art history from one artists name to the next, or one artpiece to the last. So, “conceptual art” might better be called “Duchamp onward”, or “Fountain onward”.

But, why the misleading terms? I think we can look to the fetishes of capitalism for this answer. The illusory hierarchies that are a development of the “territory struggle”, where the illusion becomes a “concrete” cell, and the dreamy “power-structures” that are upheld by the powerful, are considered real. The powerful could be considered wardons of the powerless. The nightmare of a “prison” becomes all too real. The physical language involved in political, and social discourse is misleading in some cases, I think. They’re not “territories” or “structures” but mirages, fantasies, and illusions. They don’t take up space the way a building does, but destroy actual space through the power of abusing metaphor. Their abuse of metaphors creates hallucinatory delusions of “territory” and “structures.” These delusions, I think, create a reversed belief in metaphor that extends into the misconceptions, and thus mislabels that are prevelaent in movements throughout history.

If you don’t believe in entropy, Smithson might say, “find a child and ask them.”  Or, if you don’t believe in existence, the writers of I Heart Huckabees might say, “bash your head against something.”