Everyday Semiotics

Friday, January 05, 2007


Snip from a fun interview with Ben Schott, author of the delightful Schott's Miscellany and other eponymous titles:
What's increasingly interesting about modern media is its filters: if you actually look at websites, technology from TiVo to iPods to blogs, it's all about filter. What we mean when we say we like a blog or we like a website is that we like somebody's filter. And we have several filters for different things. Of course our friends are filters. Word of mouth is the ultimate filter.
The oldest one in the semiotician's book is that the meaning of any given is exclusionary. That is, a word or a symbol or a picture or a sound means one thing precisely because it doesn't mean something else.

For so long, information has had to be organized in files -- from the manilla envelope to the computerized folder. Even the basic information element, the thing computer programs from word processors to Internet browsers to MIDI composers use is called a file.

But more and more, systems are being used that forget organization and partitioning in favor of filtering, as Mr. Schott points out. Gmail proscribes, "Search, don't sort." YouTube is minimally browseable; it would much rather have you click the links that so many others have clicked before you. Keywords and their repetition is the new basis of information organization.

What significance might this have for semiotics? If the paradigm of the file is becoming antiquated, then what does that mean for différence, the partitioning of semes, the system of creating meanings by separating them from one another?

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At 5:48 PM, Blogger M.H.F. said...

Here's another little something Mr. Schott did.


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