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Re: VMs: semiotics & vms: homepage

Hi Gabriele,

To Nick, Rene and all the people who chatted with me the previous days:
could you please check it out? I'd like to know on one hand if I'm clear and
on the other hand if you agree...

While in many ways I applaud semiotics as a discipline, it does seem to me that the VMs is in many ways a worst-case scenario for it, pointing right to the heart of what the semiotics "research programme" (in Lakatos' sense) is all about (ie, meaning) and how its various approaches & frameworks can fail to satisfy when (as in the VMs' case) meaning is inaccessible - semiotics seems essentially predicated on *access to meaning*.

Further, the central conceit of semiotics would appear to be that semioticians somehow believe they have a "VIP backstage pass" to the preferred meaning of a text, by studying its form, its content, its provenance, or even its surrounding culture (as you're doing here).

However, what we're engaged in (as a community) is already effectively a (largely frustrated) semiotic endeavour - we're trying (art history-style) to decode the signs, shapes, provenance, stories, etc, whilst simultaneously trying to reconstruct (science-style) its technology, materials, production, encoding, etc, all to try to pin down the "meaning in the middle". If that isn't semiotics, I don't know what is. :-)

You might also be careful about where you place your epistemology of hypotheses - for the most part, proposing theories is often merely our way of trying to provoke responses from our subject matter - so, rather than seeing (the accumulation of) theories solely as being the *ends* of our study [ie, as a target to aim for] (which Gibbons et al. [1994] classify as "Mode 1" knowledge), theories here are just as much our *means* to those ends [ie, as a tool] ("Mode 2" knowledge).

All in all, this would appear to mean you're engaged in a semiotic analysis of the means of a semiotic endeavour, which could end up slightly circular / self-referential if you're not careful. :-o

One final thought: I believe that practitioners have a responsibility both to build and to destroy their own disciplines, though the Peter Principle usually prevails over the latter (ie, it's not in the Royal Tailor's self-interest to describe the Emperor's lack of attire). But here you have an artefact that (I believe) actively critiques and pushes the limits of semiotics (and semiotic frameworks) right to the edge - which is perhaps just as interesting (to a semiotics theorist) as the VMs itself.

That is, rather than simply ask what semiotics tells us about the VMs, one might instead ask - what does the VMs tell us about semiotics? :-o

Cheers, .....Nick Pelling.....

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