I finally decided to start reading up on semiotics, which is the study of symbols/signs -- in the ways that humans generate, parse, and use them -- and all the processes that depend on symbols/signs, such as semantics, communication, etc.
You'd think I had already done some reading if only for the sake of appearances, ahem, but I had always resisted. My resistance was not based on not believing in semiotics. On the contrary, I believe it too much. Humans by necessity process the world in signs and symbols because face it we just don't have the cycles to do otherwise. When I see an object from many angles in multiple instances, I compress them all into one symbol that signifies the object, instead of thinking each view represents a different object altogether*. When I receive many experiences, I learn from them by generalizing to "the big picture" -- another "sign". In fact we do this to our detriment (thinking everything is a monolith is just one of many symptoms ...). In the end we need symbols and signs for shorthand, we need keys to efficiently retrieve the tons of data entries swimming in our brains.
So as you can see it would be so easy for me to become (if I haven't already skirted that line) something like a first-year philosophy major who goes around analyzing EVERYTHING OMG EVERYTHING IS A SIGN AND WHAT DOES THAT SYMBOLIZE and thinking that eeeeverything is miiiiindblowingggg. Woooooooooo! I couldn't stand that much obnoxiousness and neither could you.
And yet, having blathered all about this, I've been pretty engrossed in the reading, especially because I think that semiotics is a valid angle to approach how we think, and thus informs slightly more "practical" (or at least more provable) fields like, oh, linguistics and natural data processing, etc. I don't really intend to work on those things but I'd be silly not to think they matter and will be very powerful when they are finally worked out better. And it also gets at things that I like to read and write about, namely memory and experience. It's always helpful to have more material/resources if only for bullshitting purposes, and if that's the way my interests lean ...
(Especially since now that I've read up on the basics ... suddenly Italo Calvino's The Uses of Literature makes 80% more sense than before. But that's a ramble for another day.)
* Borges said this much better in his brilliant short story Funes, The Memorious.
- ► 2012 (13)