Semiotic Machine

Mihai Nadin


A semiotic machine, no matter how it is embodied or expressed, has to reflect the various understandings of what the knowledge domain of semiotics is. It also has to reflect what methods and means support further acquiring knowledge of semiotics. Moreover, it has to express ways in which knowledge of semiotics is tested, improved, and evaluated. Given the scope of the endeavor of defining the semiotic machine, the methodological approach must be anchored in the living experience of semiotics. Accordingly, the cultural-historic perspective, which is the backbone of any encyclopedic endeavor, is very much like a geological survey for a foundation conceived from a dynamic perspective. The various layers could shed light on a simple aspect of the subject: At which moment in the evolution of semiotics does it make sense to make the association (in whatever form) to tools and to what would become the notion of a machine? Reciprocally, we would have to explain how the various understandings of the notions tool and machine are pertinent to whatever was the practice of semiotics at a certain juncture. Yet another reference cannot be ignored: The reductionist-deterministic view, celebrated in what is known as the Cartesian Revolution. Since that particular junction in our understanding of the world, the reduction of semiotic processes to machine descriptions is no longer a matter of associations (literal or figurative), but a normative dimension implicitly or explicitly expressed in semiotic theories. Given this very intricate relation, we will have to systematize the variety of angles from which various understandings of the compound expression semiotic machine can be defined.

In our days, such understandings cover a multitude of aspects, ranging from the desire to build machines that can perform particular semiotic operations to a new understanding of the living, in view of our acquired knowledge of genetics, molecular biology, and information biology. That the computer—a particular form of machine—as an underlying element of a civilization defined primarily as one of information processing, could be and has been considered a semiotic machine deserves further consideration.

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