Friday, August 30, 2013

Semiotic (and other) twists and turns

"Models of complex systems will have to be as complex as the systems themselves." Paul Cilliers, Complexity and Postmodernism (p. 58)

Continuing the IPS integral semiotics thread, I'm going to try a metaphor here to see if it helps. Let's take the human body as a holon in the shape of the Cube of Space. The body standing straight upright, feet together, arms at the side, no movement or twists or turns, is the Cube in its typical, static position and orientation of parts. But as we know the human body when it starts moving dynamically changes the orientation of parts. Yes, there are limits to these dynamic orientations but they are quite flexible and the permutations while not infinite are quite astounding.

Let's take yogic postures as but one example. The body is still a unit but the relationships of the parts can get quite twisted and contorted. My upper body can twist one direction while my lower body twists in another. One shoulder can be up while another down, and so on. Upon awakening each morning I do freestyle yoga movements and postures while lying. I get into a number of non-traditional positions to open and stretch different areas, twisting and turning and changing part orientations.

So let's image the Cube doing the same, since as a representation of a holon it too must move, twist and turn, change the orientation of it's parts (axes, faces, edges). Like the human body it too obviously cannot twist in any old way; our head cannot rotate 180 degrees, for example. But still, the Cube can rotate the top face one way a bit, the bottom face another, the axes can twist some. How would that change some of the relationships?

This is precisely what we see in the body of language. Letters of the alphabet combine in innumerable ways to form different words. The words form innumerable combinations to form sentences. Same for paragraphs and so on. Yes, there are limits to these twists and turns, but the permutations are quite astounding. The signifiers themselves change, new words are formed all the time, increasing a language's vocabulary. Some old words die, leave the lexicon. Signifiers have different signifieds depending on the relationship of that word in a sentence, etc. And referents themselves also bend and flex depending on different relationships in different contexts, using the human body again as example.

So how would this change the static Cube as a model if it's axes, faces and edges were to twist a bit, get into different yogic postures?

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