Semiotics of the City
Prof. Isabella Pezzini, Sapienza – Università di Roma (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Prof. Paolo Peverini, LUISS - Libera Università Internazionale degli Studi Sociali Guido Carli (email@example.com)
In a semiotic perspective cities are plural "texts”, subject to continuous transformation and to manifold different readings and practices. Space is recognized, interpreted, played upon, starting from the tracking of a deep narrative logic, closely connected with social and personal actions.
In the complex and intricate semiotic geography of urban areas, every kind of space (subway stations, shopping malls, tunnels, road networks, sporting areas) elaborates and defines more or less codified narrative programs of its own use, becomes available for different activities, permits some behaviors and obstructs others. This is the process by means of which enunciational subjects of space are shaped, model user profiles that give positive life to the narrative potentialities of a place.
The session is meant to collect contributions that investigate urban territories, questioning for example the intersection of three axes – media semiotics, urban semiotics and semiotic observation of everyday life practices.
From a semiotic point of view cities are constantly shaped by media languages and texts that contribute to define and redefine the identity of urban spaces and their imaginary while providing “users” with a set of “instructions”
Another important topic is the concept of cities intended as semio-linguistic environments: texts of different genres are inscribed within urban spaces, from traffic signals to street art, from billboards to institutional communication, from political discourses to signs of protest.
Furthermore, cities are where signs of identity, memory, cultural and artistic consumption merge. Monuments, museums, sport arenas, shopping malls in their intersection contribute to the construction of aggregation points crossed by manifold kind of users. Urban territories are object of a multidisciplinary attention, to observe, plan and lead transformations, to make them smart, thanks to always new technologies, to make them places where men live “poetically”, against those catastrophic visions that dominated last century metropolitan imaginary.
The round table is intended as an occasion to debate different theoretical and methodological approaches and to present ongoing researches.
To join the panel please send proposals with a short bio (500 words) and an abstract of the paper (max 1000 words) specifying title, contents and methodological approach.
1. Isabella Pezzini (Sapienza University of Rome; LARS “Laboratorio Romano di Semiotica”)
Public space in a semiotic perspective
The concept of Public Space is gaining relevance both in contemporary urban studies and in activities on the territory, together with the more general category of public goods.
My speech aims to contribute to a semiotic-oriented definition of these terms. The expression "Public Space" (of the public, for the public), as it is commonly understood, immediately differentiates this space from others, articulating for example the concept in relation to the "private space", i.e. the space of someone and for someone in particular.
According to the dictionary, a space defined as public is something "That can be visited, used by any person, without restrictions (as opposed to private, reserved)." The issue highlighted is primarily free access, regardless of ownership:
Here another basic level category could help us in focusing the meaning of public space: the opposition between one's own and someone else's. But soon the dictionary continues adding to the list of what is public as a place (locals, parks, libraries, etc.) a series of events, public as "any person can participate" (assemblies sittings, auctions) and, by extension, everything "that happens concretely or ideally, at the presence of everyone."
"Public" as an adjective usually refers to what is accessible to any person, while saying “the public” entails a major change, the noun in fact can refer to both the public good, intended as all the institutions of a society, and to a particular social actor, a generic term for a group (the people, the crowd) or qualified expression of a collective identity, such as citizenship.
2. Ana Claudia Mei Alves de Oliveira (PUC, Sao Paulo)
Cité vécue et cité médiatisée
L'expansion des médias a été superdimensionée avec l'internet, les réseaux sociaux et les médias mobiles, a tel point que les pratiques de vie dans la ville vécues par les habitants semblent plus lointaines et abstraites que les pratiques diffusées par les médias, plus proches, plus concrètes et plus vraies. Ces constatations justifient le fait que les pratiques médiatisées assument la place des expériences vécues qui ne peuvent pas obtenir de la visibilité, une des plus importantes valeurs de notre temps. Se montrer à l'autre ouvre la construction du sens de l'existence individuelle et collective, qualifiée par l'inclusion et l'appartenance. Pour ces raisons la ville médiatisée assume avoir plus de sens que les actes vécus dans la co-présence des inter-actants. Les pratiques de vie éprouvées et les médiatisées sont analysées dans cet article dans le but de comprendre comment le vécu est limité par l'écran de la visibilité et conduit parfois au risque de l'invisibilité. Ces deux modes de présence sont comparés dans un ensemble de manifestation de la grande ville São Paulo dont l'objectif est d'expliciter comment les stratégies de visibilité et d'invisibilité sont articulées dans la construction de la signification de cette ville et de ses habitants.
3. Maria Patrizia Violi (University of Bologna)
How smart can a smart city become? Reflection on an international project
The label of ‘smart city’ is today a largely used, or maybe overused, one and it seems to apply to many different dimensions of contemporary urban life. It is not quite clear, however, what exactly it implies to be a smart city and which kind of “intelligence” is here presupposed. My intervention will focus on some of the problems connected to the use and definition of the “smart city” label, in the light of an international project we are currently running together with Brazil.
4. Gianfranco Marrone (University of Palermo)
Les limites de la ville: entrer en avion
Le film The Terminal de S. Spielberg (2004) est une amusante comédie qui exalte la magie d’une signature capable de transformer en succès, donc en enthousiasme et en argent, tout ce sur quoi elle s’inscrit. Mais The Terminal construit aussi une véritable théorie socio-sémiotique des machines aéroportuaires d’aujourd’hui. Ce film montre la présupposition réciproque (et donc la réversibilité) qui lie, relativement à un non-lieu par excellence, le « JFK » de « NYC », le plan de l’expression (où les formes architecturales sont des dispositifs de contrôle) et le plan du contenu (où différentes formes de vie trouvent leur place et un sens). Il s’agit d’une théorie fort respectable, d’autant plus qu’elle est formulée avec des moyens autres que ceux de la philosophie ou de la sociologie : avec les moyens textuels d’une architecture spécifique, d’une part, et d’autre part avec ceux d’un dispositif filmique, les uns et les autres assortis de contraintes économiques et culturelles, d’astuces expressives et sémantiques, et surtout d’une ironie voilée mais constante qui met en dérision toutes les hypothèses apocalyptiques concernant les formes du contrôle dans ce qu’on a appelé les « hétérotopies » de notre temps.
5. Sorin Alexandrescu
Urban experience: how to find signs for a meaning
6. Isabel Marcos (Centre d’Études de Géographie et Aménagement Régionale de Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas da Universidade Nova de Lisboa) & Christophe Bayle (Urbaniste – Chef du Projet du Quartier Austerlitz - Salpêtrière de la ZAC Paris Rive Gauche, à la SEMAPA)
De l’espace fonctionnel à l’espace signifiant. Pour une Grammaire de la gestion des controverses. Le cas de Paris Rive gauche
Du double point de vue morphogénétique (le parcours d’émergence des formes) et sémiogénétique (le parcours d’actualisation des formes) le métier d’aménageur prend un nouveau relief. Pour le révéler nous avons associé deux expériences professionnelles: celle d’une chercheuse en sémiotique morphodynamique, et consultante en sémiotique appliquée à des entreprises de presse, de transport et des Mairies notamment, et celui d’un aménageur ayant une pratique longue en matière de conduite et de pédagogie du projet d’aménagement, notamment du quartier de Paris Rive Gauche. Notre recherche se situe au carrefour de deux métiers qui n’ont pas l’habitude de se croiser. Le « prétexte » de cette rencontre fut l’observation et l’analyse des stratégies de décision etde contestation du projet « Paris Rive Gauche » aux différentes étapes de sa conception. A l’occasion d’une étude d’aménagement située dans un quartier parisien particulièrement complexe du point de son fonctionnement (mise en présence d’un pôle tertiaire entre un hôpital et d’une gare), de la densité de son programme (bureaux, logements, commerces, jardins) et de son inscription dans un site comprenant la présence de deux monuments historiques parisiens majeurs, (l’un du XVIIe siècle, l’autre du XIXe siècle). L’aménageur a dû appréhender simultanément les dynamiques des formes dans lesquelles il voulait installer son projet (morphogenèse – formes qui ce constituent au cours de l’histoire) et les significations de ces formes continuellement actualisées (sémiogenèse – formes portées par les différents acteurs, associations, habitants, entreprise publiques et privées, architectes, élus, etc...). La difficulté de cet exercice d’observation a tenu au fait que ces deux saisies (théorique et pratique) se sont séparées au cours de l’histoire. Ce qui pose des questions qui relèvent d’une mise en relation objective de niveaux disciplinaires généralement disjoints. Si cette vocation à mettre en relation l’urbanisme et l’architecture en vue d’une synthèse relève bien des compétences reconnues aux aménageurs – elle reste néanmoins à prouver en matière de maîtrise du sens des formes. La méconnaissance (générale) du sens qui produit la dynamique interne de l’espace (dans ses diverses dimensions disciplinaires et échelles) pose un problème de conduite du projet.
Il se pose alors un problème de conduite du projet. Il est généralement admis que la décision ne vient pas d’une synthèse des regards des différents partenaires, mais, d’une décision d’autorité, ou d’une mécanique procédurale ce qui engendre des polémiques, voire des conflits. La controverse naît en l’absence de vocabulaire, de concepts et de langage objectif, sinon de champ interdisciplinaire ou de méthode pour décrire l’articulation de l’empilement des niveaux disciplinaires. L’absence d’une grammaire commune pour appréhender ces interrelations est à l’origine de conflits entre partenaires agissants (actants); chacun étant régit par le cadre de son champ disciplinaire propre (un ensemble de compétences comme nous allons décrire au long du point 3. La position des différents actants).
A partir de l’étude du cas « Paris Rive Gauche », nous avons observé comment l’apparition de désaccords entre acteurs urbains a tenu à l’absence de langage commun et d’articulation entre ces différents langages. L’introduction d’une hiérarchie de significations entre ces différents langages est un objectif dont les aménageurs rêveraient de s’emparer.
 Un actant est l’acteur au quel on a attribué certains rôles (compétences) à jouer tout au long du processus de l’action, l’action étant, dans ce cas, d’assurer la cohérence du processus stratégique de décision dans l’urbanisme.
7. Paolo Peverini (Luiss Guido Carli University of Rome)
Rethinking the intersection between media semiotics, urban semiotics and everyday life practices. A semiotic approach to urban storytelling
In the social web context the practice of sharing experiences, practices and rituals, is fostered by competition among the manifold networks that enliven a communications ecosystem more and more based on everyday life storytelling.
The aim of this article is to contribute to a sociosemiotic analysis of some particularly diffuse aspects of the aestheticization of urban life, those sensible experience deep transformations that characterize forms of contemporary living, fostered by pervasive logics of mediatic overexposure. In particular the article, at the intersection of three axes – media semiotics, urban semiotics and semiotic observation of everyday practices - concentrates on urban storytelling projects such as Google Ingress (an interactive augmented reality experience based on the resemantization of urban territories) and Historypin (a mashup based on geotagging applications and archive photographs that allows people to map the cityscape and at the same time to travel into a sort of space and time continuum).
The effectiveness of such applications relies on the interaction of multiple layers of content that can be usefully analysed through a semiotic approach.
Focusing on the capacity to build up uncommon collaborative mashups these kind of media textsreveal themselves as hybrids useful to help us answering some crucial questions: how different layers interact? How are they interpreted by users? How the sense and the perception of urban territories evolve in this ever changing hybrid context?
8. Franciscu Sedda (University of Rome “Tor Vergata”)
Glocal cities. An introduction
The task of our intervention is to explain what substantial and formal elements contribute to the appearance of a new common sense that has world cities at its centre and why from a semiotic cultural point of view it is better to talk about glocal cities than about global cities.
More specifically we will maintain that cities has to be considered as a favourite place for translating and shaping our world. Yet this process of translation takes different form in every single city, since each city represents a specific crossroad and junctions for cultural flows which are global and local at the same time.
In this respect, the dominant form of contemporary common sense must be re-defined as a glocal common sense, that is a common sense made of events with global (or at least translocal) significance that happen in specific places like cities or often in “parts of cities” maybe even smaller than any village, like squares, streets or parks.
From the fall of the Berlin Wall to Tiananmen Square in Beijing, from the Seattle riots to the Indignados of Puerta del Sol in Madrid, from Baghdad bombing to the taking of Tripoli, from the Rome government to the one in Brussels, from the Rio Protocol to the Kyoto Protocol, from the power of Wall Street to the occupation of Zuccotti Park in New York, from the murals in Belfast to the Catalan independence demonstration in Barcelona, from the Arab Spring of Tahrir Square in Cairo to the conventions for American presidential elections in Tampa and Charlotte. As this short list demonstrates, our everyday imaginary and our contemporary lives are made up of and through cities. Even if we live in small villages or in the countryside.
9. Alexandre Marcelo Bueno (PS-COS-PUC/Pos-doctorant FAPESP)
Kantuta: une "île" de la Bolivie dans la cité de São Paulo
La présence d'immigrés boliviens à São Paulo a augmenté ces dernières années. En conséquence, la visibilité du groupe devient de plus en plus évident pour les citoyens de São Paulo dans les rues et à travers les médias. Actuellement, les médias véhiculent des nouvelles sur travailleurs boliviens exploitées dans ateliers des coutures (parfois dans des conditions analogues à l'esclavage). En dépit de venir venir travailler au Brésil, les Boliviens a également créé des espaces pour les loisirs et l'amusement où c'est possible vivre l'éxperience avec leur culture d'origine. L'un de ces espaces, peut-être le plus important dans la cité de São Paulo, c'est la place Kantuta, situé dans le quartier du Pari dans la région centrale. Une foire a été installé lá avec des produits boliviens, tels que boissons et la nourriture. La place est alors défini comme un lieu de rencontre lent et calme pour les amis et la famille, en revanche à la rapidité de São Paulo. Pour comprendre comment ce lieu mettre en rapport la cité de São Paulo, notre travail le comparera avec d'autres foires traditionnelles existants dans la cité: la foire de la Liberdade [Liberté] (quartier d'immigrants japonais), où les produits de la culture asiatique sont vendus et la présence des brésiliens sont constantes. Comme un point en commun, ce sont deux espaces dont l'origine ethnique est très expliqué. Mais il y a une différence fondamentale: en étant plus âgés, la foire de Liberdade est déjà partie des lieux fréquentés par les touristes et citoyens de São Paulo, à la différence de la Kantuta dont la présence brésilienne est encore rare. Le but de notre travail est de révéler d'autres différences entre les foires, de la façon dont ces espaces se rapportent à la ville de São Paulo, avec un intérêt particulier à la foire des immigrants boliviens. Un travail sur le terrain se fera dans les deux espaces pour observer comment les sujets se rapportent à et occuper ces lieux, et comment ils circulent dans ces espaces, et quels sont leurs organisations visuels et kinesthésiques qui différencient un de l’autre. À cette fin, notre travail utilise les concepts de la sémiotique discursive, en particulier les études de la Socio-sémiotique (Landowski) et de l'Etno-sémiotique (Marsciani).
10. Fabio De Leonardis
Nationalizing kazan’: tatar state nationalism and architecture
The remodelling of the urban space (first of all of capital cities) has been one of the common trends that has characterized all the new states that have emerged after the disintegration of the USSR. Urban planning and architecture have gone hand in hand with state nationalism, materializing and ‘naturalizing’ the ‘(re)birth’ of the nation and legitimizing the new regimes. The city of Kazan’ is in this sense almost a paradigmatic example: a close reading of the remodelling of its urban landscape provides a rich insight in the political agenda and in the way the leadership of the Republic of Tatarstan sees the country and the city and wants it to be seen by others. In this urban remodeling Tatarstan’s former president Shaimiev, Kazan’s former mayor Iskhakov and their ideologue Khakimov followed a multi-vectorial course that reflected the multifaceted image they wanted to construct for Tatarstan’s society and for the city as its symbol. This image can be seen as a myth in which different narratives intertwine: the narrative of Kazan’ as a European capital; that of Kazan’ as a Tatar city; that of Kazan’ as the place where East and West meet and coexist in peaceful harmony. To be sure, the construction of this multiple urban identity was not just a top-down process, but the outcome of a political and social situation in which the Tatarstani leadership had to reach a compromise with very different interests.
Connotations of equated signs in modern urban spaces
There is an appraisal that the onlooker of the city involuntarily produces regarding its environment, and he does so by means of representations that vary not only because of his sociocultural background, but also because of the uses and habits he associates with a particular location. Nevertheless, his classifications or ratings are not static; they inevitably change since the city is in a continuous state of flux, so he absorbs that urban experience by means of this daily living and the urban images he conceives. Understanding the city as home to an immense variety of signs that spread in polyphony -, publicity and advertisement messages are a considerable source of urban language. Signs can be found on the roads, avenues, shops, buildings, indoors or on the street, all over, in a permanent invitation for interpretation and (re)signification. On the other hand, the removal of publicity signs from a visual landscape in which they have been present for decades, superimpose a set of new connotations onto the landscape, as was the case with the Projeto Cidade Lima (Clean City Project) adopted recently by some large and medium size Brazilian cities like São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Curitiba and Londrina. This study is aimed at analyzing the potential influence of such move on the representations resulting from the visual transformation undergone by the urban space in Londrina (Paraná state, southern Brazil) because of the implementation of that project. The city population is 500 thousand inhabitants, and it ranks the fourth largest in that region of the country. A presupposition is that the urban signs become “emptied” inasmuch as their prime signification are transported to newer understandings in a connection where the sign values are equated according to what is suggested by Roland Barthes in his concepts of mythologies. In the case under study, the urban aesthetics is in focus, being that the notion of excess stops connoting the senses of luxury and sophistication, and starts to suggest the idea of surplus, leftover, remainder, all resulting in visual pollution. The study is exploratory in nature and phenomenological in method. Photography is utilized as a resource for data gathering and analysis support. The concept of symbolization is a key element to describe the process of representation of the city image.
Keywords: Representation. Mythology. Symbolization. Image. Semiotic of the city.
12. Christine Domke (Chemnitz University of Technology)
The place matters: Media, semiotics and locations of recent forms of advertising
My contribution’s aim is to point out the significance of the locatedness of communication for both a text’s semiotic and medial structure and its function. It is argued that the current focus on mediality of communication in linguistic studies needs additional thought on the impact of where the communication takes place, is to be read, heard or touched. Related to that is the focus on the semiotic resources used for both specific communicative practices or rather functions and specific places in the public sphere. With regard to the studies on linguistic and semiotic landscapes (e.g. Jaworski/Thurlow 2010) it is argued that current text analysis of communication in the public sphere has to expand the subject-matter by intertextuality and mediality. By analysing empirical examples of both recent public signs and recent forms of “out-of-home-advertising” it is demonstrated how important a text’s place is and how it has to be examined with reference to the communication’s functions and the semiotic resources used for that. Besides the interplay between semiotic resources, media, placement and the recipient’s action (e.g. walking, waiting at a bus station, crossing the street) is elaborated. The main focus lies on how out-of-home-advertising uses this relation of placement and the recipients’ presence being attached to specific places during they perform everyday life activities (see Domke 2010, i.print). Accordingly it is discussed how texts (like public signs, time tables, billboards or advertising screens) define the identity of urban spaces and how they make places readable as specific places (see de Certeau 1984)
13. Ray Roosman
Contemporary spatial arts and expanding human experience
The aim of this paper is to offer a better understanding of how contemporary sculpture and installation art communicate their meaning to the audience. Changing artistic practices introduce new experiences to spectators but require also new interpretational strategies. Making sense of the situative, installative, site-specific and interventionistic works of art has become to a significant degree dependant on a multy-sensory coordination of perception, movement and bodily actions. The ongoing shift in the sculpture of the last decades towards spatial complexity and interactive forms of communication challenges traditional meaning construction models in the visual art theory. A much more differentiated understanding of how conceptual meaning formation depends on dynamic structures in cognition is required. The way in which the artistic environment is experienced can influence its spatial representation and, as a consequence, spatial performance. Previous descriptions in visual semiotics fall short of explaining why certain image schemas are activated in the process of artistic interpretation and how those schemata depend on the richness of human experience and skills people have developed through their interaction with the artistic world.
In this paper an attempt is made to offer the explanation which goes beyond the predominantly visually oriented paradigm towards sculpture and to make use of people’s multisensory experience of interacting with real world objects. The approach intends to demonstrate the complicated relationship between the image schemas used and the explorative activity of the spectator in the process of artistic communication. Ultimately, by drawing upon the activity theory, a coherent model of sculpture-specific artistic interaction and meaning construction will be presented.
14. Young-Sam Hwang (Incheon University, South Korea)
Thought Model for Multivalent Interpretations of Urban Space as a Media of Semiotic Communication
Urban space has multivalent meanings, originating from different standpoints of life. The urban space plays the role of semiotic media which arises multiple interpretations of is meaning as well as causes diverse affections from its morphological features. Some meanings and morphological effects are agreed upon, but not all are. It gives the needs of the ‘thought model’ in which diverse ways of urban space interpretation by people are framed in a more generalized manner according to semiotic principles.
For the purpose of proposing the thought model, this paper starts with comparison of Eco’s architectural model, Scalvini’s one, and Jencks’ one, which are discussed in the articles in the book ‘Sign, Symbols and Architecture’, 1980. Based on the same roots of denotation-connotation model, they have commonalities as well as distinctions of their own. The differences come from not only the differences in primary interests among many aspects of design contents, but in the ways of articulating and structuring them into sign. In brief, Eco’s model is a morphological model, Scalvini’s a literal and contextual one, and Jencks’s a critical one.
One of the points to be noted is these three models all include the element of ‘space’ in denotation level, and scope of meaning highly depends on the way of articulation of space, which is space’s morphological marker as signifier in Eco’s, and techonic’s signified in Scalvini’s. (Jencks leaves to individual) It means meaning of architectural sign highly depends on whether the element of space takes the position of signifier or signified in sign.
Here it can be argued that the same question applies to urban space: is the element of urban space signifier or signified in urban sign? What sorts of morphological and semantic marker of urban space need to be identified? These issues are to explicate the way urban space is interpreted and to widen a perspective to enhancing communication through urban space.
Some more issues will be discussed, including a suggestion of metaform of urban sign regarding especially articulation of contents of urban sign and its structuring. These topics are part of our ongoing research towards amalgamating urban semiotics and urban design.
15. Stela Borisova Tasheva (Institute of Art Studies, Bulgarian Academy of Science)
Sets of architectural graphics and texts in Bulgarian public space - XX century
Architectural graphics are usually used as a tool of creating, developing and/or communicating architectural concepts and projects. In the paper, the term “architectural graphics” will be used with the meaning of unique written language and a main factor in the design processes.
Thus, the objects of architectural graphics may include not only architectural plans, perspectives, schemes, sketches, drawings, CAD files, photos or other images, but also accompanying or even embedded texts, tables, typological references, real models, video or interactive data sets and etc. Each of those can exist independently or be grouped with others. Then, architectural scientific texts and articles are to be viewed as a system of higher order, combining parallel flows of verbal analyzing substances and some or all the elements of the architectural graphic language.
The aim of this paper is to explore these combinations of architectural graphics and verbal texts from XX century, spread and made public in Bulgaria by professional magazines, articles or other scientific issues. The study is going to reveal the degree of information coherence, used with various purposes, like education, propaganda, marketing and etc. The research will analyze main features, forms and applications of graphics and texts and their links and mutual references in the final composite architectural message. It will investigate the semantic relations between texts and graphics based on their contrast, lines of consequence or ways of harmonization and integration.
The study is part of the author’s research project called “Bulgarian architectural graphics of XX century – problems and tendencies". The expected results are in the areas of history of architecture and architectural graphics.
16. Vít Gvoždiak (Palacký University Olomouc)
The Semiotic Square – Code of the Plaza
The present paper attempts to describe the phenomenon of the centre as a certain organizational principle. The centre is understood as an abstract procedure on which any kind of structure is founded, but at the same time it can be understood in its literal sense as an urban center (specifically the square or the plaza). Its fundamental characteristic, however, is based on a dual-type paradox, logical and political.
Following the logical paradox, the paper tries to explain the problem of the centre on the basis of Greimasian semiotic square (or the basic structure of signification), i.e. as a non-existence of a single, isolated place that could establish meaning.
The political paradox of the centre is at first seen on the background of diversifying communication forms related to the specific nature/use of technology. Then, relations to an “empty” square as a place for representation of political power is considered, as evidenced by examples of the Independence Square in Kiev, the Taksim in Istanbul and the Cairo's Tahrir. These are further examined in terms of pseudo-synonymical pairs, such as centre – power, sign – power, or permanency – revolution. The starting point here is a simple principle that any power struggle is always likely to be an effort to dominate an empty space where signs (of power) can be manifested in public.
The square / the plaza is a specific zero point of decentralization, restructuring and innovation, but also a certain stabilizing factor, the place of a structural origin and its reason. And this is applicable, as the present paper suggests, both to its abstract and urban sense. The city as such is then understood as the innermost and the most concrete manifestation of semiosis, but at the same time as its functional/material model.
17. Sung-Do KIM (Korea University)
Urban semiotics of some historic traces and their restored meanings in Seoul
It is unfortunate that in majority any trace of historic artifact in Seoul has deteriorated or been completely lost due to the massive destruction brought on first by the Korean War and later the birth of the megalopolis: after the war, the required restoration of all royal palace sites in the center of the city had been completed; only 5 per cent of the current buildings in Seoul had been constructed before the 1960s; the original framework of the city has disappeared due to the constant urban renovation begun in the 1980s. As a French geographer wrote, “in total, it is difficult to keep track of what Seoul is” (Gelézeau 2011: 44).
Although a great section of the city wall had been destroyed during both the time of Japanese rule and the Korean War, Seoul had been a large walled city for over five hundred years. Fragmented pieces of the wall stretch 10 kilometers, mainly near mountainous areas. According to historical records, King Taejo, the founder of Joseon, ordered the establishment of a ministry responsible for the construction of the wall and the building of approximately 18-kilometer stretch along the ridge of Seoul’s four interior mountains, i.e. Bukaksan in the north, Naksan in the east, Namsan in the south, and Inwangsan in the west. The first portion of the construction was completed in 1396, and took approximately three months. At present, a 12-kilometer section of the wall is designated as Historic Site No. 10 and is protected accordingly, along with the gates, water gates, and signal fire mounds. Certain sections of the wall have undergone extensive restoration work, having sustained damage or been entirely destroyed at various times over the city’s history.
The Seoul wall was originally built for more effective operation and the defense of the newly designated capital. For more efficient management of the capital, the area within the wall was distinguished from the areas lying outside of them. The wall served as an essential element of the capital, along with the Royal Palace, the Ancestral Shrine and the Shrine to Earth lying within them so that the wall symbolized Seoul’s status as the dynastic capital. The Seoul wall was built in accordance with the natural topography and thus is in a position that clearly displays the contours of the four inner mountains.
Therefore, in arestoration project of the Seoul city wall there needs to be awareness of proceeding toward reinforcing diversity and richness over the urban landscape of Seoul rather than simply building the structure in order that it may once again exist. In other words, it is critical to regain a humanistic experience of a ‘genuine’ encounter with a given space, which embraces arriving and creating the desire to remain, and furthermore actively invites people to live and flourish in that area. The Seoul city wall would then function as both a physical and symbolic link between space and time, imparting new meaning to the present and ensuring continuity toward the future.
- Methodological approach
While the concept that a city is text to be read had already emerged in the 19th century, the discourse of urban semiotics was born out of recent criticism against too functionalistic and engineering-oriented urban planning. Urban semiotics tends to understand a city with textual and iconological methodology of which the primary premise maintains that a city is fundamentally the domain of meaningful messages and artifacts of human beings so that it is possible to read a city as text. Thus a city involves not only units of sign but also a network of meanings, which can be carefully decoded and interpreted. In this paper I will attempt to apply three major approaches of urban semiotics : the ideological model of the topological semiotics of Greimas, Lotman’s conception of urban structure, and the concept of temporal collage proposed by Lynch. By arguing that whoever produces urban space tries to realize their own values into the city, Greimas attempted to practice a kind of ‘normative semiotics’ based on three pleasure-displeasure categories: a) the aesthetic of beauty and ugliness b) the political of social and moral health c) the rational including functional efficiency, behavioral economy, etc.
Greimas added further explanation for his ideological model of urban space as follows. First of all, the ideological model of urban space should be considered as a sort of abstract in-depth structure to forecast infinitely generating forms of city rather than a simple modeling of how to read a city. Secondly, Greimas explained that the structure of ideological model needs to be regarded as formal categories since his ideological model of urban space belongs to a deeper structure. Hence, such model can be applied to semantic approaches as more variously as it proceeds from one cultural context to the other. Thirdly, the ideological model of urban space implies a limited number of rules that can take its course of actualization of combined matrix.
Lotman also indicated similar parameters to determine urbanscape text. He first distinguished between centripetal and centrifugal text, of which the latter includes the city of Petersburg since its history is firmly connected not only with cosmic mythology but also with daily myths.
For instance, it would be possible to analyze a city represented in the related literary text so that both synchronic and diachronic analysis can reveal the city as comprehensive spatial text. Moreover, we can derive constant codes from the mythical space of the city, of which the core structure is exposed as ambivalent evolution through internal conditions of the city, i.e. natural phenomena which evoke a dichotomy between the spiritual and the corporeal and contradicting emotions; cultural characteristics of traditions, modernity, post-modernity, gender, powers, and social tension. In consequence, the analysis of multiple urban signifiers makes us infer logical relations between text and space in the city, and thus understand both text and space as text.
18. Gunnar Sandin (Lund University)
An agency-based perspective on architecture as a joint societal concern.
While architecture is still often considered as a style attributed to individual architects or historical buildings, it may in a broader cultural and ecological perspective more rightly be seen as the making of future environments through initial means of visual and verbal forms of representation. The coming into being of architecture may be seen as a semiotic act that includes professional practices, material constraints, images, financial restrictions, legal preconditions and political negotiations. These agencies, or their associations (Greimas 1987; Hammad 1989; Latour 2005), all have an impact on the built result, a result which itself has existential material impact in the everyday life of those concerned by the resulting material realities. Attempts at semiotic renderings of architectural space have typically focused either on what could roughly be labelled “surface versions” of architecture, including facades, images, and metaphors, thus neglecting obvious dynamic dimensions of urban space, including affordance aspects and issues regarding access to space. In advanced modern societies, many of which take pride in labelling themselves “democratic”, the city planning may be dialogically regulated in law through processes of public consultation for the sake of picking up opinions about new building projects. Still, individuals and communities often lack a sense of taking decisive part, or have even been straightforwardly neglected. Consequently we, as modern citizens, have come to give up the idea of influencing the hazardous and often large-scale game of urban development. In this paper, a case of architectural renewal – of a public square in Malmö, Sweden – will cast light on the needs of a more profound understanding of the communication of architecture. A semiotic modelling is suggested of the becoming of architecture, a discursive model that includes the impact of image-, matter-, and text-based modes of communication (more or less visible to the public) and how they have an impact on common environment. Such a rendering includes also the timing of verbal and visual rhetoric, a rhetoric fitted to the various communicational stages of branding, projecting, engineering, and purchasing buildings, to mention only a few steps in a typical architectural process. Taking into account theorization on emancipatory space (Ranciere 2010), aspects of affordance and niche-construction (Sinha 2009) and the semiotics of explained, or “secondary,” iconicity (Sonesson 2007), the inevitable physical situatedness of architecture may be given a semiotic understanding that captures not only the impact of city planning’s agency and imagery, but also their interdependence in the coming into being of new environments.
19. Edoardo Gazzoni, (student in Semiotics, University of Bologna) Mario Panico (MD student in Semiotics, University of Bologna)
Identity space and time. Etno-semiotic research about Taranto and its factory
Our work explores the relationship between Taranto (South Italy) and Ilva (its siderurgic factory, almost twice the city’s size). Taranto, considered one of the most polluted towns in Europe, experiences with its industry the contradiction between health and work. We will do this through the analysis of a daily practice such as the crossing of the turnstile by Ilva workers, which imposes itself as a gap between two identities: citizen’s and worker’s. This specific practice is the access to the factory, physically represented by crossing the turnstile at the beginning and at the end of each work shift. In this sense, we consider the concept of Aiôn, exposed by Deleuze in the Logic of the sense (1969), useful to justify the coexistence of these two identities in relation to time and space.
The spatial analysis conducted this way will discuss the route that leads to the citizen-worker from the new town of Taranto, through the old town, to the industrial area. This will allow us to talk about identity of each individual subject. We will not talk about status changes, but about identity substitution between /citizens/ and /workers/. These particular conditions are never abandoned, but they are always balanced. The point of view from which the analysis will be conducted is the city’s reality and the work as a single actor’s stage, whose identity is declined according to one of these specific spaces. This mechanism is not always conscious, since it is automatically based on daily-routines. In addition to the city, in its architectural sense, it is essential to consider the relations’ network governing it, as it is the case of Taranto, where the two semiospheres are deeply linked. The city, or cities (if we consider Ilva as an urban complex), enter into social life with an enunciative process, giving life and motion to the actors living in it. Van Gennep’s studies about rites of passage and its re-interpretations by Turner will be useful for this proposal. Through this perspective, we try to explain the role of topological Semiotic, with respects to the space of Taranto, in its dealing with the factory and the processes of sense. The city becomes an automatic place, de-semantizeted as a living space but acting as if it was also a subject.
The turnstile has a symbolic value, it is not just a direct access to the production plant. In fact, as there is a path from the car to the turnstile, so it is from the turnstile to the dressing room and then another one to the department itself. The suspension of identity takes place in space and time, the hidden space of the utopian as a place of passage, the space of the "sacred", in which time is cyclic. We therefore have a daily-life rituality that replaces the clock, setting the structure of Taranto. A rhythm of life, a productive rhythm, ritual and economic power.
20) Dr. Elisa de Souza Martinez, Universidade de Brasília, Brazil – Associate Professor
National Council for Scientific and Technological Development, Brazil – Researcher
Scopic regimes in contemporary art exhibitions – fearing exoticism
The analysis of art exhibitions in museums and galleries have been the object of our research that highlights the interaction between different semiotic systems. To analyze events that address contemporary art, we distinguish the way in which the choice of the theme stands out and contributes to the building of a monophonic discourse in which the modal competence of the subject - curator - to compose a chronological sequence of artistic phenomena is dismissed. This work aims to identify the different discursive strategies found in international exhibitions of contemporary art, as well as its modes of relationship between the public and the private, according to the approach proposed by Eric Landowski, as scopic regimes. This is to differentiate the ways the exhibition as a public event, relates to the artist's studio, private space, creating strategies for the simulation of viewer involvement.
Elisa de Souza Martínez is Full Time Associate Professor at the University of Brasilia since 1993. Her activities include regular courses in Art History and Visual Semiotics, at both Graduate and Undergraduate levels. Doctor in Communication and Semiotics at the Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo (Brazil). Recently, she developed a post-doctoral research at the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis, at the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Researcher at the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development, Brazil.
21. Pedro Henrique Cremonez Rosa
Dirce Vasconcellos Lopes
Postcards as representation of the city: a vivid pictorial journey
The city, in its multifaceted urban space, is the outcome of the relation between man and environment, with a materiality that has specific forms of signification. Viewing the city as a symbolic space implies a constitutive relation between urban space and language, a move towards the use of various relevant expressions that allow for a broader comprehension and interpretation of the urban space. In this context, language, as a code that deals with the understanding of the world, is the means by which the subject signifies, and thus becomes (re)signified. Among the many possible forms for this process to take place, postcards are instrumental for the human to perceive the world, by finding a privileged form to settle the representations in daily imaginary. Postcards used to be linked to illustrative and photographic reproductions of touristic and historical spots, restricting them to a standstill time, resistant to changes and transformations. Such static time harnessed urban patrimony to eternal scenes of daily life. Postcards, therefore, have become symbolical references entered in medias that constitute the daily imaginary, now changed from printed media to digital, a symbiosis between traditional forms of communication and modern reproduction technology. The worth currently attributed to the human-machine hybridization by reproducing images and visual expression of human feelings like amazement, appreciation of beauty, memory, leads postcards to translate their own constituents into new possibilities for reality and meaning, since the virtual allows so to happen. Finding evidence of this new role is the purpose of this study. The intended contribution is to generate perception of postcards as new medias in which the power of signification, the human sensations and the accessibility of men get right through the new technologies. The main example would be Instagram, where virtual images taken by mobile devices function as postcards confining the urban space to some sort of perception awaiting for interpretation. This transformation generates changes in the actual sense of time and memory of the postcard, now being replaced by episodic, ephemeral and evanescent moments. The use of semiotics as an analytical tool is the procedure to appraise postcards as a source of meaning and signification. In this study, material consisting of printed postcards and virtual images collected from the social networks, is gathered and refer to a particular landscape, with time intervals of one decade starting in 1980. It shall have to be emphasized that semiotics will be highlighted from the semiosis as a process of interpretation with the action of signs being interpreted in other signs, in this case visual.
22. Vera D’Antonio, Stefania Pizza (Department of Communication and Social Research, Sapienza University of Rome)
Car sharing and Urban experience. A socio-semiotic approach to the car-sharing service Car2Go Roma
The development of Information and Communication Technologies, interconnectivity, the rise of “network model” and Network society (Castells 1996), are shaping the urban experience of the city users. A new urban paradigm is emerging which represents a new way of thinking and reading the city: the smart city.
This model can be realized only through the daily practices of all users who “live and consume” the city, using services and opportunities that are made available. Therefore, it’s possible to consider the new city users as real "consumers" of both symbolic and physical space of the city, but also “producers” of texts and interactive content, in full harmony with what Toffler in the 1980s, in a very futuristic way, defined “prosumerism”.
Both residents and city users (urban consumers) are enunciational subjects, with well-defined narrative programs, purposes, values, which contribute to a symbolic and pragmatic level to the construction of the smart city paradigm. Using the instruments of sociosemiotics (Landowski 1989) it is possible to investigate the symbolic, socio-cultural and discursive dimensions of consumption, even when this is meant as consumption of the city and its symbolic and physical spaces.
The car-sharing service Car2Go Rome is an excellent case study in point. Car sharing is meant as a new cultural and urban system of significance inscribed in the universal meaning adopted by smart city: quality of life, environmental sustainability, participatory culture, smart mobility.
On the one hand, the semiotic analysis will focus on the car as object, meant as “external substance” (Semprini, 1996) and “representamen” of a new urban culture and values. On the other hand, the sociological analysis aims to highlight shared values and common objectives within the users community, in order to emphasize new values and new practices of use of “innovative technologies”, and to highlight elements of discontinuity and homogeneity between the Roman and others Italian cases, in a comparative perspective.
23. Prof. Dr. Traian D. Stănciulescu, National Inventics Institute & “Al. I. Cuza” University of Iassy, Romania (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The ‘Architecture of Light’. Towards a Semiotic of the Sacred Geometry
Architect-Designer Dr. Aritia D. Poenaru
Into the frame of human life, a novelty architecture will be able to mediate the natural harmony between humanity and its cosmic roots, between nature and culture, content and form, respectively. By following the archetypal and modern learning too, the (visual) signs of light could be considered as the physical, biological, and psycho-social archetypes able to unify – not only symbolically, but ecologically and healthily too – the human life and its constructed framework. In this way, the hypotheses of a science of the ‘Living Light’, namely ‘BIOPHOTONICS’ (biology + theory / technology of lasers), will be able to rationally explain and scientifically recuperate – for the benefits of the modern architecture – the harmonizing features of the old ‘Sacred Geometry’.
● Theoretically, the macro-cosmic world – inside whom the human ‘being of light’ is pulsating as an integrative micro-cosmos – represents the archetypal matrix of a modern ‘Architecture of Light’ – synergically connecting Nature (cosmic space ® structural materials ® biological body) and Culture (cosmic symbolism ® functional planning ® psychological human state). Inside this matrix, the symbols of a “Sacred Geometry” (ovoid, hourglass, column and the grape, spirals, fractals and golden ratio, etc.) are determining a very complex semiosis, by: a) stimulating with energetic / beneficial effects (of the symbolizer / syntactic form) the level of human biological state of health; b) generating informational / positive effects (of the symbolized / semantic content) at the level of human psycho-logical state.
The authors were able to put pragmatically into evidence all these optimizing effects, by measuring them with some type of bioresonance devices.
● Practically, to prove that all the (visual) objects (architectural ones, in particular), are synergically stimulating the human well-being (health) – through the frequencies generated by the materials used, by their forms and volumes, colors and decorations etc. and, finally, by the telluric effects of the site – represents one of the amazing paradigm of the research, already patented by the authors.
In synthesis, by connecting the analytical privileges of semiotics and of the visual arts / sciences, of biophotonics and bioresonance technology, the old heritage of sacred wisdom and the actual scientific knowledge will be no longer artificially separated. This is due to the New Vision of an integrative “ARCHITECTURE OF LIGHT” SEMIOTICS, to its competence and performance to rebuild the mind’s and body’s architectural space.
In conclusion, to (re)sacralize the architectural frame (semiosphere) of the human being – by the effects of a Sacred Geometry and all its complementary signs, by harmonizing the human life namely – is representing the main purpose of this research. In this way, as a relevant integrative example, the authors are semiotically presenting and interpreting the archetypal project of “ICTHUS” (Sacaramb, Romania).
Keywords: sacred geometry, architecture of light, biophotonic and resonance, semiotic synergy, human well-being.
24. Andrés Novoa Montoya, Profesor Tiempo Completo, Programa de Publicidad, Universidad Jorge Tadeo Lozano, email@example.com
La ciudad, entendida cómo un espacio dinámico de significaciones y subjetividades en donde los individuos están en constantes prácticas e hibridaciones, va construyendo todos los días mitologías que derivan en distintas ritualizaciones, que parten de la historia social y sus distintas historias individuales, y que además generan temporalidades significativas dependiendo el individuo o individuos y dependiendo el contexto social en el cuál la práctica sea desarrollada.
Estas prácticas, fluyen en un momento y en un espacio determinado, están condicionadas por distintas construcciones de realidad social y cultural que cada individuo construye, transforma y actualiza, por medio de la experiencia, el contacto con la ciudad, con otros individuos, etc. Así, más allá de que la ciudad es un sistema pluricódigo que siempre está comunicando y generando sentido, se debe hacer énfasis en que la ciudad no está compuesta solo de textos que pueden ser leídos e interpretados, se debería hablar entonces también de interacciones, procesos que están presentes de momento, en la historia contada, en la ciudad transitada, en el espacio apropiado, en la charla inesperada, en el pago de un bus, o en la compra de un producto en la calle, en el caminar, la ciudad vivida, soñada e interpretada por cada individuo, por cada grupo social, construcciones en vivo, en situación que marcan rutinas y dinámicas, prácticas que a fin de cuentas terminan siendo el motor de la cultura, de la interacción. Estas prácticas Jacques Fontanille las presenta como significaciones en el acto, es la experiencia como tal del momento, la actividad viva y vivida.
La ponencia tiene como objetivo presentar un análisis semiótico y cultural de los distintos lenguajes que emergen en la ciudad de Bogotá, identificados por medio de investigaciones realizadas en la Universidad Jorge Tadeo Lozano, en el grupo de investigación “Publicidad, Sociedad, Cultura y Creatividad”, la sublínea y semillero de investigación “Lenguajes Urbanos”. Fronteras invisibles, silenciosas, efímeras y cotidianas, ciudad de día y ciudad de noche, norte, sur, estratificaciones que tan solo nos llevan a entender una clasificación en relación al lugar y a su significación en relación a la capacidad que tiene cada individuo de ganarse la vida; conceptos establecidos y arraigados que marcan un sentido único de andar, reglas regulativas que hacen de una ciudad un espacio cotidiano y representativo, globalizado y vernácula, combinaciones infinitas, panoramas indecisos, una ciudad que convive con las emociones, sensaciones, pensamientos y así mismo con las acciones de la gente, prácticas que se renuevan, se reconstruyen, se reinventan con nuevas prácticas, a veces copiadas de un mundo globalizado, a veces generadas por el contexto, a veces estructuradas desde la historia, ciudad de gris y de colores, ciudad de mil matices, lenguajes urbanos que surgen por doquier, por la escena doméstica, por el comercio informal, por la publicidad exterior, por la plaza central, por el monumento, las iglesias y las aceras; espacios de control en donde se crean subjetividades que responden a niveles jerárquicos que marcan un camino a la explotación y la desigualdad.
Profesional en Publicidad, Magíster en Diseño y comunicación de la Universidad de Palermo en Buenos Aires Argentina, y Magíster en Semiótica de la Universidad Jorge Tadeo Lozano. Actualmente soy profesor de la Universidad Jorge Tadeo Lozano en el Programa de Publicidad, director de la sub-línea de Investigación Lenguajes Urbanos y director del In-house: Escuela de pensamiento, una agencia de publicidad que busca un cambio en las metodologías de enseñanza en los estudiantes de publicidad. Igualmente soy profesor en la especialización en Gerencia de Publicidad y de la Maestría en Publicidad de la Universidad Jorge Tadeo Lozano. Investigador y apasionado por las prácticas sociales, urbanas y comunicacionales, que son temas centrales de las investigaciones. En el campo del diseño, la comunicación y la publicidad, me concentro en la construcción y desarrollo de estrategias de comunicación y publicidad, desarrollo de identidad y construcción de marca. Cuento con la capacidad para el manejo de grupos interdisciplinarios, dirección comunicacional y desarrollo y gestión de proyectos.
Temas claves: Creatividad, innovación, diseño, comunicación, construcción de marca, lenguajes urbanos, semiótica.