Sound and Music as Communication: A Social Semiotic Approach

Sound and Music as Communication: A Social Semiotic Approach

This series of lectures provides an introduction to the communicative use of sound, and music drawing mainly on social semiotic theories and models along with others from linguistics, the sociology of music and sound and from multimodality. Lectures introduce tools for analysing how we can use sound to communicate and demonstrate how these can be […]

Cognition and symbolism in human evolution

The issue of the cognitive evolution of hominin species, much neglected or misinterpreted by archaeology, is considered in a philosophical and scientific perspective in this course. Human constructs of reality, it is proposed, have been created since self-referential consciousness began governing human thought. The most promising potential sources of information about the intellectual advances heralding human consciousness are very early intentional markings and other manifestations of culturally mediated human awareness. They are presented in this course. Beads, for instance, are likely to be key markers of early human constructs of the self.

Two decades of Research in Primate Communication and Culture: A Selective Review

Semioticians’ interests in non-verbal communication underlie their interest in primates. Most of the family Hominidae, and humans for much of their evolutionary time, have not been the highly verbal beings we are now. It is the focus of these lectures to argue that it is the development of human society than pushed us from highly social, interactive, but non-verbal beings into what we are today. It is not just a long slow evolutionary pilgrimage building on a foundation of genetically-based hard wiring, but the neuromuscular, cognitive, developmental interaction fostered by our intensely stimulated and complex social lives that have allowed us to develop our incredible communication system. Have you ever considered that if we share 98.point something of a chimpanzee’s DNA, how much more we share with Australopithecus who only separated from our line half as long ago?

Communication and Cultural Studies

This course will focus on the interrelated areas of communication theory and cultural studies with a specific emphasis on the influence of Roman Jakobson’s formulation of the model of communication and its functions on the analysis of decoding practices (the full range of which span aberrant to hegemonic) in cultural studies. The study of decoding practices is at the heart of cultural studies. I will emphasize the Birmingham school tradition as it is represented through the significant contributions of Stuart Hall and Dick Hebdige, among others, but also include reflections on the work of John Fiske and John Hartley in which Jakobson’s work was used to flag a move beyond content analysis in studies of television. The communication component of this course will limit itself to questions concerning cybernetic and poetic models with attention resting on their critique by Jean Baudrillard and their semiotic complexification by Umberto Eco. The more general goal of the course is to investigate how models of communication have served cultural studies in its diverse theoretical and political (Gramscian) expressions of decoding practices in the now familiar process of sub-cultural creativity involving borrowing-redefinition-relocation. This will be brought into contemporary focus through issues around the production of locality in the context of studies of globalization. The cybernetic model serves both as background to modelling communication as such and introduces questions around the conditions required for successfully encoding and decoding technical as opposed to semantic signals and signs, but also provides a context in which I will suggest that cultural studies has, like cybernetics, something of a military flavour at or near its origins, and that this persists today in the tactical countermeasures of culture jammers and the new Situationists of alternative youth culture.