Andy Capostagno, Semeiotikos

Being seriously irritated by the painful drone from the various commentators, during the Rugby Cup and, especially, the great Paris finale, I was saved by using my remote’s mute facility, only to realise that I also lost the electrifying background sound of the crowds.

I set out to find out more about commentating, as the practice of offering a personal interpretation to an event, or happening. I found that the Greeks had a word – Semeiotikos – (‘the interpreter of signs’) – answering an obvious need to understand signs that may indicate potential illness or disaster. The term Semiotics, aka Semiology, the study of signs and symbols, stems from Semeiotikos.

In the past, people assigned special value to the the interpretation of signs of illness, dysfunction or pathology, as an independent expertise. Today’s proliferating sign-interpreters (sports commentators, financial analysts, column writers and, yes, online bloggers) – are modern-day Semeiotikos. Obviously, the age-old need to understand signs is fulfilled today though the science of Semiotics.

ToingToing!! – the Open Semtiocs Resource Centre website — deals with “the multidisciplinary study of information, meaning, communication, interpretation, sign systems and evolution, texts, interactions, organizations, cultural and social transformations, sense-making and all other topics that may emerge from future research, models and theories.”

The centre’s mission statement covers a wide range of expertise, for example – ‘interaction‘ brings communication studies into the fold, while ‘sense-making‘ appropriates elements from Semantics – a close relative of Semtiotics that handles the study of meaning.

Lateral applications of Semiotics include the study of biosemiotics (an interdisciplinary science that studies communication in living systems,) Computational Semiotics (or CS, studies ways in which digital systems can uses cognitive processes. CS forms an integral part of studies in artficial Intelligence).

Other branches involve the study of semiotic system within literature (PDF); as well as music; general social systemsbusinesses and public organisations (PDF) and urban systems.