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Design meets Science

Prof. Dr. Göran Sonesson


Prof. Dr. Göran Sonesson | Lund/Sweden: Professor of semiotics and Director of the Division for Cognitive Semiotics at Lund University.

He obtained his doctorate in general linguistics from Lund University in 1978, and, in the same year, in semiotics from École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales. His dissertations were concerned with placing language and gesture, respectively, within a wider semiotical framework building on phenomenology and the psychology of perception. In his book Pictorial concepts (1989), he presented the only full refutation extant of the critique of iconicity, as formulated by Eco, Bierman, and Goodman, while also reviewing critically the work on the plastic and iconic layers of the picture accomplished within semiotics. Another life-long preoccupation has been the semiotic of culture, which he has connected to the phenomenological distinction between Homeworld and Alienworld. In recent years, he has been involved with the theory of cultural evolution, in the guise of a critique of socio-biology, and as an extension of cultural semiotics, as well as with the epistemological and methodological foundations of cognitive semiotics, which aims to bring together the advantages of semiotics and the cognitive science, critically uniting their concepts and methods. He has written numerous articles in well-known semiotic journals and anthologies, and he has also published papers in psychological and sociological journals.

That there is More to the Medium than the Message. Further Considerations on the Cognitive Semiotics of Lifeworld Mediations

Marshall McLuhan famously claimed that the medium is the message. Together with Eisenstein, Ong, Olsen, and others, he made us aware of the fact that the way in which an item of information is conveyed from one subject to another is a difference that makes a difference. In the end, however, such formulations may have deterred us from delving deeper into the specificity of the medium, once the message is held constant. Moreover, it appears that there are as many, and perhaps more, fashions in which the medium can be understood as the ways being is said (to paraphrase Aristotle, Heidegger and others in-between). While we now have a number of terms at our disposal, including modes and modalities, they all seem to be equally vague and ambiguous. Although semiotics would seem to be called upon to explore the nature of the medium, it has most of the time, following the lead of prestigious figures such as Jakobson and Eco, simply adopted the model of communication proposed by the mathematical theory of communication. In so doing, semiotics has even obliterated the distinction, on both the sender and the receiver side, of the initiating agent and the device employed, which was included in the Shannon & Weaver model, and which could have offered a productive space for initiating a probe into the varieties of what, for a better term, we shall call mediations. McLuhan reacted to the new medium (in the most common-sense interpretation of the term) of television. In one sense of the term, it could be argued that television is no longer the same medium as it was at McLuhan’s time. Meanwhile, we have been invaded by a series of computer-based mediations, from desktop applications and email to gaming and WWW, which should rightly be considered to be semiotically very different. This insight may also inspire us to take a backward glance. Thus, for instance, we have been accustomed to the situation of communication attendant on language and pictures being very different, but not only do computer-based technologies allow them to be used in more comparable ways, but (pre)history holds clues for pictures having functioned more like language in earlier periods.

Die Konferenz FURE „The Future of Reading“ konzentriert sich auf die Chancen und Herausforderungen des Umbruchs in der Medienwelt.