Paul Cobley, London Metropolitan University
A new paradigm for communications and culture: the implications of biosemiotics
Human agents are today commonly conceptualized as the sites of sometimes competing identities which are constituted by gender, class, ethnicity, sexuality, nation, region, occupation, economy, mode of production, and other bases for power relations. But is it possible to see human agency as constituted by a wider set of determining forces than those discerned in the Polis? This paper will focus on the cultural implications of biosemiotics, considering the extent to which biosemiotics amounts to an “epistemological break” with modern modes of conceptualizing the world. To some extent, the paper will offer a series of footnotes to points made in the work of Jesper Hoffmeyer. It will be argued that the move towards ‘agency’ represented in biosemiotics represents the potential for one of the most thoroughgoing shifts that cultural analysis has yet seen. In particular, the paper will consider the reconfiguration of the role of the subject and its consequences for understanding ethics, communication and the crisis in contemporary capitalism.
Paul Cobley is Professor of Semiotics and Communications at London Metropolitan University. His recent books include The Media: An Introduction (2009), Realism for the 21st Century: A John Deely Reader (2009), The Routledge Companion to Semiotics (2010) and “Semiotics Continues to Astonish”: Thomas A. Sebeok and the Doctrine of Signs (2011) among others. He co-edits two journals, Subject Matters and Social Semiotics, and is associate editor of Cybernetics and Human Knowing. He is the series editor of Routledge Introductions to Media and Communications, co-series editor (with Kalevi Kull) of Semiotics, Communication and Cognition (Mouton de Gruyter) and co-editor (with Peter J. Schulz) of the 22-volume Handbook of Communication Sciences (de Gruyter). He was elected Vice-President of the International Association for Semiotic Studies in 2009.