Innovationen und Reproduktionen in Kulturen und Gesellschaften (IRICS) Wien, 9. bis 11. Dezember 2005

<< Media systems: their evolution and innovation

Synthetic Semiotics of Hypermediality: A comparative semiotic approach

KIM Sung-Do (University of Seoul, Korea)



The concept of synthetic semiotics is not widely recognized or even understood today. In fact contemporary semiotics has limited its principal domain to a single communication channel and a homogeneous system of signs. Therefore one might have some difficulties to find out any clue in the actual semiotic scene, which would attribute to the elaboration of this relatively little explored area. However, if we broaden our perspective into the humanities and social sciences, it is possible to find some epistemological convergences between the premises of synthetic semiotics and other media theories. In this paper we will focus on the works of Ulmer and the remediation theory of Bolter which might be incorporated into the program of synthetic semiotics. In fact, like the principle of remediation, the synthetic semiotics does not accept the logic of ‘ceci tuera cela’. I want to mention the digital media effect which could be characterized by the fusion of different sign systems. The phenomena of the synthesis of aurality, visuality, textuality and tactility which is manifested in digital language could suggest a return of our senses to the primitive age, as Mc Luhan said. In other terms, this phenomenon signifies the synesthesic recovery of ear and eye. However, McLuhan’s notion of synesthesia as the simultaneous interplay of the senses in a ratio fostered by the particular medium involved is missing the theories of hypermedia, which relegates all sensory phenomena to visual terms and overlooks the interplay bwteen orality and literacy. The great prehistorian, Andre Leroi-Gourhan interprets the multimedia language as a recovery of concrete contact with things which was lost after the invention of alphabets which is based on the abstraction of human mind. But it is not our task to deliver any moral or cognitive evaluation on the mixture or blending of different media. For instance, let me mention in passage the negative attitude of Frederic Jameson on this phenomenon, who reads this in the context of the cultural logic of post-capitalism. Rather we would like to indicate an epistemological lack of actual semiotic approach in regards to the kinesthetic interplay between the oral and the visual in reading. We also indicate another crucial missing element in hypermedia which is tactility, the essence of synesthesia for McLuhan.

The aim of this investigation is to connect the synthetic semiotics to the remediation theory, in particular the logic of hypermediality. We will attempt to construct a comparative semiotics of three illuminating examples of the hypermediality: the medieval illuminated manuscripts, the Chinese classical painting, the electronic writing to find some universal features in terms of synthetic semiotics.

Innovations and Reproductions in Cultures and Societies
(IRICS) Vienna, 9 - 11 december 2005

WEBDESIGN: Peter R. Horn 2005-08-28