[OS Now that Eco has pointed them out, I have become aware of just how often the term Icon is used. When visiting Newbridge Silverware, there were posters talking about ‘Style Icons’. A book I am reading by Lawrence Anthony and Graham Spence called The Elephant Whisperer the word ‘icon’ is used multiple times. I am starting to see the ‘signs’ of the umbrella usage of ‘icons’.]
On page 218 of his Theory of Semiotics, Eco develops a Typology of Modes of Production that he sets out in a Table (No 39), which records the way expressions are physically produced. (p219) The table does not help find ‘types of signs’, only lists productive activities that give rise to sign-functions. The typology and approach exposes the fact that things that may look like signs are not signs at all. These include ‘imprints’, ‘examples’, ‘vectors’ and ‘projections’, none of which are types of signs. (p 220)
The vertical columns of the Table are given the headings:
- Physical Labor
Physical labor is one of the four parameters identified in column one and outlined in more detail in previous posting. Recognition occurs when an object or event, regardless of how it is produced, comes to be viewed by the addressee. The ‘act of recognition’ may reconstitute the object or event as an ‘imprint’ a ‘symptom’ or a ‘clue’. (p 221) An imprint, however, is distinct from the other two in that it “represents both a metaphorical and metonymical operation.” (p221)
We must learn to recognise an imprint. Imprints are usually coded such that it is possible to recognise the difference between a footprint of a rabbit to that of a hare. In some sense there is an oppositional element to imprints (rabbit vs hare). At the time of his study in 1979, Eco believed that semiotics had not completed its explanation of imprints. But it had developed a ‘provisional boundary’ which pointed to imprints as objects inserted into a sign function. They were not signs. (p 222)
Eco also recognises some vectoral qualities of imprints. Similar to the vectoral quality of a ‘trace’, which is interpreted by its direction. But direction can be falsified. He uses the example of shoeing a horse backwards to give the impression of movement in one direction. An impression that is false. These lead to very complicated texts and projections. He confines his discussion of imprints to coded imprints that are analyzable into “pertinent elementary features”. Eco considers coded imprints as doubly motivated:
- The first motivation is the form of their content.
- The second is the presupposed relationship to the cause.
A paw mark found in mud, does not the same as the cause of that cat’s mark.
[SS and OS as a combinational unit hereby declares our unified gratitude to the glorious, wonderful Prof Heila Lotz-Sisitka for her willingness to read the three texts of my Phd. I am now doubly motivated in my continued work.]