Beginnings are always awkward. When something's just starting, there's little-to-no existing structure to analyze first, to use in order to find which way to approach. There's not enough information to understand the rules governing not only the process you're beginning, but also what makes an individual step in that process successful or not. One of the many reasons the first step of a journey can be difficult is because you can't see the path on the other side of the threshold you have to pass in order to start the journey. You have to make the first step with a strange gait, careful manipulation of your center of gravity, lest you get that brief, but heart-stuttering sense of falling before even really beginning, because of a curb being just a bit higher than you expected.
I think and talk too much about the how people think and talk, though I have the bare minimum in formal training in the area. Trying to write about these interwoven topics led me to see that that is the same thing too. This realization can be reproduced with any process or work one could call an expression. The emphasis there should be on the "could." One of the big cultural shifts of postmodernism, from what I gather, is the (re)new(ed?) importance of the reader, equal to, or greater than, the author, each audience member themselves a type of writer by nature of their information sources and ability to accept or reject propositions. Some of this postmodern perspective is founded on authors' works on the separation between writer and work, some of which even declares the author themselves as dead in terms of knowledge and literary criticism.
This feature of, categorically, "beyond-modern" thought, in my mind, is a descriptive attempt to explain part of the nature of "meaning-making," or how people (or "cognitive experiencers") create significance, understanding, and, cumulatively, a view of the world that is sensible to them. This basically introduces some of the intrinsic connections to cognition that are revealed with any serious analysis of communication, because something that necessitates meaning, something "sensed" and needing to be understood, is something beyond the subject experiencing that something. A requirement for meaning or significance is preceded by external stimulus, an input, that needs to be "made sense of." Here is, I think, simultaneously the core structural conceit of both communication and cognition: the transfer of information from an external to an internal.
Just as communication (and hence its study) underlies nearly every conceivable field of potential research, including communication studies, by nature of simply being a necessary, constituent part of it, so too does cognition (and its study) underlie every field of research, including communication, just by being required. Information moves from the external world to the internal world of an experiencer (through an observational experience), wherein it triggers a cognitive process of "pattern-work" in order to associate that input with other, similar previous inputs, to find how it fits with the things that experiencer has already observed. This is how we know when words are nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc., or when they're used as subjects or direct objects. It's also how we can identify what materials something is made of, or, even more simply, when we know we've read/seen/heard/felt/tasted/smelt/thought/or otherwise experienced something before.
This input can be noise or a signal, as both are solely semiotic (sign-based) categories defined and assigned by the person observing the input, and the others who have observed it and talked about it before, not the features of the input itself. This very basic outline sets up the first step of this blog down the path of socio-semiotics, collective understanding or "co-cognition," collaborative meaning-making, and general, too-long-winded ponderings, explanations, (rehashes?), and theorizings about expressions, receptions, comprehensions, and cognitions. What they are, where they come from, where they go, how they form, what they're made of, what they do, how they do it, why they work, who uses them, why, and more. Maybe on some distant day, we'll start poking around with some general theories of both expression and communication.
I tentatively tend to refer to my general approach as Socio-Conceptual Patterning. I see all cognitive activity as one type of "pattern-work" or another: assessing, comparing, categorizing, altering, blending, splitting, and setting the relationship between information that's formed into concepts in our brains. I use the "socio-" prefix because of how extensively this constant process relies on input from other brains, other cognitive experiencers: inspiration, guidance, advice, collaboration, feedback, corrections, revisions, confirmations, denials, challenges, organizations, relationships, groupings, etc. We are social creatures not just because without socialization we suffer negative effects, but also because our process of "making sense," or meaning-making, is so extensively socially-created and socially-bound. The connections we draw in our mind to form significance, meaning, and understanding are both arrived at in our own cognitive functions and inspired, stimulated, informed, and refined by the cognitive functions of others through expressions and communication. If we only had our own consciousness to discern the world with, and figure out all we need to figure out to continue surviving and thriving, making sense would be a much slower, more laborious, and incredibly challenging endeavor for even the most basic of noise-to-signal, befuddlement-to-eureka transformations. A human being completely devoid of the social is completely devoid of the lingual and the communicative. Without these vast toolsets, the size of their cognitive world would remain trapped by the small cage of a universe that is able to be made by the purely sensory comprehensions of a sole specimen. (The act of passing on specific understandings to others is considered the essence of culture, essentially the essence of what we commonly describe as humanity, and is entirely reliant on multiple participants.)
Unsurprisingly, the broad, general theory and approach are certainly far from unique. However, the apparently numerous independent inventions of similar ideas only reinforce my belief that the related concepts are important and really can help people understand understanding. Additionally, I think the breadth with which I want to apply them, their potential interactions with so many other fields, and how extensively our new media paradigm is tied into it all, may be important considerations of these concepts that are going underemphasized. From paradigms to epistemes to frames, from simulacra to hyperrealities to "filmosophies," from perspectivism to multiplicities and schizoanalysis to hip-hop aesthetics, sampling, and remix culture, from narrative analysis to discourse and critical discourse analysis, to social semiotics, and much much more, there has been a growing awareness, in many fields, of these social, collaborative, and cumulative necessities of cognition, communication, meaning, truth, and mediation, and it's my thought that these areas will become ever-more important in untangling the cultural significance of our times (intriguingly layered with concepts like network, content, sampling, copy, remixes, identity, individualism, plurality, solidarity, consumption, attention, representation, relativism, irony, subjectivity, equality, class, and many, others). I think these kinds of approaches are emphasized and bolstered by the general post-modernist bend modern media literacy, on some level, requires.
I believe the ultimate commonality of everyone's struggles and their need to be heard, where concepts like "human condition" and "solidarity" find their roots, is embedded deep within our cognitive pattern-work, our universal, compulsive process of meaning-making and, in particular, our processes of engaging with and bridging the internal-external or us-them divide, whatever form it takes. It's not the struggle to have a large social network, or even a social network at all, but rather it's the struggle to be legitimately understood and fairly represented in the internal, cognitive experience of the other people we interact with in the process of fulfilling our needs and desires. Our understandings of different words (like socio-political categories), concepts (like human rights), things we intend to mean (our messages), how we want to be understood (our self-projection), and how we we believe we should be understood (our self-conception) all sit in our head, nowhere else. And it's in that same ambiguous soup of semantically-constructed relationships and understandings that everything we see, read, hear, or otherwise experience gets compared to, can affect, and emerges as our worldview.
In the simple sense, we know what words mean by how others use them and use other words to define them. In a more complex sense, we know what love means by how others treat us when they claim to love us, and we associate how we experience the emotions and processes elicited by that treatment with love. That's where I think some of the really interesting stuff happens: the congruency between how our internal cognitive processes assimilate and annex new, external data into previously known info and existent conceptual structures and how humanist ideas of solidarity, universal rights, and social equality tend to push similarly all-inclusive structural models of justice, representation, and political gravitas. These considerations certainly extend beyond humanity depending on how, well, inclusive your conceptualizations of life, culture, or consciousness in other non-human actors is.
It's my opinion that a majority of outreach efforts to promote social awareness tend to fail on the level of the individual audience member because of a lack of immediacy felt in the message's reception. Obviously, even if we unequivocally know why and how we rely on others, if we don't "feel" that reliance in a personally relevant way, it can be incredibly difficult to generate authentic recognition and reconsideration of our highly inter-reliant nature. In other words, the descriptive (rather than prescriptive) message of co-dependency must not only be clear and comprehensible, but it must also be salient, relevant, and informative for the reader, receiver, or interlocutor. A focus on how the interconnectivity of individuals not only creates society, but also, in a sense, constitutes the full content of society and our cognitive processes through acts such as expression, reception, and re-cognition, may work to elicit that immediacy with a full and salient realization of the incredible extent of said inter-connectivity. After all, is not everything that is "society" or "social" not only dependent on, but also completely constituted by, our interactions with other people, other cognitive experiencers? Languages and words of any conceivable type are attempts to infuse meaning generated cognitively into a physical representation, in the form of an expression, with the hope said expression would be perceived and comprehended, or read, by another to form a communication (even if said other is you, again, reading your journal entry and communicating with yourself). This overlooks when and how we think in language, say, prior to an expression, but that's a massive area I'll probably trek a little into with other writings later.
This inter-connectivity, how we utilize and rely on each other at even the most basic levels, is clarified, articulated, and emphasized by a strong semiotic perspective beyond most others, and I briefly mention that now to prepare readers to start consciously thinking semiotically if they don't already ('cause your brain does it anyway). Semiotics concerns the nature of signs, their signifieds (what it is the sign refers to, or "means"), and the vast array of processes we engage in that negotiate those parameters. The field of semiotics involves semantics (meaning-making, the relationship between sign and its signified), syntactics (structuring rules that inform meaning-making, AKA grammar), and pragmatics (actions within society and the world that the use of signs perform or inform). It's important to remember that anything can be construed as a sign, and in fact, it's that very construal or recognition, that creates the sign in that particular instance. It's also good to keep in mind that "signifiers" is a tricky term, because anything that calls to attention something else could be a signifier of that something else, but the person whose attention was drawn is equally a signifier, as it's their act of attributing significance in the first place that creates both the sign and its signified. And if you don't think that's true, protesting instead that the mind draws connections, and hence attributes significance, quicker and more strongly than it's possessor could, well, you're off to a good start in terms of the sign-and-pattern-based intimate relationship between communication and cognition. The brain already does this stuff on its own.
In this project, I'll utilize explorations of communications and relationships to, hopefully, find (or construe) some kind of, in very convoluted terms, "pragmatic semantics for syntactic tactics" with which to understand the collective world, or, in marginally less convoluted terms, a language (to "have the words"), "a semantics" or a process of meaning-making that, itself, enables and enacts socially-minded change and helps define the structuring rules, the grammar, that encourages and informs inclusive, productive, and just worldviews, communications, and, by extension, societies. Instead of just occasionally remembering it, we need to fully embrace the understanding that the world is an equal-part joint effort, particularly with regards to how the world isn't fairly equal-part.
To take intelligent, reasoned looks at the vast array of subject matter(s) relevant to the task that I want to approach with this blog, we'll need some strong foundations in various aspects of philosophical, cognitive, communicative, linguistic, artistic, and socio-cultural theories. Such foundations will be very hastily constructed by me in the intros of future posts, with little-to-no significant order. With a tame abandonment of authorial authority, I hope to offer a somewhat sensible, umbrella viewpoint on cognitive-cultural interaction from behind a lens built by the countless facets I've gleaned from, well, my collective cognitive-cultural interactions with you, and all that came along and before you.
Why? Because, We All Make Everything Dynamically And Collaboratively, and that's important. Hopefully I didn't lose my balance on this first step, and the way it lands will give you a general sense of direction for the path ahead.