BIOSEMIOTICS

SPACE DOCTORS AND PAUL COBLEY

Space Doctors is excited to explore collaborative, hybrid thinking that combines and cuts across disciplines. We recently reconnected with the fundamental tools we use every day, and enriched our perspective by exploring their intersection with Biosemiotics, framed by expert Paul Cobley, Professor in Language and Media at the University of Middlesex, Biosemiotics specialist, and true sage. 

Biosemiotics: what can we learn?

Biosemiotics is an exciting field of enquiry, one that should be considered in any approach to Semiotics as it offers a disruptive take on fundamental truths that we may hold in the world of cultural analysis and semiology. Professor Paul Cobley emphasises the importance of two implications in particular; two things to remember as we analyse culture.

Firstly, Cartesian singularity, the idea that we are our own person with our own consciousness, is far from absolute. We must consider that we are a combination of billions, possibly hundreds of trillions of bacteria, and as such are the product of innumerable organisms all communicating with each other – a singularity is not a vision that is absolute, but rather, we must accept that we are a semiological collective. Whilst it is true that we have a linguistic capability that other forms of existence do not, this is but one faculty. Other, non-verbal faculties, are not unique to us; they are shared between every other natural organism. Or, as Cobley would say: “As the very existence of Biosemiotics attests, the human phenomenon of language is just one aspect of semiosis, the action of signs in general, throughout the universe. Put this way, language looks very small compared to the array of signs engendered by all interactions between living cells.”

The second point forms an extension of the first. If we consider that traditional notions of free will and intentionality are undermined by the lack of a clear individual, we must extend this conclusion to culture. If there can be no clear human-centric definition of agency, then the implication is that culture can only be considered as existing within nature. To consider culture as an a-scientific study is to ignore a huge body of natural influences in the process of interpreting the signs and symbols around us. Cultural analysis is the analysis of nature.