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Cultural TechniquesGrids, Filters, Doors, and Other Articulations of the Real$
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Bernhard Siegert

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780823263752

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: September 2015

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823263752.001.0001

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Cacography or Communication?

Cacography or Communication?

Cultural Techniques of Sign-Signal Distinction

(p.19) 1 Cacography or Communication?
Cultural Techniques

Bernhard Siegert

, Geoffrey Winthrop-Young
Fordham University Press

Drawing on Serres’ concept of the parasite and its point of departure in the history of linguistics and mathematical theory of communication, the chapter develops a concept of Cultural Techniques as a filtering operation which produces the distinction between sign and signal. In three case studies, one about the discovery and the first printed edition of the Res Gestae of Augustus in the sixteenth century, another about Franz Kafka’s famous “Pontus letter” to Felice Bauer, and a third about a radio play by Max Bense which starts with computer generated language on the basis of transition probabilities or Markov chains, it is demonstrated how in typographical, analog, and digital media the encoding of disruption (or noise) becomes constitutive for the idea that texts, telephones, or radio are media of communication. The methodological gain derived from using the cultural techniques approach is most apparent when the ontological distinction between symbols (as defined by logic) and signals (as defined by communications engineering) is replaced by the practical problem of distinguishing between them.

Keywords:   Michel Serres, Sign-Signal-Distinction, Parasite, Noise, Disruption, Mathematical Theory of Communication, Franz Kafka, Printing Press, Telephone, Computer

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