Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Triad

1) When I was in high school I was already thinking about semiotics, albeit without any knowledge of that word. One day in high school, my biology class took a trip to this art activity held by a resident artist who had us all draw "three things that we were made of." A lot of people drew funny and goofy things, I think I took it too seriously. My three things were zeroes, ones and eyes. Zeroes and ones because those are the only two ingredients you need to create information. Why eyes? What is information without something to observe it?

This is still a haunting question in semantic and semiotic theory. That said, two might be the number of symbols (difference), but three is the number of signs. Another reason that I think three is the key number is because signs are not about one-to-one relationships between terms (that's a symbol!) Signs are about multiplicity and ambiguity; a sign has connotations and ambiguities, it can be used not only to name but to give hints and even lies. You need at least three nodes in a graph (in layman's terms, network) to create something more than a simple one-to-one mapping.

2) Speaking of signs and triads, here's a quote that I found from The Name of the Rose that seems to implicitly talk about the triad of signifying/inferring/lying that I talked about earlier:

"It is of use to me as Venantius's prints in the snow were of use after he was dragged to the pigs' tub. The unicorn of the books is like a print. If the print exists, there must have existed something whose print it is. ...The idea is sign of things and the image is sign of the idea, sign of a sign. But from the image I reconstruct, if not hte body, the idea that others had of it." -William of Baskerville

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