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Biosemiotics for postdigital living: the implications of the implications

  • Alin Olteanu

    Alin Olteanu (b. 1987) is a postdoctoral researcher and publication coordinator at the Käte Hamburger Kolleg Cultures of Research of RWTH Aachen University. His research interests include philosophy of education, multiculturalism, digitalization, and literacy. Publications include Multiculturalism as multimodal communication: A semiotic perspective (2019), “Multimodal modeling: Bridging biosemiotics and social semiotics” (2021), “Translation from a contemporary media perspective: Avoiding culturalism and monolingualism” (2022), and “Biosemiotic systems theory: An embodied and ecological approach to culture” (forthcoming).

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    and Cary Campbell

    Cary Campbell (b. 1990) is a lecturer in the Faculty of Education at Simon Fraser University. His research interests include philosophy of education, place-based pedagogy, curriculum development, and, broadly, using biosemiotics and posthumanist theory to articulate the challenges to contemporary education jointly posed by digitalization and climate change. Some recent publications include “Toward a strong sustainability literacy: Embodied media and ecology” (2021) and “Embracing the learning turn: The ecological context of learning” (2022).

From the journal Chinese Semiotic Studies

Abstract

The postdigital condition is discussed from the perspective of Paul Cobley’s biosemiotic approach to culture. While semiotics is often concerned with cultural criticism, there has been no explicit biosemiotic approach to culture, until only recently with Cobley unfurling such a research program. The key to this is the biosemiotic notion of modeling, which accounts for co-evolutionary processes encompassing biology and culture. This approach responds to recent calls in the humanities and social sciences to understand culture as constituted through technology, but also as something not strictly human (more-than-human). By undermining both vitalism and reductionism, biosemiotics avoids biologism and culturalism, which is of much importance for theorizing culture and learning in light of evolution. This has consequences for construing cultural pluralism. Mainstream notions of multiculturalism rely on cultural holism and, hence, advocate the separation of communities and languages for the pretense of maintaining diversity. Cobley’s theory avoids this pitfall, offering a view of cultures as intrinsically heterogeneous and open systems. This suggests further implications for how we understand the aims of literacy and state-run education. We present an account of biocultural learning that accommodates contemporary posthumanist and postdigital orientations. Construing learning as ecologically contextual is necessary for addressing ongoing technological transformations.


Corresponding author: Alin Olteanu , Käte Hamburger Kolleg Cultures of Research, RWTH Aachen University, Aachen, Germany, E-mail:

Funding source: The Käte Hamburger Kolleg Cultures of Research, where Alin Olteanu is based, is entirely funded by the German Ministry of Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung).

About the authors

Alin Olteanu

Alin Olteanu (b. 1987) is a postdoctoral researcher and publication coordinator at the Käte Hamburger Kolleg Cultures of Research of RWTH Aachen University. His research interests include philosophy of education, multiculturalism, digitalization, and literacy. Publications include Multiculturalism as multimodal communication: A semiotic perspective (2019), “Multimodal modeling: Bridging biosemiotics and social semiotics” (2021), “Translation from a contemporary media perspective: Avoiding culturalism and monolingualism” (2022), and “Biosemiotic systems theory: An embodied and ecological approach to culture” (forthcoming).

Cary Campbell

Cary Campbell (b. 1990) is a lecturer in the Faculty of Education at Simon Fraser University. His research interests include philosophy of education, place-based pedagogy, curriculum development, and, broadly, using biosemiotics and posthumanist theory to articulate the challenges to contemporary education jointly posed by digitalization and climate change. Some recent publications include “Toward a strong sustainability literacy: Embodied media and ecology” (2021) and “Embracing the learning turn: The ecological context of learning” (2022).

  1. Research funding: Alin Olteanu works at the Käte Hamburger Kolleg Cultures of Research, which is entirely funded by the German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).

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