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Journal of the International Association for Semiotic Studies / Revue de l'Association Internationale de Sémiotique

Editor-in-Chief: Danesi, Marcel

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Serial form as entertainment and interpretative framework: Probability and the ‘black box’ of past experience

Michael Betancourt
Published Online: 2005-10-13 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/semi.2005.2005.157.1-4.315


This essay presents and discusses the ways that prior experience constitutes a logical black box in Umberto Eco’s discussion of serial forms in ‘Interpreting Serials’ by using the complex adaptive system model for how complexity arises and is sustained over time, as proposed by John Holland. In exploring how Holland’s model can account for some aspects of Eco’s past experience, it becomes evident that a modification of both theories to accommodate multiple, contradictory potentials simultaneously suggests we consider meaning as a range of potentials rather than as a singular choice. Even though the model proposed here is incomplete and tentative, it is suggestive of possible strategies for justifying interpretations without precluding their rejection or revision at a later time. Individual interpretations are justified not by comparison to an external truth but by the existence of other possible interpretations with shared characteristics that nevertheless contradict each other.

Published Online: 2005-10-13

Published in Print: 2005-10-18

Citation Information: Semiotica. Volume 2005, Issue 157, Pages 315–324, ISSN (Online) 1613-3692, ISSN (Print) 0037-1998, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/semi.2005.2005.157.1-4.315, October 2005

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