Complexity of Cultural Other: from Semiotics to Cultural Science

Distinguishing self from the other is one of the basic features of semiosis. In cultural semiotics it is well described by Juri Lotman, who’s vigorous theoretical approach has been applied to the various topics from literature to politics and also digital phenomena. It has inspired the research paradigm of Cultural Science of John Hartley and Jason Potts, where cultural othering takes place between what is called demes, strongly tied to the idea of semiospheres. There is still much to learn about the complexity of cultural other in this framework. I argue for the usefulness of cultural science and the cultural data analytics perspective in understanding the complexity of cultural other in its different forms and propose a further research direction. Such an approach distinguishes at least two different kinds of complexities. Firstly, complicatedness: e.g. cognitive biases of our memory which limit detail in grasping the other. Secondly, an emergent phenomenon where complexity is related to the multiplicity of systems built upon each other. This provides a basis for operationalizing the complexity of cultural other for computational approaches in a way that is aware of different sign constituents and acknowledges the limits of such a method. This research puts into dialogue cultural semiotics, cultural science and cultural data analytics to develop our understanding of Cultural other, more specifically, the complexity of how the other is represented. It is done by describing the Other as a multifaceted concept which includes the development of existing as well as emergence of new strata of systems. Based on this, I will propose a general direction for studying the complexity of cultural other with computational methods and cultural data whilst stressing its potentialities and limitations in the analysis of semiosis in human cultures.

Mark Mets

Tallinn University

Doctoral student at Tallinn University, preparing a thesis in Cultural Theory under the title of Using cultural data analysis towards understanding homogenization, antagonization, and transmission bias of the cultural other. He acquired his Master’s degree from the Tartu University Department of Semiotics. He is a junior research fellow at the project Cultural Data Analytics (CUDAN).

cultural other
cultural complexity