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The shared stories that written words tell when no one is reading: exploring modality in typographic landscapes as an ecosocial semiotic system

Journal Contribution - Journal Article

In this article, the authors argue that typography at times functions as a primary semiotic resource when compared to the semantic meaning of text. The central inquiry further claims that this phenomenon is not an exception but, instead, a fundamental characteristic of systematic relationships in the broader semiotic network and may be understood from this perspective. The study explores typographic meaning as an ecosocial semiotic network to research how local ideologies are influenced by trajectories of semiotic potential across scales of time and space. The exploration takes up the task (however lightly or implicitly) of connecting ideas of distinct features of typography (serifs, proportions, construction, organization, cohesion, etc.) to a network of semiotic potential that is materialized within social practices of local communities. It develops an approach to understanding recurring characteristics in the semiotic system of typography through material/semiotic biases or material couplings, namely how material processes, human physiology and culture influence (and continuously reinforce) meaning in written words. Building on the assumption that aspects of material origin and social practice interact to produce variation in typographic artifacts, ecosocial semiotic theory is incorporated as a conceptual framework as well as an evaluation criteria to test the central argument. It evaluates an approach to connecting broadly distributed, large-scale cultural patterns to emplaced social practices through the idea of modality. Two prominent strands of modality are surveyed, connecting findings from the initial case study to a broader ecosocial semiotic network. Through the idea of modality, the authors present a clear argument for why typography, as a semiotic resource, is fundamentally different from images and may be seen as a direct manifestation of social difference within everyday practices.
Journal: Visual Communication
ISSN: 1470-3572
Volume: 99
Pages: 1 - 34
Publication year:2019