Freedom, Repression and Constraints

  • Paul Cobley
Part of the Biosemiotics book series (BSEM, volume 15)


Semiosis has a tendency to grow, to lead to more semiosis. Yet, organisms often need to decelerate that growth, or repeat parts of it; this occurs through the appearance of invariants. As Peirce argues, it is the “essential function of a sign to render inefficient relations efficient – not to set them into action, but to establish a habit or general rule whereby they will act …” (8.332). Beyond invariance, an important issue in respect of the continuity of nature as it encompasses culture is that of the apparent impediment or blockage to straightforward development of a phenomenon. As will be seen in Chap.  8, the issue is occasionally overlooked in understandings of culture; invariably, though, there will be plenty of evidence to reveal that one or another cultural phenomenon has not had a smooth trajectory delivering it to its current stage of development. Instead, it will have been subject to overdetermination and uneven development. In Chap.  8, it will be shown that the descriptions of nature offered by biosemiotics need to be alive to overdetermination and unevenness, too. In the present chapter, the focus is on the conceptualisation of impediments to development, some of their consequences and how they are played out in relation to one aspect of culture in particular, the interface of the visual and the nonverbal more generally.


Nonverbal Communication Optical Channel Visual Artifact Repeat Part Advanced Species 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul Cobley
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Distinguished Visiting Professor, School of Foreign Languages and CulturesNanjing Normal UniversityNanjingChina
  2. 2.President of the International Association for Semiotic Studies; and Professor in Language and Media, School of Media and Performing ArtsMiddlesex UniversityLondonUK

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