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The agency of matter and controversy. : A methodological merging of semiotic models of space.

Sandin, Gunnar LU (2012) Global Semiotics: Bridging Different Civilizations
Abstract (Swedish)
In the domain of current spatial semiotics two important, but also radically different, approaches can be distinguished as modelling the co-operative agency of human, material and legal properties of space, namely that of Manar Hammad’s and that of Bruno Latour’s. Hammad, being a semiotician, more true to the Greimasian heritage, regards a finite set of principal actantial types (owners, visitors, authorizers, and material partitions), while Latour, who is more openly critical of structuralist and typological approaches, suggests a more open-ended model as far as the types of actants concern. Both approaches render the production of space in societies or communities from an agency perspective, and these models allow a semiotic analysis of... (More)
In the domain of current spatial semiotics two important, but also radically different, approaches can be distinguished as modelling the co-operative agency of human, material and legal properties of space, namely that of Manar Hammad’s and that of Bruno Latour’s. Hammad, being a semiotician, more true to the Greimasian heritage, regards a finite set of principal actantial types (owners, visitors, authorizers, and material partitions), while Latour, who is more openly critical of structuralist and typological approaches, suggests a more open-ended model as far as the types of actants concern. Both approaches render the production of space in societies or communities from an agency perspective, and these models allow a semiotic analysis of architectural and urban space, that regards the operative impact of environmental and material circumstances as vital for the understanding of social space. This actantial analysis opens for instance for the issue of the negotiability of space, and for the determination of spatial accessibility. In comparison, the philosophical concept of spatial otherness as stated by Foucault (heterotopia) must be seen more as a description existing spatial divisions and an overall historical rendering of societal trends, and not so much about the constitution mechanisms. A heterotopic point of view may of course nevertheless help deconstructing authoritative categorization in its rendering of specific places’ dependency on the societal web and its institutional authorization. However, a view more concerned with the actual operators in spatial production will acknowledge that actors are found, rather than brought to the situation of study. The actors that have decisive impact on space, major as well as minor ones, have thus to be ‘followed’ in their defining of spatial activities, and they can be found through the locating of controversies in connection with spatial activities, such as the establishment of new architecture or new city parts. One would also, in an effort to avoid dichotomic (either-or) ways of locating possible spatial controverses, allow a gradual view where actants rise and expire, grow and diminish, transform or stay intact as the sociological processes go on. If Latour’s emphasis on letting the actants themselves decide the grouping of will and matter (rather than having the researcher's mind doing it beforehand), is added to Foucault’s otherness approach and Hammad’s typological variations, one may see a methodological pattern of how to investigate the agencies of urban/rural space production. Such a “merged” model, of otherwise partly incompatible theoretic origins, would then build upon a methodological succession, or analytical-temporal procedure, that should preferably await stabilisation as long as possible, in order not to loose its applicability to unexpected data or studies. This successive – and in practice necessarily temporal – analytic procedure would open for a Latourian re-evaluation of found actors, while allowing also Hammad’s scale of recurrent spatial actors a comparative role as providing catalytic and complementary actantial types. It is here argued that with such a “merged” model, the regular, as well as the spontaneous operators of a (studied) spatial production will appear. (Less)
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keywords
semiotics, agency
conference name
Global Semiotics: Bridging Different Civilizations
language
English
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yes
id
31858cd5-be89-484f-bd01-04d206ebbc83
date added to LUP
2017-03-15 17:53:13
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2017-04-06 17:04:28
@misc{31858cd5-be89-484f-bd01-04d206ebbc83,
  abstract     = {In the domain of current spatial semiotics two important, but also radically different, approaches can be distinguished as modelling the co-operative agency of human, material and legal properties of space, namely that of Manar Hammad’s and that of Bruno Latour’s. Hammad, being a semiotician, more true  to the Greimasian heritage, regards a finite set of principal actantial types (owners, visitors, authorizers, and material partitions), while Latour, who is more openly critical of structuralist and typological approaches, suggests a more open-ended model as far as the types of actants concern. Both approaches render the production of space in societies or communities from an agency perspective, and these models allow a semiotic analysis of architectural and urban space, that regards the operative impact of environmental and material circumstances as vital for the understanding of social space. This actantial analysis opens for instance for the issue of the negotiability of space, and for the determination of spatial accessibility. In comparison, the philosophical concept of spatial otherness as stated by Foucault (heterotopia) must be seen more as a description existing spatial divisions and an overall historical rendering of societal trends, and not so much about the constitution mechanisms.  A heterotopic point of view may of course nevertheless help deconstructing authoritative categorization in its rendering of specific places’ dependency on the societal web and its institutional authorization. However, a view more concerned with the actual operators in spatial production will acknowledge that actors are found, rather than brought to the situation of study. The actors that have decisive impact on space, major as well as minor ones, have thus to be ‘followed’ in their defining of spatial activities, and they can be found through the locating of controversies in connection with spatial activities, such as the establishment of new architecture or new city parts. One would also, in an effort to avoid dichotomic (either-or) ways of locating possible spatial controverses, allow a gradual view where actants rise and expire, grow and diminish, transform or stay intact as the sociological processes go on. If Latour’s emphasis on letting the actants themselves decide the grouping of will and matter (rather than having the researcher's mind doing it beforehand), is added to Foucault’s otherness approach and Hammad’s typological variations, one may see a methodological pattern of how to investigate the agencies of urban/rural space production. Such a “merged” model, of otherwise partly incompatible theoretic origins, would then build upon a methodological succession, or analytical-temporal procedure, that should preferably await stabilisation as long as possible, in order not to loose its applicability to unexpected data or studies. This successive – and in practice necessarily temporal – analytic procedure would open for a Latourian re-evaluation of found actors, while allowing also Hammad’s scale of recurrent spatial actors a comparative role as providing catalytic and complementary actantial types. It is here argued that with such a “merged” model, the regular, as well as the spontaneous operators of a (studied) spatial production will appear.},
  author       = {Sandin, Gunnar},
  keyword      = {semiotics,agency},
  language     = {eng},
  title        = {The agency of matter and controversy. : A methodological merging of semiotic models of space.},
  year         = {2012},
}