4.08.2007

Animal Communication

Has it really been that long since I posted? Wow! Lots has happened, though: a new job, house hunting (unsuccessful so far), another chapter done... now if I can just finish grading papers by tomorrow.

Until then, I was watching Nature again, this time about cephalopods, those foot-headed protoypes for Cthulhu. Anyway, some species communicate through rapid color changes in skin pigmentation. This reminded me of insects and pheremone use, not to mention elephant's ability to register infrasound frequencies. So, with other species, we have ample evidence of systems of communications that are radically different from our own. Or are they?

Applying Gibson's theory of perception, I have to ask if communication is really just an affordance. Since an affordance is some potential that exists in one's environment -- defined so that one's "perceptual array" includes one's own body -- then manipulating the body to signal meaning would be the basis for communication, at least the basic unit.

Of course, this puts the onus on organisms as meaning-making animals and I'm not entirely sure this is an accurate assumption. It implies intent. Even we humans sometimes communicate unintentionally. So, taking ecological perception one step further and seeing other organisms as part of the perceptual field, sometimes affordances themselves (crabs use other organisms and myriad insects see others as good egg laying sites, i.e., seeing them as locations with potential in the environment, not as "food source").

So, with this in mind, we might test whether or not organisms read rather than write. If they do, then the world is abuzz with (pun intended) and literally saturated with meaning. Organisms are still meaning-making but not as intentional. Derrida would be more right than even he might have claimed.

But this isn't really my point since putting this to any kind of testing would be difficult beyond compare. Rather, my point here is that this disrupts writing theory to a large degree, making visual script (just) one more system among systems and, more importantly, less a methodical means to transmit meaning as an elaboration of

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Not always theoretical... not even always academic.. but always written..