Is visual culture a by-product of the repression of nonverbal communication?

Cobley, Paul ORCID logoORCID: (2017) Is visual culture a by-product of the repression of nonverbal communication? In: Semiotics and Visual Communication II: Culture of Seduction. Zantides, Evripides, ed. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, pp. 2-14. ISBN 9781527500020. [Book Section]

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There has been very little work carried out on the process by which nonverbal communication is repressed in human development. Yet this repression is institutionalised at an early age by speech therapists and numerous “medical” tests to ensure that children are developing grammar. There has been opposition to, and struggle against, such linguistic imperialism — for example, Bill Stokoe contributed to deaf people’s self-determination in the early 1960s by demonstrating that American sign language (ASL) had grammatical principles at its fundament (Maher 1997). However, even this example leans towards a linguistic incarnation of communication and, in general, nonverbal communication in humans — gesture, proxemics, kinesics, music, visual communication of bodily changes — is viewed as a supplement to spoken language. Sebeok’s (1988) (re)formulation of primary modeling, on the other hand, shows that human “language” consists of an innate modelling device (geared to cognitive differentiation) which has become exapted for speech communication only in the last few hundred thousand years of the 2 million year history of the species (starting from Homo habilis).

This paper investigates the grounds for considering that nonverbal communication is the subject of repression, ontogenetically and phylogenetically. It also asks whether such repression – if it takes places – is responsible for the character of humans’ visual culture. Utilising Hoffmeyer’s concept of ‘semiotic freedom’, it argues that there is a need to investigate the choices that get rejected (and why), particularly as they may later become choices once more or there may be opportunities for the organism to revisit or relive the moment of choice. The article asks whether visual communication seems susceptible of analysis on a linguistic basis as a result of neglecting the rejected choices in human communication as a whole.

Item Type: Book Section
Additional Information: The chapters in the book "Semiotics and Visual Communication II: Culture of Seduction" consist of selected papers presented at the 2nd International Conference and Poster Exhibition on Semiotics and Visual Communication at the Cyprus University of Technology in October 2015.
Research Areas: A. > School of Media and Performing Arts > Media > English Language and Literature
Item ID: 20011
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Depositing User: Paul Cobley
Date Deposited: 14 Jun 2016 15:54
Last Modified: 07 Jun 2022 00:20

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