Semiotic manipulation as an essential skill

Semiotics can be large or small in our minds.

We must be aware of this and also be able to change their sizes and positions when warranted.

For example, my partner and I are looking for a home to buy. All of my life I have loved square houses. They always did something special for me, so we tended to look at more square houses than we would have if the square-house semiotic had not be so prominent in my architectural semioitc network (all the things I group together as desirable architectural features).

The other day we viewed a square home that came off as cramped and boring to me. After viewing it, I told my partner that I am done with square houses being a thing for me. I spent a couple more sentences explaining my change of heart to her and now she knows and we are both done with that.

Recently, something similar happened to her, or my understanding of her concerning shakes. We both thought (for slightly different reasons) that she liked them more than she did. She explained to me that she thought that the shake semiotic had grown too big—become a thing—and that we should demote it. We both did that quickly and now both shakes and squareness occupy different places in our individual and shared semiotic networks involved with home-buying and architecture.

I would maintain that if you can’t make semiotic changes like the above as an individual and with important friends, you aren’t using your mind properly.

The architectural examples cited above are easy to understand because they have a clear material foundation and because they do not elicit passionate feelings.

But just because strong feelings may be elicited by semiotics and semiological manipulation does not mean they should not be similarly amenable to analysis and change.

Politics is a good example of a field that runs almost exclusively on semiotic manipulation. Is McCain a hero or a coward? Is Trump strong or bull-headed? Is Hillary a progressive or a crook?

Arguments like those have already begun and will continue to go back and forth during the presidential campaign. We have shallow politics largely because semiotic manipulation is always the rule in politics.

Here is an example of an in-depth semiotic analysis of one aspect of the current state of American politics: The Cuckservative Phenomenon.

Without ever using the word semiotics, the author consciously wields a very sharp semiotic sword that amply reveals the power of signs and symbols over our minds. Whatever you think of the linked essay, it should be clear that it is often simpler to conquer a people with semiotics than with actual weapons.

Now, I would further maintain that semiotic analysis and manipulation must not stop with simple architectural examples or end at the the public sphere with analyses of political symbols and their uses and abuses by media and prominent figures.

Semiotic understanding and the ability to manipulate signs and symbols is also essential to interpersonal communication and psychological analysis.

You cannot possibly form a deeply satisfying intimate relationship with another human being if you cannot analyze and manipulate your individual and shared uses of semiotics. You also cannot possibly fully understand your own or others’ psychologies if you do not understand their idiosyncratic semiologies, what they are, how they are formed, how “meaning” is appended to them.

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