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Semiosis and Catastrophes

René Thom’s Semiotic Heritage


Edited By Wolfgang Wildgen and Per Aage Brandt

The French mathematician René Thom (Fields medal 1958) died in 2002. In this volume his contributions to biology, semiotics and linguistics are discussed by a group of scholars who have continued his work and have shaped the new paradigm of dynamic semiotics and linguistics. Thom’s heritage is full of revolutionary ideas and deep insights which stem from a rich intuition and a sharp awareness of the current state of the sciences, including their potentials and risks. The contributions to this volume are elaborations of papers given at a colloquium at the International Center for Semiotics and Linguistics of the University of Urbino (Italy), in 2005.
The central concern of this volume is semiogenesis, i.e. the evolution and differentiation of meaningful («pregnant») forms in the field of symbolic systems – from bio-communication to language and cultural forms like music, art, architecture or urban forms. The basic questions are: How are meanings created and further differentiated? Where do they come from? What kind of forces drive their unfolding? How can complex cultural forms be understood based on simple morphodynamic principles?
Applications concern the perception of forms by animals and humans, the categorization of forms e.g. in a lexicon, and predication or other complex symbolic behaviors which show up in grammar or in cultural artifacts like the unfolding of urban centers.


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ISABEL MARCOS Urban Universals 101


Urban Universals ISABEL MARCOS 1. Introduction The subject of my article will be to enumerate the three consequences that we can draw from the following phrase: I believe that the city is not, and should not be, an amorphous space where the diverse architectural interventions float like a whole lot of islands. The city is, as I have demonstrated by my doctoral research (1996), a dy- namic topology which is deployed in history. Following that, within the body of the article, I shall explicate at length the latest inferences drawn from the above phrase. On this subject, I shall analyse an “iluminura (illuminated picture)” dating from the times of King Dom Manuel (1495–1521). Indeed, the reign of this king marked a key mo- ment, that of the structuring of a new style of society, the Great Discoveries being without doubt the starting event. The iluminura chosen embodies this epoch and through its pictorial devices represents a dynamic topology which deploys diverse temporalities. 1st Inference From a theoretical point of view, the perspective offered enables one to think out the city form through an evolving cartographic representation in three strata (cf. Figure 1). This article has been made possible thanks to the support of the Foundation of Science and Technology of Portugal and the e-GEO – the Centre of Geographical and Regional Development Studies – Universidade Nova de Lisboa. The diagrams were conceived and realised by Isabel Marcos and Catarina Bello. This article was translated from the origi- nal text in French...

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