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Unfolding the Semiotic Web in Urban Discourse

In Scientific Cooperation with Daina Teters


Edited By Zdzislaw Wasik

The main focus of this volume is on urbanity as a discursive way of human life in the city. Discourse is specified here in terms of semiotic codes and processes that link city dwellers as communicating selves into interpersonal and intersubjective collectivities when they create and interpret similar meanings embodied in material bearers. Accordingly, the unfolding of the semiotic web is understood, firstly, as detecting and evaluating the growth and manifestation of the sphere of meaning-bearers or a sequence of meaning-bearing events, and secondly, as identifying and explaining the constituents and aspects of discourse in the light of signs and/or sign-processes that aggregate individual participants of communication into discursive linkages on a lower level and discursive communities – on a higher level of social grouping. Some contributions deal with the discursive properties of human individuals in urban environments, and some others are devoted either to the meta-discourses on the city or discourses in the city.


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Richard L. Lanigan: Slugging: The nonce sign in an urban communicology of transportation 143


Richard L. Lanigan INTERNATIONAL COMMUNICOLOGY INSTITUTE, WASHINGTON, DC Slugging: The nonce sign in an urban communicology of transportation 1. Introduction What does an 18th century printer’s slug in hand type setting have to do with big city “car pooling” in the 21st century? How does a single, new traffic law create an urban discourse? The answer to these questions is “slugging”. The term names the activity of “organized hitchhiking” or “instant car pooling”. As with any human group activity, an entire dis- course and system of communication emerged to facilitate the efficient operation of this communicology. The foundation of the slugging dis- course is a semiotic system based on the nonce sign, i.e., a sign used to signify a missing unit in a system that in turn allows the system to be coherent. More familiar nonce signs are the zero (0) in a number system (1–9) or the pause – the word itself is a nonce symbol – in speaking that creates units of sound articulation (phrases) in discourse formation and units of kinesic practice (gesture) formation (cf. Leach 1976). The more common nonce sign for anyone who uses a computer is the flashing in- sertion line, the cursor, on the computer screen. The cursor is the perfect examples since it is constantly present, then absent – a prototypical nonce sign of both Present-Absence and Absent-Presence! Simply put, a slug was originally a blank piece of metal used by type- setters to create spaces (or blank) between words to form a sentence....

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