## Keywords

editing, publishing, electronic journal, semiotics, AS/SA, éditer, publier, revue électronique, sémiotique

## How to Cite

Michelucci, P., & Marteinson, P. (1998). Paradigm Lost? Electronic Publishing and the Renewal of Research. Digital Studies/le Champ Numérique, (6). DOI: http://doi.org/10.16995/dscn.186

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We have all seen coverage of the Internet in the popular media. Its portrayal there is easily summarized: the World Wide Web is huge, and fast, but most of all it is new, which is to say, "weird and wonderful". Yet it appears to us that this vision, like the Internet it portrays, is much more fluff than substance. Indeed, it is not the sheer volume and speed of the Internet's infrastructure that endows it with the capacity to change the way we use information, but rather the tremendous opportunity the medium offers to promote the written word in the face of a predominantly iconic culture. The traditional print media, largely unaware of the way in which this new communicational universe might herald their ultimate demise, have proven unable or unwilling to appreciate these changes, and instead focus merely on the technical aspects of the electronic medium, and especially on the purely visual and visceral dimensions of the World Wide Web (rampant examples are real-time video, virtual shopping malls where you can actually see what is for sale and, of course, electronic pornography).

## 1. New Beginnings

Yet today, some five hundred years after the Gutenberg Galaxy was born -- a birth which proved to be more to the advantage of the natural sciences, it seems, since the trivium was then all but abandoned -- literate culture may have at its fingertips the means, or more precisely a medium, through which to effect an impressive rejuvenation; and thus its virtues could, like the Phoenix, rise from their still-smoldering ashes. [1] Ours, however, is not to reason why literacy has waned (despite the appearance of strength its demographic statistics might conjure in the mind), but rather to look ahead and recognize that the conditions necessary for a new coming to life are assembling. Indeed, the Internet today offers the humanities [2] the same tremendous possibilities the affluent printers of Renaissance Venice, such as Aldus, offered Greek scholars fleeing Constantinople in the mid-fifteenth century, which led to an unprecedented influx of knowledge to western Europe, and along with it a new cultural affinity toward the print medium, with its capacity for wide distribution, in addition to the development of a society whose demand for printed products was matched only by people's eagerness to make their views known in the new medium. In the present day, the next ten to twenty years will be crucial for the humanities, which we feel must corner a niche on the Internet and ensure a strong presence in it -- before television strikes back, when cable companies bring video-on-demand to individual home computers, and interest in the Web, like a wilting love, becomes mere habituation, its potential for real change lost.

This, essentially, is the source of our motivation behind founding Applied Semiotics / Sémiotique appliquée as an academic publication which one might say puts all its eggs in the Web's basket. Of course, you are asking, it's all very well and good to call for one's chariot of fire in the name of the humanities, but why within so young and esoteric a field as semiotics?

## 2. Cultural Studies vs. Semiotics

It is reasonable to assert that there is a market-driven move towards emphasizing "culture" in North-American language departments, which pushes the study of literature and language toward fields that have no historical claims to it -- namely the political and social sciences -- and significantly waters down its inherent strengths; cultural studies see language as a mere medium, and literature as a by-product -- not worth studying per se. At best, it surfaces in the form of thematic studies, like feminist readings whose theoretical operations, according to Diane Elam, could be described as: "1. find the women in the text; 2. women are oppressed in fill-in-the-blank; 3. women find their voice in fill-in-the-blank" (Elam 1995: 91) [3].

Interdisciplinarity might seem a good thing, as venerable divisions between disciplines (whose walls were traditionally buttressed by the "finality" of printed academic books) are weakened by declining budgets and a renewed openness which seems quite reasonably to call for more cross-field work. This fancy for interdisciplinary work is evidenced nowadays by the appearance of the by-now hackneyed metaphors of "bridges" and "crossroads" in North-American books and colloquia. But the point is that cultural studies are trying to mix oil and water: there is no natural affinity between the methods or objects of sciences that study facts and those that study artefacts -- for this would be like wedding medicine to opera, as Hutcheon and Hutcheon humorously suggest (Hutcheon & Hutcheon 1995). It is therefore doubtful that the fruits of "cultural studies", although perhaps of interest, will be of any real relevance to scholars of either language or literature.

From the semiotic vantage point, on the other hand, better compromises might be arrived at, as disciplinary semiotics historically proceeds through and draws upon a whole gamut of investigation -- ranging from classical philosophy, linguistic structuralism, biology and social thought -- that shares a keen interest in language and sign processes. Indeed, semiotics has, during the last fifteen years, crossed still more frontiers: semiotic narrative research is being adopted by psychologists, and cognitive scientists are now finding interest in the processing and storage of information, which has led them to draw upon semiotics. Unlike the pervasive "theory" that serves to rationalize cultural studies, and which is defined by Culler as "works that are studied outside their proper disciplinary matrix: students of theory read Freud without enquiring whether later psychological research may have disputed his formulations [4]", semiotic theory has a historical coherence through the commonality of the objects studied by theorists.

And yet there is such an overgrowth of semiotic theories [5] that we can hardly wish to see them multiply, preferring instead to begin pruning with Ockham's "razor", his famous second principle. This accounts for AS/SA's mandate being conceived as applied, and not pure, or simply descriptive (Morris 1970: 9) [6]. Moreover, concrete applications, which tend to propagate thought relevant to various fields that have an interest in signs, appear to us as the natural path toward a harmonization of research and teaching in the future. So electronic semiotic publishing, by making research on communicative processes more readily available, and by providing a forum accessible even to the novice, might well constitute the ideal linking of research and teaching -- a linking currently felt by teachers to be a leap of faith, and by students to be a plain big leap. The programme in semiotics at Brown University [7] provides a case in point, showing that the difficulty of drawing students into pointed research is not insurmountable when it passes through discrete applications rather than pure theorization.

That, briefly, is our account of the rationale behind the creation of a periodical devoted to semiotics on the Internet.

## 3. Publishing Today

Yet the academic journal, like the discipline to which it is usually adjunct, is also a time-honoured thing. Understanding this, and seeing a need to alleviate the widespread distrust and puzzlement felt toward the newest form assumed by periodicals -- electronic, ergo with the trappings of hard science -- and considering the difficulties of citing electronic text, by nature transient, unstable and intangible, we also had to ponder over the very role of the electronic periodical in the academic world.

## Bibliography

• AS/SA (1998). "Sites of Significance for Semiotics", Applied Semiotics / Sémiotique appliquée, <http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/french/as-sa/EngSem1.html> (English) / <http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/french/as-sa/SemFran1.html> (French).
• BARTHES, Roland (1994). "L'ancienne rhétorique", in Communications 16. Recherches rhétoriques, Paris: Seuil: 272-89.

• BOUISSAC, Paul (1990). "L'institution de la sémiotique: stratégies et tactiques", Semiotica 79 (3/4): 217-33.

• CARL UnCover (1998). <http://www-lib.iupui.edu/erefs/carl.html>.

• COSSETTE, Claude (1995). "Internet va-t-il remplacer le professeur?", Colloque sur les applications pédagogiques des technologies de l'information (27 avril 1995), Québec: Université Laval, IkonQuébec; <http://www.ulaval.ca/ikon/finaux/5-ecrpol/INTVAT.HTML>.

• CULLER, Johnathan (1982). On Deconstruction, Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

• CURTIUS, Ernst (1956). La littérature européenne et le Moyen Âge latin, translated by Jean Bréjoux, Paris: Presses Pocket: 83-147.

• ELAM, Diane (1995). "Getting into Theory", in Kreiswirth and Carmichael.

• GUÉDON, Jean-Claude (1994). "L'édition savante et l'autoroute électronique", Montréal: Centre de recherche en droit public de l'Université de Montréal, <http://www.droit.umontreal.ca/crdp/fr/equipes/technologie/conferences/ae/guedon.html>.

• HUTCHEON, Linda & Michael HUTCHEON (1995). "Interdisciplinary Possibilities: Opera and Medicine?", in Kreiswirth and Carmichael: 137-47.

• KREISWIRTH, Martin & Thomas CARMICHAEL, eds. (1995). Constructive Criticism. The Human Sciences in the Age of Theory, Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

• LANCASHIRE, Ian (1995). "The Electronic Highway in Teaching and Research in the Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences", Delivered at the Annual Meeting of the Canadian Conference of Deans of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (Toronto, May 15, 1995), <http://www.chass.utoronto.ca:8080/cch/essays/ccdahss.html>.

• LANDOW, George P. (1998). Brown University's Storyspace Cluster, Brown University, <http://www.stg.brown.edu/projects/hypertext/landow/SSPCluster/Welcome.html>.

• MELJAC, Claire & Gérard DELOCHE (1995). "Faut-il imiter Ptolémée? Le psychologue et ses modèles imaginaires", Texte 17/18: 269-80.

• MICHON, Jacques (1994). "An International Conference Devoted to the Theme 'Publishing and the Power Structure'", Canadian Journal of Communication 19:2; <http://hoshi.cic.sfu.ca/calj/cjc/BackIssues/19.2/michon.html>.

• MILLS, Sara (1995). Feminist Stylistics, London: Routledge.

• MORIN, Edgar (1979). Le paradigme perdu: la nature humaine, Paris: Seuil.

• MORRIS, Charles (1970 [1938]). Foundations of the Theory of Signs, Chicago: Chicago U P.

• NÖTH, Winfried (1995). Handbook of Semiotics, Bloomington: Indiana U P.

• RASTIER, François (1990). "La sémantique des textes et l'approche interprétative", Champs du signe 3: 181-7.

• TODOROV, Tzvetan (1981). Mikhaïl Bakhtine. Le principe dialogique, Paris: Seuil.

• UNSWORTH, John (1995). "Networked Scholarship: The Effects of Advanced Technology on Research in the Humanities", Charlottesville: I.A.T.H., University of Virginia in Charlottesville; <http://jefferson.village.virginia.edu/~jmu2m/gateways.html>.

• VICKERS, Brian (1988) "The Atrophy of Modern Rhetoric, Vico to De Man", Rhetorica Winter 6:1: 21-56.

#### Authors

Pascal Michelucci (University of Toronto)
Peter Marteinson (University of Toronto)

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0

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