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Advertising and the Predation Loop: A Biosemiotic Model

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The basic premise of biosemiotics as a discipline is that there are elementary processes linking signifying strategies in all forms of animate life. Correspondingly, the discoveries of biosemiotics should, in principle, be capable of revealing new insights about human signification. In the present article, I show that this is in fact the case by constructing a biosemiotic model that links advertising strategies with corresponding structures in animal predation. The methodological framework for this model is the catastrophe theory of René Thom. The end result is a revised understanding of an ostensibly cultural phenomenon that demonstrates its continuity with signalling processes conventionally associated with the natural world.

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  1. Although limitations of space preclude a sustained discussion here, it is worth remarking on the deep similarities linking Thom’s account of salience and Roman Jakobson’s notion of markedness (see Waugh 1976). This latter concept – which has since undergone significant amplification in a variety of fields (see Schleffer [1987], Golston [1996]) – deals with the phonological and semantic markers that nominate one term of a binary opposition as being a local case of the other, more general, term. Thus, in the ‘male’ vs ‘female’ opposition, the English suffix ‘-ess’ marks female as a derivative case of the default male category (as in ‘lion’ vs ‘lioness’). In Thom’s system, the characteristic of salience can be equivalently seen as a form of perceptual markedness that identifies a form against a more general background.


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Correspondence to James Carney.

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Carney, J. Advertising and the Predation Loop: A Biosemiotic Model. Biosemiotics 1, 313–327 (2008).

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