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Signata 16 / Semiotics of Space in the Era of Computational Logic and Digital Practices: A Contemporary Perspective

Cristina Voto, Enzo D’Armenio et Aluminé Rosso

Contacts and Timetable

Please send your papers to the following email addresses: cristina.voto@unito.it, Enzo.DArmenio@uliege.be, aarosso@uliege.be, and signata.annales@gmail.com

November 24, 2023: sending of the proposals for invited papers and publication of the CFP

April 30, 2024: deadline for receiving the first versions of the papers

September 30, 2024: deadline for receiving the final versions of the papers

December 10, 2024: corrected proofs

April 2025: publication of the special issue

Special Issue

This special issue of Signata aims to revisit the relationship between spatiality and meaning, examining it through the lens of computational performances and digital practices that characterise the current algorithmic era.

In the humanities, the production of meaning has always had a privileged relationship with the spatial dimension. Emmanuel Kant (1781) had already conceived of space and time as a priori categories of human experience. Likewise, Charles Sanders Peirce believed that perception was inherently driven by a diagrammatic and therefore spatial functioning (Stjernfelt 2007). Although semiotics as a discipline has developed specific reflections on spatial enunciation (Hammad 2003)—comprehending it as the emergence and structuring of meaning in human spaces (such as museums and architectural sites) and non-human spaces (the natural space understood as resulting from interspecies choices and as grounding the relations underlying sign production; cf. Uexküll 1982, Maran and Kull 2014, Kull 2018, Farina 2021)—spatiality is a dimension that profoundly shapes any form of enunciative activity.

The digital revolution, sustained by computational logic, is restructuring the traditional conceptions of semiotic spatiality. Enunciated spaces within discourse (Benveniste 1970, Fontanille 1989, Dondero 2020), understood as projections in spaces other than the I-here-now of experience (Bertrand 2000, Odin 2000), are being autonomised into virtual spaces that syncretize worlds of discourse and physical spaces. The technical spaces of production, which involve material work on substrates and purport (Eco 1976, Soto 2014, Fontanille 2008, D’Armenio 2022a), become pure computational spaces in the productions realised using AI generative software such as Stable Diffusion and ChatGPT (Manovich and Arielli 2021, Bordron and Dondero 2023). Enunciative spaces, such as museums, cities and architecture (Greimas 1974, Guerri 2012, Violi 2014, Pezzini 2011), become hybridised with heterogeneous forms of digital spatiality.

Semiotics of Space in the Era of Computational Logic and Digital Practices: A Contemporary Perspective aims to reflect on these forms of semiotic spatiality, exploring the impact of computational practices of production and of digital spaces of interpretation along three main research axes:

  1. Firstly, this issue aims to explore epistemological reflections related to computational spatiality. While digital practices are fuelled by a logic of pure computation (Bachimont 2017), virtually insensitive to the semantic forms of human meaning-making, their performances always rely on a distinctive enunciative infrastructure: that of the Turing machine (Valle and Mazzei 2017). The latter consists of a memory tape where each position is identified by a unique symbol, a reading head, and a program that prescribes the machine’s behaviour in an unambiguous manner. Furthermore, the logical and abstract space of computation, in order to become meaningful (Basso Fossali 2017), is embedded within the physical and social space through specific inscription forms, defined by Ed Finn (2017) as implementations.
    This axis offers, therefore, an opportunity to epistemologically frame the status of digital practices in relation to spatiality. It encompasses enunciated and enunciating digital spaces such as virtual reality and video games (Pinotti 2020a, D’Armenio 2022b), enunciational mediation between computational systems and physical spaces through social implementations, technical spaces of computational production involving deep learning techniques such as the deepfake (Leone 2023a, Viola and Voto 2023), and spaces of enunciation that blend the real and the computational, such as in museal, heritage, and artistic practices associated with the virtual (Voto 2021).

  2. Secondly, this issue aims to create a space for reflection on the latent spatialities as a potential place for enunciation between human and artificial agency. From a semiotic perspective, we can define the latent space as tied to a mode of production that represents a statistical form of reasoning for the world, based on a dataset of cultural signs (Voto 2022). The latent space is the mathematical space where what an artificial neural network, or computational model, has learned during training is mapped—specifically, during the phase where it learns to develop effective algorithms for performing certain tasks. It is the space of creative possibilities where the coordinates of all possible outputs are defined. However, it is a pure space: an unlimited possibility. Yet, when a computational model is trained, the space of possibilities narrows. In this sense, the latent space takes shape during the compression of input data, namely the training data, and during the step preceding the output—a step that usually remains invisible to the human eye. This spatiality encompasses all the characteristics that the data possess, but in potentiality. Hence, the term “latency” is used since this space is only accessible to algorithms and not to users, unless explicit visualization operations are performed (Leone 2023b).

  3. The third axis will welcome reflections on heritage practices and artistic productions that exploit computational logic to generate mixed forms of spatiality between the physical and the digital. The intersection between the latent space governed by algorithmic logic and exhibition practices is leading to a progressive and heterogeneous virtualisation of museum, gallery and artistic spaces (Cameron 2003, Kholeif 2018, Winesmith & Anderson 2020). Virtual spaces set up within the framework of virtual and augmented reality technologies are seen to take the form of artistic explorations of social forms of life (Traversa 2014, Verón 1998, 2013), as in the case of the interactive experience Carne y arena by A.G. Iñárritu (Pinotti 2020b), which digitally reproduces the experience of Mexican migrants in the desert wandering between Mexico and the USA. Museum spaces accommodate progressive virtual mediations (Verón 1992, Huyssen 1994, Giannini & Bowen 2019, Geismar 2021), ranging from the diffusion of native digital museums, completely unconstrained by any spatiality of reception other than that of an abstract and explorable space assembling the artistic works, to mixed exhibition spaces, which integrate the physical and virtual to build interpretative and analytical implementations (Beer 2020). As in the project “Augmented Artwork Analysis. Computer-aided Interpretation Device for Art Images—AAA” (http://icar.cnrs.fr/aaa/), these forms of spatial hybridisation involve an overlapping of enunciation devices (Verón 2004, Rosso 2022) configuring new ways of access to the artistic experience engaging the institutional and aesthetic dimensions, and enhancing the semiotic and interpretative tools available to the visitor.

Semiotics of Space in the Era of Computational Logic and Digital Practices: A Contemporary Perspective sets out to reframe semiotic reflection on spatiality through a global exploration of the digital implementations operated by means of computational systems.

Semiotics of Space in the Era of Computational Logic and Digital Practices: A Contemporary Perspective will include three sections organised around three axes: “Epistemologies on space and computation”, “Latent spaces of enunciation” and “Expository practices and virtual spaces”.

Each section will welcome up to five papers that will be selected from the proposals received in response to the CFP.

Presentation of the Editors

Cristina Voto

Cristina Voto is a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Turin, where she holds a fellowship as part of the ERC-funded project FACETS. At the same university, she is also an Adjunct Professor in Philosophy of Communication and Design Languages at the Department of Philosophy and Educational Sciences. Additionally, she is a Professor in Audiovisual Structures for Electronic Arts at the National University of Tres de Febrero in Argentina, where she co-directs the interdisciplinary research project “The Performative Constructions of the Archive”. Furthermore, she is a member of the Scientific Committee of the PhD in Design and Creation at the University of Caldas in Colombia. She has been a visiting researcher at the Department of Computer Science at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. With a foundation in posthuman and gender/queer perspectives, her academic research focuses on semiotics, digital arts, artificial intelligence, and design studies. She has published a monograph titled Monstruos audiovisuales. Agentividad, movimiento y morfología (Audiovisual Monsters: Agency, Movement, and Morphology, 2021) in addition to co-editing collective volumes and authoring numerous scientific articles in English, Italian, and Spanish. She serves as a curator of the Biennial of the Moving Image of Buenos Aires.

Enzo D’Armenio

Enzo D’Armenio is a F.R.S.-FNRS post-doctoral researcher at the University of Liège where he conducts the project “KineticEgo — Les performances identitaires dans les jeux vidéo et la réalité virtuelle. Une généalogie des médias visuels fondée sur le concept de mouvement”, dedicated to the interactive images of video games and virtual reality. He has been the principal investigator of the Marie Curie (Individual Fellowship) project “IMACTIS — Fostering Critical Identities Through Social Media Archival Images” (www.imactis.eu), in which he analysed identity images on social networks. He has published articles for international journals such as Visual Communication, Semiotica, and New Techno-Humanities. He is also the author of the monograph Mondi paralleli. Ripensare l’interattività nei videogiochi (Unicopli, 2014).

Aluminé Rosso

Aluminé Rosso, Buenos Aires, Argentina: PhD candidate at the University of Liège and University of Lyon (ICAR laboratory). Master in Critique and Diffusion of Arts (UNA). Expert in Contemporary Art Curating (USAL). Bachelor of Science in Communication (UADE). Degree in Strategic Marketing Direction (UADE). She is a member of the research team for the Augmented Artwork Analysis (AAA) project directed by Pierluigi Basso, which aims to produce a device for analyzing a corpus of artworks from partner museums: the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon, the Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille and the Musée National d’Histoire et d’Art du Luxembourg. Ms. Rosso has been an active member of the Research and Experimentation Institute of Art and Criticism (IIEAC) since 2018. She studies the visitor experience in modern and contemporary art museums and the configuration of meaning in the exhibition space in Europe and America. She is currently Professor of Arts and Media, and Art and Market (USAL). Between 2017 and 2020, she was Professor of Curatorial Projects III and Semiotics of the Arts (UNA), Professor of Art History (UCES) and Coordinator of Institutional Communication in the areas of Criticism and Diffusion of Arts (UNA).

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