Signal Field Theory in Ecological Semiotics

Elina Vladimirova, John Mozgovoy

Department of Zoology

Samara State University

Academkika Pavlova St, Samara

Russia 443011


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The theory that we are about to illustrate furnishes an explanation of the animals" inter population and among species communication phenomena. We shall deal with small predator mammals that live naturally near the city of Samara (Russia, the Volga Region), such as the red fox, the pine marten, the ermine (short-tailed weasel) and the least weasel. Latin names are Vulpes vulpes (L.), Martes martes (L.), Mustela erminea (L.) and Mustela nivalis (L.). Studies of information transfer in populations make it possible to come to some conclusions about the mechanisms of sign processes for the above-mentioned animals.We have researched some integration processes in small predatory solitary living mammals.

We have been interested in the nature of animal communication based on information received by them through their habitat characteristics without any direct visual contacts with their kind. To formulate these theoretical statements we have conducted many field observations and applied some original author"s techniques.

There are a number of works devoted to animal sign interaction nowadays in biosemiotics, sociobiology, and ethology. This interaction in the situation of spontaneous contact may be represented by a dialogue or some directed information translation. Additionally, many animal species that lead solitary lives live and interact through their information environment. While directly contacting, animals transfer some significant information about their own state, their environment, they may establish a contact with their partners deliberately and expect their response. More often in nature we witness a situation when some information exchange among the individuals inhabiting the same or adjacent territories takes place without any communicative intention of the information sender. An animal in the course of its natural life activity changes its habitat. Later on an addressee who, in its turn, is changing the environment in some way and leaving his life activity information for the visitors to come "reads" this information. So the outerenvironment accumulates the information of animals" life activity and can store the information for a long time; the information is perceived by other animals as their habitat characteristics and as some communicative knowledge. Our field research has demonstrated that the same species life activity signs, left in their common environment are more important for the animals than some abiotic information.

While working with the technique offered below, an animal sign interaction researcher is not dealing with the "objective habitat environment" but with a "signal information field". In the course of the movements of a recipient animal in its own or in group signal field, sign information is simultaneously being read and created for those individuals that are expected to come to the territory later. The signal field technique allows us to split up the continuous information flow into quanta in which signifiers correlate with signified meanings. Now it"s possible to take into consideration not only the subject but also the quantity of some sign information, to measure any sign behavior, which allows us to process observation results mathematically, to model automatic regulation processes, based on individuals" sign interaction. While using our signal field techniques you can formulate the real variability of the elements composing some information continuum. Moreover the formalization takes place, as far as it is possible, on the basis of environment perception by sign information natural users.

Jackob von Uexküll  used the concept "Umwelt" to describe "the autonomous existence" of animals (Uexküll, 2001: 108). We support this idea, which refers to the ecological niche of information, as it appears to and is experienced by, that animal. We have attempted to carry out animal subjectivity investigation by means of calculations. The individual inner world subjectivity determines individual signal field characteristics. The signal fields possess parameters that can be measured. Signal field indices depend on both the habitat environment state and the given animal"s reference to some species. The informative processes will result in a population integration effect, and then in an ecological structure adjustment regulation.

The theory and the technique corresponding to it have been tested on ecological empirical material. We believe that practical significance of the signal field theory has passed beyond ecology limits. The theory makes it possible to take into consideration both the subjectivity and the quantity of sign information in semiotic systems, which are organized respectively according to the hierarchy principle.

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