21.Oct.2015 A Strip Mall Semeiotic

American philosopher Charles S. Peirce (pronounced “purse”) was an enigmatic figure.  On the one hand, his contemporaries acknowledged that he was a brilliant scholar.   Peirce not only created new schools of thought — he created entire disciplines.  But Peirce never achieved the type of success one would expect given his brilliance.  Instead, he spent most of his life unemployed in a Pennsylvania hinterland, mired in debt and fighting off bankruptcy — but still intellectually active, churning out volumes of largely unpublished manuscripts.  Joseph Brent, Charles Sanders Peirce: A Life (1998).  Scholars have posited that his professional failures were likely the result of his unconventional morality, his extravagances, his sometimes difficult personality (possibly the result of a painful neurological condition called trigeminal neuralgia), his divorce from his first wife, or his scandalous premarital connection with his second wife (who held herself out to be an Austrian princess).  Id.  When Peirce passed away, his (second) wife gave Harvard several trunks of uncollated drafts and scholars are still trying to piece them together.


Peirce’s theory of signs–his semeiotic–is perhaps one of his greatest accomplishments.  According to Peirce, “it has never been in my power to study anything,—mathematics, ethics, metaphysics, gravitation, thermodynamics, optics, chemistry, comparative anatomy, astronomy, psychology, phonetics, economics, the history of science, whist, men and women, wine, metrology, except as a study of semiotic.”  SS 85-86.  In its most elaborate form, Peirce contemplated at least sixty-six classes of signs.

Many have considered Peirce’s semiotic in the context of the built environment.  For example, Krampen provided a thorough explanation of Peirce’s semiotic theory in Meaning in the Urban Environment, but ultimately offered a lukewarm endorsement of its utility, concluding, “there could be some merit in suing the three relational sign dimensions as one option among others for classifying planning data or for generating research questions.”  Krampen, Meaning in the Urban Environment 50 (1979).  Offering more a more positive endorsement, M. Gottdiener explained that Peircean semiotics offered a number of advantages, including that it “acknowledges the existence of the object world,” it could deal with “all of culture, not just language or systems of communication,” and that there is “no clearly defined signified correlated specifically to a signifier” allowing for meaning to be “always a volatile process of interpretation.”  Gottdiener, Postmodern Semiotics 14 (1995).

However, Gottdiener acknowledged that Peirce’s classificatory scheme is “so complex that it hasn’t been used by subsequent logicians or even Peircean semioticians.” Gottdiener at 13.  Thus, while Gottdiener offers a series of very insightful readings of vernacular structures, such as shopping malls and subdivision names, he does not expressly analyze them using Peirce’s framework.  In this essay, I attempt to rigorously apply Peirce’s semeiotic to understand the built environment and in particular, the Pizza Hut roof.  In this way, I hope to provide a metaphysics of — or perhaps more accurately — a phenomenology of, the Pizza Hut roof.

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20.Sep.2015 Arby’s, Spokane WA (8/23/2014)

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The Arby’s sign shaped like a hat is an icon to the extent the sign represents a hat — but it is not an icon to the extent it represents Arby’s, because no Arby’s restaurant (to my knowledge) is shaped like a hat.  However, old Arby’s restaurant buildings, which were shaped like Conestoga wagons are icons to the extent they signify an actual Conestoga wagon.

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12.Sep.2015 Reading Period

A couple of things are percolating.  Volume 12 will be released eventually — I suspect though before the New Year.  Also, July 2016 will mark DR’s 10 year anniversary.  Plan on MAJOR CELEBRATIONS.


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20.Jun.2015 An Index of an Index














Index of an Index
A study in meta-semiology
New Rochelle, NY

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15.May.2015 Prelude to Infinite Semiosis (No. 2)


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Prelude to Infinite Semiosis (No. 2)
Icon, index, and symbol
New Rochelle, NY
Not far from the Sound

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16.Feb.2015 A Stalwart of the New Frontier


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25.Jan.2015 An Outlet Mall Typology

“The term factory outlet refers to stores in which manufacturers sell their goods directly to consumers, thereby saving the costs of distribution and retailing, some portion of which they pass on to consumers in the form of discounted prices.”   Marianne Conroy, Discount Dreams: Factory Outlet Malls, Consumption, and the Performance of Middle-Class Identify, 54 Social Text 63 at 65 (Spring, 1998).  Value Retail News defines an outlet center as “one in which 50% or more of the tenants are manufacturer’s outlets.”  Research Data, Value Retail News (archived 6/9/2008).

I propose that outlet malls can be classified according to the following types: (1) the factory, (2) the strip mall, (3) the cloisters, and (4) the walled city.

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Tanger Outlets, Williamsport IA

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06.Dec.2014 DR Vol. 12: Multimedia Presentation

Wizzerds of Rhyme and yours truly (Gary River) are very proud to present:

Try to find 10 examples of SIGNS that are not signs. #SIGNS.




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28.Nov.2014 Volume 12

SIGNS turned out to be an extraordinarily dense and challenging subject.

Volume 12 is still happening.

Just taking a little longer than expected.


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05.Jul.2014 Some Remarks on Half Lives’ Deep State EP


The Deep State EP by Half Lives (aka artist/musician Steve Wright) is a composition in the truest sense. Sure, the word “composition” is regularly used to describe any number of artistic forms: visual, written, acoustic, gustatory, aromatic. It does not require sustained reflection to realize that every song is a composition, “an aggregate; a composite substance.” Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary 207 (1916). But in the case of Deep State, the word, composition, is particularly appropriate. These songs are aggregates along several different axes. Along the first and most obvious axis, they constitute an exuberant and curated collection of sounds, samples, blips, beeps, and thumping beats. Along the second axis: the sounds are so pushed, pulled, layered, repeated, slowed down, and sped up that second order features start to emerge. But a third axis of aggregation: the revelry encoded in the generation of second axis. And a fourth axis of aggregation: temporal. Whereas in Country Bears and Hazerai, Wright’s guitar is draped over – complimenting perfectly – a hurtling chaotic engine, in Deep State, the structural roles are reversed!  Wright’s guitar parts still hover, but here they are more like the cables of a suspension bridge, the protective netting in a beehat, the nylon in a fish tank scooper. The sonic collection playing the part of the roadway, the beekeeper, the fish. This deeper structure only apparent with the advent of time and context.


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