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Unformatted text preview: opic scale to the family first shown at 101 and moves in an opposite direction along a microscopic scale to cells, atoms, and quarks—up to 10‐16. The images are shown at integral powers of ten but the film could easily have shown images at fractions of integers. I use the video to pose the question: “Where along that continuum does reality lie?” The answer is everywhere—there are no non‐divisible elemental units of nature, at least not at the scales of our experience. Reality as we experience it—for anyone, anytime, at any place—is an entity that emerges at a specified level of discursive aggregation for a selected set of attributes. How could it be any other way? 7 Figure 2. Powers of Ten–Ranging from 1024 to 10‐17 Discursive differentiation As we have seen, representation of an object involves, first, selecting attributes to represent, and second, choosing a level of discursive aggregation. The third semiotic principle is discursive differentiation, that is, naming the object to differentiate it from everything else. We use can any term to illustrate this concept. For example, the word “a girl” implies that we are talking about people as opposed to animals or physical objects such as rocks and plants. The term further differentiates people by gender—female as opposed to male, and then within female there is a further differentiation by age to give us the term “a girl” (Figure 3). This is how language works; every conversation is a streaming flow of acts of differentiation, of grouping and regrouping, and of classification. This is the larger point that Foucault (1973) makes in his classic book, The Order of Things; we bring order to the world through classification and naming. 8 Figure 3. All meaning occurs in a space of difference A simple traffic light is another example of how meaning arises from difference (Figure 4). The connection of the color “red” to the concept of “stop” is totally arbitrary (any other color would serve if we agreed on that) and its meaning arises from its location in a space of difference occupied by...
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