Donnerstag, 4. Februar 2016

Semiotics of Camouflage - An essay on Skóggángr philosophy

The term skóggángr refers to being in the forest for exile. It has an affinity to spirituality, survival and martial arts, and I have established it to sum up an activity that´s not new, but has never been combined that way in a consequent manner.

The primary idea is that while the term "skóggángr" in the times of early Scandinavian medieval age and the so - called "Viking age" referred to the process of being banned from the community of man (which often equalled a death sentence), its modern use is somewhat different. It has to do something with keeping one´s psychological, mental and physical health, if not with bugging out and surviving.

According to my observations, many people in modern society suffer from more or less grave psychological problems. Most people in leading positions are arguably in very poor psychological condition, if not mentally ill. A big part of the population is living a life depending on the authority of phone and internet providers, product identities and fashions and are very much ruled  by antidemocratic forces. In Germany, clinical studies some years ago have depicted that every third person in modern German society suffers from burn-out depression or a similar mental disease. Personally, I´d rather say that every person in Germany does at one point or the other.

Skóggángr is a term for my very own, personal escape. It does in no way claim to be "the next big thing", and I want to beg of my readers to take it all "cum grano salis". It´s just a way of living - and fighting, or better yet, avoiding a fight, if  you so will. To me, it offers a strategy to survive a life that is not exactly easy and have fun with it.

It might be escapism or an escape strategy, and the difference in terminology does not matter at all here. As a "martial art", if it can be called that way, it is aimed at being primarily defensive, and secondarily aggressive. This means that escape is the first priority, and attack is prioritized secondary. If an attack is necessary, it should be done with control and precision and utter commitment to make sure the aggressor will not come back again. To achieve that, any defensive movement has to be linked to an attack.

To achieve defensive and aggressive efficiency, camouflage techniques play an important role. I am no master in that, I am a student myself, but as a student I want to start by laying my foundation. To properly evade a sick world, you also need a spiritual camouflage, by the way.

The key to successful camouflage is crypsis. To define what is done in crypsis, we have to define first what the situation is.

Human beings can process roundabout:

visual 10.000.000 Bit
skin/haptic 1.000.000 Bit
acoustic 100.000 Bit
olfactory 10.000 Bit
taste 1.000 Bit

This might sound quite impressive, but these are theoretical numbers. It is relatively safe to say that only 10 % of this amount of information are actually consciously processed. According to Hogrebe (1995: Metaphysik und Mantik) the procession is established via a telic process and an act of semantics. Semantics in this case refers to the process of creating references between sign and meaning i.e. semantic interpretation (see also Ferdinand de Saussure and Charles Sanders Peirce) in a psychological and physiological coherence. The telic process in itself is not logical, but fractally organized. What we can relatively safely assume is that every object or subject emits a lot of information. Some of this information is not received by humans in the first place due to biological limitations, most of it is dismissed and cached as subsemantic, and 10 % of the signalled, perceived and processed information is subjects to the process of semantic interpretation.

As individual sneaking through the forest you emit a lot of signs, you cannot help it in any way. Crypsis now has several ways to obscure these signals.

1.visual (optical) and acoustic camouflage such as mimickry
3.semiotic camouflage

1 refers to the commonly used camouflage techniques known from the military forces, which are inspired by nature: Signals are obscured by obscuring outlines, countershading, blending into surface signals, and other means of overlapping and contradicting information (see 3). The "grey man concept" is a good example of blending into a crowd and serves a good job in illustrating the principle. What you want to do is avoid creating an optical or semantic stimulus. In order to do that you blend into the environment, obscure your outline, avoid contrasts and send contradictory signals. Movement is dynamic and creates contrasts and rhythms that are perceivable way better than a static perception, so the resulting contrast has to be minimized as much as possible by smooth and slow movements that mimick natural movements such as branches moved by the wind or an animal moving through the underbrush.

2 refers not necessarily to a nocturnal lifestyle, but to make use of naturally diffuse lighting situations to obscure position or movement, a challenge with camouflage in general. Low light situations easily coincide with other camouflage techniques.

3 semiotic camouflage refers to a technique of manipulating signs emitted from an object to give the impression / interpretation of
a) irrelevance, and thusly hypnagogic / subsemantic reference
b) being non - existent
c) being a different object

While b and c are obvious, a has some implications to the philosophy of skóggángr, for while camouflage in this context is aimed to be mainly defensive, hypnagogic reference has more implications than that.

If we assume a discrepancy between sign and meaning, and assume the setting of signs as a semantic, telic and psychocreative process, that leaves us with a whole world of subsemantic processes  happening all the while. The so called process of "hypnagogic vision" (Hogrebe, 1995) is a technique to gain access to the subsemantic aspects of perception and also offers access to subconscious processes. Subsemantic perception, however, is just a dynamic part of the subconscious, but not disconnected from the rest. In that manner, if we see something that "strikes a note" but "cannot put the finger on it", it is relatively safe to say that we are faced with a subsemantic, subconscious process that has a whole lot of implications. In Crypsis, we want to appear irrelevant, so, spoken in a defensive sense of the technique, we want to appear irrelevant. The "gray man concept" makes use of this, and in woodland camouflage we want to
-move stealthily
-avoid sound
-use woodland colours, i.e. "Ghillie suit"
-appear "sanitized" in a woodland sense of the word, meaning creating no stimulus for animals or human aggressors
-not "mimick a bush, be a bush"

In Skóggángr I want to turn defence into an attack. This can be done in this context by sending paradox stimuli to the aggressor. There are toads using bright, vivid colours to imply that they are poisonous. In a similar manner you can try to look unattractive or stick to an environment no one in their right mind would voluntarily walk into: Swamp, rockslide etc. Looking "poisonous" in this context has to be handled a bit careful, for human aggressors will not stay away from you if you wear neon ;-).

I am practicing for something different that at the first glance sounds a bit weird. There is a connection between the subconscious and the subsemantic, which is a psychological commonplace. There is also a connection between concept (idea) and reality, or better yet, idea and physis / phenomenon. The idea is linked to the subconscious, which makes techniques like hypnagogic vision and reference possible in the first place. The subconscious is partly universal, when human beings are concerned. It takes root in the body and can have an effect on the body. This means, there are psychological implications made by subsemantic processes not prone to semantic perception, and these implications can have an effect on the body. Vision is a physiological property. This means, if you send psychologically relevant signals in a subsemantic manner, you can have a direct effect not only on the psyche but also on the body. Hypnagogia commonly refers to the state of "drowsiness" before sleep, but is used also to describe the state of mind in meditation and hypnosis. The laid Dr. Karl Pribram (2007)( with his holonomic brain (perception) theory not only showed some heavy evidence of the  nonexistence of time and space in neuronal networking and in my understanding, the universally connected linking of the network, but also (in: Brain and Perception, Addenda) experimental evidence of the possibility of creating alpha brainwaves voluntarily. This is not a one-way street in that this "drowsyness" can be used in camouflage and mental attack techniques on the opponents psyche by using subsemantic key signals. To put it simple, you emit key signals that dazzle the opponent. In its simplest form it means confusing the aggressor, in a more sophisticated form inducing hypnagogia by using key signals, and, possibly attacking his own subconscious psyche via hypnagogia. You move from reality to idea and from idea to different reality, to put it down in a bit of an abbreviated manner.

This does not necessarily mean some metaphysical concept of magic, but, as Sun Tsi put it "knowing your enemy". To achieve this you have to keep a psychological journal of his behaviour and identify key signals. Those have to be combined in the common techniques of (sensible) hypnotism. To be quite plaintive, digital camouflage works along the same lines, but with physical properties.

I will talk about the more aggressive aspects of this theory in a future post and also give you some examples and insight into my hypnagogic training.

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