OVERVIEW Definitions Meanings and Semiotics Goals The Role of Semiotics in IS History Modern Roots
DEFINITIONS Semiotics is the “science of produced meanings” (Danesi, 2007). Semiotics applies to how people represent things in a meaningful way. Socialcontext establishes the meanings that signs convey. The meaning a word conveys in one context may differ from the meaning a word conveys in a different context i.e. “Seminole.”
MEANINGS AND SEMIOTICS Semiotics looks at how meaning is ascribed to texts (all kinds—musical scores, advertisements, narratives, paintings). Semiotics focuses on what information is and how it is interpreted. This is directed related to the issue of the nature of information. Anything in a culture can be a sign: text, image, building, design of a car, a hairstyle. These signs are read and a meaning is imputed to them. Interpretation allows us to make sense of the meanings we encounter.
GOALS OF SEMIOTICS Semioticsseeks to explain the “how and what of signs” (Danesi, 2007). What is the social function of signs? What role do signs play in communication and linguistics?
BRIEF HISTORY Hippocrates: Coined the term as a medical concept that referred to symptoms as warning ”signs” of a medical condition. Plato: Distinguished between physical and human made or conventional semeions. Aristotle disputed Plato’s notion that words reflect innate forms—he believed that words were simply a practical means of identifying things. Plato’s method is referred to as a “mentalist” perspective while Aristotle’s process of reasoning is empirical.
SEMIOTICS IN MEDIEVAL THOUGHT Roger Bacon: (13th c.) Developed the first typology or classification of signs. Poinsot: (17th c.) is noted as particularly important in the development of sign theory. Poinsot believed that signs function as an intermediary between thoughts and things. JohnLocke: (18th c.) adopted Poinsot’s notion and proposed a formal study of signs in his famous work titled, “Essay on Human Understanding.” Locke: Locke viewed signs as a method of inquiry in philosophy, rather than a separate discipline or branch of philosophy.
THE MODERN ROOTS OF SEMIOTICS Saussure(19th c. Swiss linguist) Viewed as the father of modern semiotics. Saussure described signs within their social context. Social context determined the meaning of signs. Signs are a product of human sensory and emotional experience of the world.
THE MODERN ROOTS OF SEMIOTICS Pierce (19th c. American linguist) Pierce viewed a sign as anything that could be taken as standing for something else. Pierceviews signs as representations that are basically “containers” for an object. Pierce’s model is three-dimensional Representation, interpretation, and object The interaction among these dimensions produces meanings.
SEMIOTICS THE MODERN PERIOD Morris (20th c.): Divided the study of signs into sign collections—he called these collections syntactics. Syntactics—refers to the analysis of signs and their relations. This analysis between signs and their relations, he termed, semantics. He termed the study of the relationship between signs and their users as pragmatics. Jakobson (20th c.): Known widely for his model of communication. This model indicates that messages or “exchanges” are rarely neutral; they are generally subjective and involve goal attainment. Barthes (20th c.): Known for his work in decoding hidden meanings in pop culture and films.
SEMIOTICS: THE MODERN PERIOD Eco (20th c.) The universe of semiotics can be “postulated in the format of a labyrinth.” (Eco, 1986). In other words, signs are interpreted as one’s perception and experience directs. Such a view relates to the interaction of culture, worldview, context, education, and perception. A sign is everything that can be taken as significantly substituting for something else.
THE SEMIOTIC FRAMEWORK Semiotics and “Meaning” The word meaning in English has more than 20 definitions –to avoid confusion, semiotics employs the terms reference, sense, and definition.
REFERENCE, SENSE, AND DEFINITION Reference (denotation)—points out or identifies something Definition—representation between mental signifier and referential object (Hockett) Sense(connotation)—refers to what something evokes psychologically, historically, and socially (context). Connotive senses of the word “cool.” How many uses or senses of the word “cool” can you think of? Or, “Super,” “Great,” “Sorry,” etc.
SEMIOTICS AND INFORMATION SCIENCE Raber(2003) views semiotics and information science as concerned with “representation and the production of culture.” “…the relationship between representation and what is being represented, are at the heart of information science,” (Raber 2003 p. 225).
SEMIOTICS AND ISSUES IN IS Arbitrary nature of language and signs. Meanings are cooperatively generated. Theconcept of information, itself, conveys many meanings – depending upon its users, their purpose, and the context.
APPROACHES TO ISSUES Buckland – information-as-thing, information-as- knowledge, information-as-process Ingwersen – aboutness and interpretation or identification of authorial intent Raber– the indeterminable nature or ambiguity of signs or objects; context and user needs – user interpretation.