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Semiotics
ITS PLACE IN INFORMATION SCIENCE
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.

• Social context 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

• Semiotics seeks 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: (13thc.)
  • Developed the first typology or classification of signs.

• Poinsot: (17thc.)
  • Noted as particularly important in the development of sign
    theory.
  • Poinsot believed that signs function as an intermediary
    between thoughts and things.

• John Locke: (18thc.)
  • 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.
modern roots of semiotics

• Saussure (19thc.) 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.
modern roots of semiotics

• Pierce (19thc.) American linguist
  • Pierce viewed a sign as anything that could be taken
    as standing for something else.
  • Pierce views 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 (20thc.
  •   Divided the study of signs into sign collections.
      •   He called these collections syntactics.
  •   Syntactics—refers to the analysis of signs and their relations.
      •   Morris termed this analysis semantics.
  •   Pragmatics—refers to the study of the relationship between signs and
      their users.

• Jakobson (20thc.)
  •   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 (20thc.):
  •   Known for his work in decoding hidden meanings in pop culture and
      films.
Semiotics: The Modern Period

• Eco (20thc.)
  •   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
   • 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).
  • For example: Connotivesenses 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.

• The concept 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.
Thank You
Florence Margaret Paisey

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Semiotics and information science

  • 1. Semiotics ITS PLACE IN INFORMATION SCIENCE
  • 2. overview • Definitions • Meanings and Semiotics • Goals • The Role of Semiotics in IS • History • Modern Roots
  • 3. definitions • Semiotics is the ―science of produced meanings‖ (Danesi, 2007). • Semiotics applies to how people represent things in a meaningful way. • Social context 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.‖
  • 4. 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.
  • 5. Goals of semiotics • Semiotics seeks 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?
  • 6. 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.
  • 7. Semiotics in medieval thought • Roger Bacon: (13thc.) • Developed the first typology or classification of signs. • Poinsot: (17thc.) • Noted as particularly important in the development of sign theory. • Poinsot believed that signs function as an intermediary between thoughts and things. • John Locke: (18thc.) • 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.
  • 8. modern roots of semiotics • Saussure (19thc.) 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.
  • 9. modern roots of semiotics • Pierce (19thc.) American linguist • Pierce viewed a sign as anything that could be taken as standing for something else. • Pierce views 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.
  • 10. Semiotics: the modern period • Morris (20thc. • Divided the study of signs into sign collections. • He called these collections syntactics. • Syntactics—refers to the analysis of signs and their relations. • Morris termed this analysis semantics. • Pragmatics—refers to the study of the relationship between signs and their users. • Jakobson (20thc.) • 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 (20thc.): • Known for his work in decoding hidden meanings in pop culture and films.
  • 11. Semiotics: The Modern Period • Eco (20thc.) • 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.
  • 12. 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 • definition
  • 13. 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). • For example: Connotivesenses of the word ―cool.‖ • How many uses or senses of the word ―cool‖ can you think of? Or, ―Super,‖ ―Great,‖ ―Sorry,‖ etc.
  • 14. 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).
  • 15. Semiotics and issues in IS • Arbitrary nature of language and signs. • Meanings are cooperatively generated. • The concept of information, itself, conveys many meanings – depending upon its users, their purpose, and the context.
  • 16. 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.