Archive for the ‘Semiotics’ Category

For Linguists on Your Holiday List

Saturday, December 12th, 2015

Hey Linguists!—Get Them to Get You a Copy of The Speculative Grammarian Essential Guide to Linguistics.

From the website:

Hey Linguists! Do you know why it is better to give than to receive? Because giving requires a lot more work! You have to know what someone likes, what someone wants, who someone is, to get them a proper, thoughtful gift. That sounds like a lot of work.

No, wait. That’s not right. It’s actually more work to be the recipient—if you are going to do it right. You can’t just trust people to know what you like, what you want, who you are.

You could try to help your loved ones understand a linguist’s needs and wants and desires—but you’d have to give them a mini course on historical, computational, and forensic linguistics first. Instead, you can assure them that SpecGram has the right gift for you—a gift you, their favorite linguist, will treasure for years to come: The Speculative Grammarian Essential Guide to Linguistics.

So drop some subtle or not-so-subtle hints and help your loved ones do the right thing this holiday season: gift you with this hilarious compendium of linguistic sense and nonsense.

If you need to convince your friends and family that they can’t find you a proper gift on their own, send them one of the images below, and try to explain to them why it amuses you. That’ll show ’em! (More will be added through the rest of 2015, just in case your friends and family are a little thick.)

• If guilt is more your style, check out 2013’s Sad Holiday Linguists.

• If semi-positive reinforcement is your thing, check out 2014’s Because You Can’t Do Everything You Want for Your Favorite Linguist.

Disclaimer: I haven’t proofed the diagrams against the sources cited. Rely on them at your own risk. 😉

There are others but the Hey Semioticians! reminded me of John Sowa (sorry John):


The greatest mistake across all disciplines is taking ourselves (and our positions) far too seriously.


Semiotics (discovered while pair-surfing)

Friday, June 12th, 2015

I was pair-surfing (long distance) with a friend when the conversation turned to Umberto Eco and his recent fiction. I haven’t kept up with Eco like I should, having been distracted by big data, graphs and such.

It took only a quick web search to find Eco’s homepage and a list of all of his fiction.

While there, I ran across Semiotics, a page that lists topics in semiotics, seminal authors and active writers. Highly recommended.

Coca-Cola, Toucans and Charles Sanders Peirce

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

Coca-Cola, Toucans and Charles Sanders Peirce by Mike Bergman.

I have gone back and forth about this one, even though I have to agree with:

Global is Neither Indiscriminate Nor Unambiguous

Names, references, identity and meaning are not absolutes. They are not philosophically, and they are not in human language. To expect machine communications to hold to different standards and laws than human communications is naive. To effect machine communications our challenge is not to devise new rules, but to observe and apply the best rules and practices that human communications instruct.

There has been an unstated hope at the heart of the semantic Web enterprise that simply expressing statements in the right way (syntax) and in the right form (RDF) is sufficient to facilitate machine communications. But this hope, too, is naive and silly. Just as we do not accept all human utterances as truth, neither will we accept all machine transmissions as reliable. Some of the information will be posted in error; some will be wrong or ill-fitting to our world view; some will be malicious or intended to deceive. Spam and occasionally lousy search results on the Web tell us that Web documents are subject to these sources of unsuitability, why is not the same true of data?

Thus, global data access via the semantic Web is not — and can never be — indiscriminate nor unambiguous. We need to understand and come to trust sources and provenance; we need interpretation and context to decide appropriateness and validity; and we need testing and validation to ensure messages as received are indeed correct. Humans need to do these things in their normal courses of interaction and communication; our machine systems will need to do the same.

These confirmations and decisions as to whether the information we receive is actionable or not will come about via still more information. Some of this information may come about via shared conventions. But most will come about because we choose to provide more context and interpretation for the core messages we hope to communicate.

It is well-written and so pleasant to read. See what you think about the process by which Mike reaches his conclusions.

Indexicality: Understanding mobile human-computer interaction in context

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

Indexicality: Understanding mobile human-computer interaction in context Authors: Jesper Kjeldskov, Jeni Paay Keywords: Mobile computing, indexicality, physical context, spatial context, social context, prototype systems, field evaluation, public transport, healthcare, sociality


A lot of research has been done within the area of mobile computing and context-awareness over the last 15 years, and the idea of systems adapting to their context has produced promising results for overcoming some of the challenges of user interaction with mobile devices within various specialized domains. However, today it is still the case that only a limited body of theoretically grounded knowledge exists that can explain the relationship between users, mobile system user interfaces, and their context. Lack of such knowledge limits our ability to elevate learning from the mobile systems we develop and study from a concrete to an abstract level. Consequently, the research field is impeded in its ability to leap forward and is limited to incremental steps from one design to the next. Addressing the problem of this void, this article contributes to the body of knowledge about mobile interaction design by promoting a theoretical approach for describing and understanding the relationship between user interface representations and user context. Specifically, we promote the concept of indexicality derived from semiotics as an analytical concept that can be used to describe and understand a design. We illustrate the value of the indexicality concept through an analysis of empirical data from evaluations of three prototype systems in use. Based on our analytical and empirical work we promote the view that users interpret information in a mobile computer user interface through creation of meaningful indexical signs based on the ensemble of context and system.

One of the more interesting observations by the authors is that the greater the awareness of context, the less information that has to be presented to the user. For a mobile device, with limited display area that is an advantage.

It would be an advantage for other interfaces because even with a lot of screen real estate, it would be counter-productive to over run the user with information about a subject.

Present them with the information relevant to a particular context, leaving the option for them to request additional information.

This Means This, This Means That: A User’s Guide to Semiotics

Sunday, July 18th, 2010

This Means This, This Means That: A User’s Guide to Semiotics was “recommended” to me by Amazon.

From the product description:

Divided into 75 key semiotic concepts, each section of the book begins with a single image or sign, accompanied by a question that invites us to interpret what we are seeing. Turning the page, we can compare our response with the theory behind the sign. In this way, we actively engage in creative thinking. Read straight through or dipped into regularly, this book provides practical examples of how meaning is made in contemporary culture.

I probably have better stuff on Semiotics on my bookshelf but what interests me is the approach taken to explaining the concepts.

I don’t have a copy (yet) but would like to hear from anyone who has used it in an classroom setting.

Wondering if some thing similar would prove useful as an introduction to subject analysis in general or for some area in particular?

Perhaps showing documented cases where mistakes in subject identity lead to spectacular outcomes?

A “cost” of mis-interpretation to hook users into thinking about subject identity before they get to the hard part.