Computational Semiotics

Computational Semiotics is the computational treatment of sign systems. This involves both semiotics as a theory (i.e., using computational systems to model semiotic theories) and semiotics as an engineering design guide (i.e., using semiotics to guide to the implementation of computational models).

Introduction

A good question to ask is "What is Semiotics?" and a good answer is this Beginner's Guide to Semiotics or a media-oriented site, The Semiotics of Media. (via memepool).

In general, semiotics is the study of sign systems, that is, how symbols have meanings, how and why their form and meanings are created, maintained, used; how symbols are arranged in systems. Commonly, semiotics is used to study the semantics of signs (i.e., their meanings), the syntax of signs (i.e., their systematic structure), and the pragmatics of signs (i.e., how signs are used). Semiotics comes out of linguistics, but is more general. That is, languages are semiotic systems, but so are, say, advertisments. Semioticians tend to be more interested in the pragmatics of signs than linguists are. Semioticians tend to be European. They probably wear black, and smoke a lot.

What is Computational Semiotics?

According to Burghard Rieger's article Computational Semiotics and Fuzzy Linguistics, computational semiotics contrasts with 'competence' approaches to linguistics by actively caring about the underlying processes and performance issues involved in real world communication.

According to Computational Semiotic Group at the Department of Computer Engineering and Industrial Automation (DCA), Faculty of Electrical and Computer Engineering (FEEC), State University of Campinas (UNICAMP) in Brazil,

Computational Semiotics refers to the attempt of synthesizing a semiosis cycle within a digital computer. Among other things, this is done aiming for the construction of autonomous intelligent systems able to perform intelligent behavior, what includes perception, world modeling, value judgement and behavior generation. We claim that most part of intelligent behavior in an intelligent autonomous being is due to the semiotic processing happening inside this being. In this sense, an intelligent system should be understood as a semiotic system and studied like that. Mathematically modeling such semiotic systems is being currently the target for a group of researchers studying the interactions encountered between semiotics and intelligent systems.
This definition comes from R.R. Gudwin's paper On the Generalized Deduction, Induction and Abduction as the Elementary Operators within Computational Semiotics (PDF file).

Richard L Barksdale has created an elaborate model of computational semiotics. This is is a "modeling semiotics computationally" definition. His definition, apparently based on Gudwin's, is:

Computational Semiotics refers to the attempt of emulating the semiosis cycle within a digital computer. Among other things, this is accomplished by targeting for the construction of autonomous intelligent systems able to perform intelligent behavior, which includes perception, world modeling, value judgement, and behavior generation. There is a claim that significant elements of intelligent behavior should be due to semiotic processing within autonomous systems, in the sense that an intelligent system should be comparable to a semiotic system. Mathematically modeling such semiotic systems is being currently the target for a group of researchers studying the interactions encountered between semiotics and intelligent systems.

Computational semiotics was defined as a way to investigate human/computer interactions by Udo L. Figge, of the Ruhr-Universitaet Bochum. Specifically, he said:

A new branch of semiotics is outlined under the designation "computational semiotics". It seems likely to become an important field of research having interesting applications. Computational semiotics can be regarded as a generalization of computational linguistics. It can draw important ideas from software ergonomics. Its main tasks are the analysis and the systematization of human-computer interaction, giving special consideration to the various manifestations of the inner states of computational systems as well as to the various ways of influencing these inner states by manipulating peripheral devices. Three types of attitudes towards computers are distinguished: taking 1. the computer as a tool, 2. the computer as a partner, 3. the computer as a modeler of reality. Means of interaction mentioned are, above all, formal languages, natural language and graphic techniques.

In German, the word for "computational semiotics" is "Computersemiotik."

Conferences

Apparently, there was a "First International Workshop on Computational Semiotics." There is a dead link (as of 8 Dec 1999) to the conference, by one of the original calls for papers can be found at this issue of the Linguist List. Apparently, there were no other workshops, but please mail me if you know different, or it you know about the conference papers being on line.

There was a 1997 International Conference on Intelligent Systems and Semiotics (ISAS-97).

There as a 1998 Conference on Semiotics and the Information Sciences.

The Third Joint Conference on Information Sciences had the following session on computational semiotics:

Session 22 (SCS)
Computational Semiotics
Chair: Burghard Rieger (U. of Trier, GERMANY)
Co-Chair: Fei-Yue Wang (U. of Arizona,Tucson, USA)
Room A 15:55 - 17:55 

``Language Games in Computational Semiotics''
B. Rieger (U. of Trier, GERMANY)

``An Approach to Computational Semiotics''
R. Gudwin, F. Gomide ( Universidade Estadual de Campinas, BRAZIL)

``The Semiotics of Machine Translation Design''
M. Wood (U. of Manchester, U.K.)

``On Dynamic Error Back Propagation for Neuro-Fuzzy Networks''
D. Ge, M. Tsutsumi (Tokyo U. of Agriculture & Tech., JAPAN), F.-Y. Wang (U. of Arizona,Tucson, USA)

``Outline for a Computational Theory of Linguistic Dynamic Systems''
F.-Y. Wang (U. of Arizona,Tucson, USA)

``Fuzzy Logic of Aristotelian Theory of Mind''
L. Perlovsky (Nichols Research Corporation, USA)

Other lists

Daniel Chandler's Media and Communication Studies Site maintains a list of semiotics links.

Another list for general semiotics was created by Martin Ryder at the University of Colorado.

Peter B¿gh Andersen, of the Department of Information and Media Science, University of Aarhus, published Semiotics and Informatics: a bibliography.

Searches

To search:

(Updated 23 March, 2003)