Saturday, January 19, 2008

Visual meaning readings: semiotics

Please make your reactions to these readings comments on this post.

Much of semiotics is extremely theoretical and philosophical, but these are fairly accessible, using applied perspectives in geographic and advertising:

Jacques Bertin. (2001). Matrix theory of graphics. Information Design Journal, 10, 1, 5-19. This is a short but dense summary of Bertin's work. There's a related summary of Bertin's ideas in the article by Daru right after Bertin's.

David Glen Mick. (1986). Consumer research and semiotics: exploring the morphology of signs, symbols, and significance. Journal of Consumer Research: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly, 13, 2, 196-213.




Unknown said...

Matrix Theory

I found this paper to be both simplistic and overly confusing. A lot of what the author talks about seems to be basic visualization 101 topics like using different kinds of graphs to display data in a more informative way. It all seems very intuitive but he explains it fairly in depth. At other places, like THE SYNOPSIS on page 11, I was left wanting a more thorough explanation of what was going on.

One thing I did find interesting was defining a Z dimension for 2D graphs. It seems a fairly obvious abstraction once I think about it, but previously it had always just been a tool to make relationships more pronounced.

The author has a section on Selectivity that I'm either not following or I just don't agree with his conclusions. He is adament in pointing out that shape is not a selector because it requires you to ignore others. First of all there is no cite here and he offers no proof so I'm already dubious. Second, selectivity is supposed to only be worrying about a particular feature, so what's the big deal about ignoring others? He goes on to say things like color are better options, but I fail to see how these improve the situation; when looking for "red blobs" you ignore the other colors.

I often found myself wishing that the author had included more examples of the points he was making. Often there is a "and it's fairly obvious I'm right about this being better than that" but with no graphic to display this "fact". Also, just because it bothered me, did anyone else find his system of recycling numbers for figures to be extremely confusing?

Signs, Symbols, and Significance:

In the section about Sapir and Whorf the author points out their conclusions that culture is really defined by the local lanague. This makes sense in their point about language limiting what can be defined and experienced. However, I have to wonder whether that is the whole picture because limited cultures existed before there were the extremely robust languages of today. Are they saying culture could only advance with language improvements? How does being multilingual effect Europe? What part does English as the universal language play? It's an intriguing topic to me.

In the "As Old is New" section I found it funny that people say "we've been doing this all along." The author goes on to point out why they are incorrect in saying that. Looking at it, I think they are both right. As with almost anything, there's a certain amount of intuition, common sense, etc. that is integrated with the cold hard theory. I would say that often these subtle mental nudges are what push people to make the new theoretic discoveries.

Stuart Heinrich said...

Matrix Theory

The paper is a bit confusing to read due to the odd translations, as well as the unconventional usage of notation. For example, he seems to use things like boldness, size, and quantity to represent things without sufficient explanation. It's also interesting that he has used the word "grain" to represent what is clearly frequency.

He seems to be exploring the differences in representing data in either matrix form or graph form, in an attempt to determine which is better. However he doesn't seem to make many conclusive statements so I am not sure what his actual opinion is, although he seems to favor matrices. Without a specific context, I can neither agree no disagree -- although I can disagree that one can say that one method is better than the other in all circumstances.

I found this statement a bit ironic:

"It underscores that work is only scientific if its assumptions are justified by the rigorous treatment of an explicit data table. Outside such a rigorous process, it is only a matter of personal opinions."

Because it might be used as a criticism of his own work. Is his work scientific? It seems more a collection of unproven, subjective musings..not even clearly formulated into hypothesis that can be tested.

Consumer Researh: Davig Glen Mich

It is not apparent to me that the author has done any research deserving of comment!