Design semiotics with an agentive approach: An alternative to current semiotic analysis of artifacts

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In chapter 5, Juan Carlos Mendoza Collazos presents an overview of a new approach to signification, known as agentive semiotics, that “links achievements of logic, phenomenology and cognitive sciences” (Niño 2015). As the author states, this clearly aligns this approach with cognitive semiotics. Similarly, agentive semiotics is influenced by enactivism, though it takes a more specific stand on the notion of agency, defining an agent as a being that is animate, situated, and capable of paying attention. This means that artifacts for example only have derived agency, that is, a kind of agency that has been assigned by agents proper, which in the case of artifacts means designers. The bulk of the chapter applies the theory of agentive semiotics precisely to the semiotics of artifact design. Unlike traditional semiotic design analysis, the agentive approach implies focus not on the artifacts themselves, but on acts of production and response. Artifacts have significance (a network of potential responses) and signification (“the actual response an agent activates”), thus paralleling (one version of) the distinction between semantics and pragmatics. The chapter makes a strong case for the application of the theoretical corpus of agentive semiotics to design practice, allowing new insights into the actions and experiences of designers and users. Notions such as agenda, per-agenda, agentive scene, etc. are clearly explained and illustrated, showing how theoretical and “applied” cognitive semiotics can intermix.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMeaning, Mind and Communication
Subtitle of host publicationExplorations in Cognitive Semiotics
EditorsJordan Zlatev, Göran Sonesson, Piotr Konderak
Place of PublicationFrankfurt am Main
PublisherPeter Lang Publishing Group
ISBN (Print)978-3-631-65704-1
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Design


  • design semiotics
  • design theory
  • Design Research


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