April 20, 2005
Semotics, graphics, and mathematical formalism
I like the Drucker article. It may just be my reading, but he seems to invoke some strands of semiotics – particularly his treatment of graphesis as sort of abductive phenomenon (or is he making claims for induction, particularly in his commentary about Ed Tufte?).
More to points that I could respond to:
The emphasis on the way graphics function within a system of mediated exchanges with human users brings information design closer to its cousin, interface design. A language of usability, rather than compositional form, has appeared in parallel with the growth of graphical user interfaces and the realization that their design principles give the lie to the static nature of print artifacts (16).
Knowledge management (more specifically, knowledge mining) struggles with this front/end back representation when it attempts to address obscure data that resides in anything but a keyworded artifact. But as Ty has noted in some of his past posts, commercial search tools (Google, Yahoo, etc.) aren’t very good at or capable of extracting context from an artifact. Graphesis may be an opportunity to reconsider how our computer systems can function more like humans; assimilating and contextualizing large amounts of information by reading simple search result statements.
I recently read about a company that developed a “phonetic search engine” that can process the basic units of speech that comprise phonemes. Instead of trying to analyze entire words, the engine can search audio recordings 50 times faster than text-to-speech systems by match specific units of speech. Is there an extension of this concept to graphics and images, or does the fundamental subjectivity of images make this difficult?
Drucker notes the limits of Boolean search logic, which I think are actually less popular today (I think we’ve discussed this in class). How cool would it be to look at an artifact a an expression of language, “… whereby [the] encoded expression provokes a response for cognitive processing (3)” – where our search engines understand syntax and semantics?
Posted by mfrascie at April 20, 2005 02:20 PM
I'm not sure I know what you mean by "fundamental subjectivity of images" as something distinctive from the interanimation (vari-meaning) with phonemes. But I wanted to comment on something else, actually. I would say that graphesis could help us do more than reconsider "how our computer systems can function more like humans," because it gives us methods of re-presenting large-scale discourse more vast than any human could read. In other words, computational methods--coupled with graphesis--lends us devices for mapping large collections of text. And, of course, this isn't without consequences, but it does confront us with different possibilities for thinking about patterns, trends, associations, and so on that we might not otherwise be able to handle with a line by line, word by word reading.
Posted by: Derek at April 20, 2005 06:31 PM
I noticed that you stressed "commentary" in the bit about Drucker's take on Tufte and I'm wondering what your take on Tufte is. I'm not sold on the seemingly black/white portrait Drucker paints of Tufte's project, but I'm also not terribly familiar with much of his work. I have used the Challenger graphic in class, and I may be filling in the parts that Drucker wants Tufte to use, but I felt they were there already, so this analysis left me scratching my head a bit.
Posted by: TR at April 20, 2005 07:17 PM