Questions Concerning Certain Faculties Claimed For Signs
With regard to the main three types of signs — Icons, Indices, Symbols — Jerry Rhee asks:
How best do you distinguish between these terms? What settles it?
Those very questions arose at the outset of my venture into Inquiry Driven Systems, which obliged me to undertake a parallel “Inquiry Into Inquiry”. Here’s a few links on how I began to get a handle on the issues, with an eye as always to real-world practical applications:
To get the spirit of what is going on here, imagine yourself designing a software application for assisting with inquiry, one able to begin with the earliest stages of qualitative research and continue helping with the most complex quantitative analyses and statistical inferences.
One of the first things you’ll discover is that you can’t really decide ahead of time all the sorts of things you’ll need to refer to over time. You’ll need a dynamic database, able to evolve as the need arises, to keep track of all the objects you’ll need to refer to as inquiry progresses, along with all the “instances” you’ll need to analyze and connect the objects, and all the “properties” you’ll need to collect and describe them, as time goes by.
I began discussing one sort of organizational structure flexible enough to handle these tasks, introducing the concept of an Objective Framework (OF), at this point:
In accounting for the special characters of icons and indices that arose in previous discussions, it was necessary to open the domain of objects coming under formal consideration to include unspecified numbers of properties and instances of whatever objects were initially set down. This is a general phenomenon, affecting every motion toward explanation whether pursued by analytic or synthetic means. What it calls for in practice is a way of organizing growing domains of objects, without having to specify in advance all the objects there are.
The next several sections discuss how we might apply these very general principles of organization to the more specific task of analyzing iconic and indexical sign relations:
- Formalization of OF : Objective Levels
- Application of OF : Generic Level
- Application of OF : Motive Level
An earlier version of this material can be found at the Arisbe Gateway:
There’s a bit more discussion of the Objective Framework architecture here: