The Concept of Subject in a Semiotic Light


Jens-Erik Mai

Royal School of Librarianship, Copenhagen, Denmark




The paper argues that if digital objects are considered signs, the process of representing the subject matter of digital objects could be analyzed in a semiotic framework. The paper discusses and introduces such a framework.


The framework is based on two elements of the American philosopher Charles Sanders Peirceís semiotics, viz. The notion of "unlimited semiosis" and the categorization of signs. Peirce has discussed how meaning is derived from signs and how new meaning is produced on the basis of earlier interpretations. He has also defied and categorized ten types of signs. It is in this categorization made clear that signs differ in their level of interpretation required to interpret them, and in how they relate to the objects which they represent.


The framework relates Peirce'ís notion of unlimited semiosis to the subject indexing process and categorized each element of the process in Peirce'ís categorization of signs. It is concluded that more research on the subject indexing is a critically needed. Especially research on the first step of the process in which the meaning of the digital object is determined.