Questioning established definitions of semiotics on relation to human computer interaction

There is no such thing as human computer interaction (HCI) as there is a human, in the role of a designer, behind all computer systems. The concept of HCI is therefore a way to describe interesting ways* for humans to interact through computer systems. Hereby I propose that there is no such thing as HCI because computers do not provide information in any form. Computers are tools to mediate information between humans. What is being discussed here is the interaction between a human and a machine concerning the information that is being exchanged. One might argue that the interaction between a human and a machine is possible, however, this is without meaning because an interaction is an exchange of information and only living things can provide information.What provoked this text were Jorna and Heusden’s (1993) attempt to bring Posner’s definition of semiotic (1979) to the computer ages:“Semiotics is the study of all sorts of signs or symbol process in the communication and the exchange of knowledge, in the sense of data, between and inside information processing systems, such as humans, other organisms and machines” (Jorna & Heusden, 1993). What is wrong with this definition is that no machine can provide new knowledge. Machines are can process or contain knowledge, as they are tools designed for a purpose. Processed data is not new knowledge in the sense that the knowledge has been available even before is put into the machine, maybe not interpretable why it must be processed by a machine. The machine therefore only mediates the exchange of knowledge. The essence of this argument is that a machine has been designed; a designer therefore defines any processing of information done by a machine and that is essentially human-to-human interaction.* Computers provide effective ways of interaction between humans starting with widely spread emailing and news groups (NG) as two-way communication over blogging and pod-casting as broadcast media to instant messaging (IM) and immense narratives as massive multiplayer online games (MMOG). An interesting development is merging of everyday computer mediated human to human interaction (HHI) or conventionally, HCI and the dynamic narratives known from role playing games (RPG) – the desire to indulge in a RPG, step into a fictional character in fictional universe and still chatting about everyday things and activities. Another interesting way to communicate through computers is via media installations – i.e. art mediated by computers –where humans express themselves towards other humans, again mediated by computers.


Jorna, R. J., & Heusden, B. v. (1993). Signs, search and communication: Towards an empirical future for semiotics. In R. J. Jorna, B. v. Heusden, & R. (. Posner, Signs, search and communication: Semiotic Aspects of Artificial Intelligence. Berlin/New York: Walter de Gruyter.Posner, R. (1979). Introduction. Zeitschrift für Semiotik (1), 1-5.

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