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Semiotics of Programming


  • 55 b/w illus. 4 tables
  • Page extent: 232 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.4 kg

Library of Congress

  • Dewey number: 004.01/9
  • Dewey version: 22
  • LC Classification: QA76.7 .T35 2010
  • LC Subject headings:
    • Programming languages (Electronic computers)
    • Semiotics
    • Human-computer interaction

Library of Congress Record


 (ISBN-13: 9780521516556)

Tanaka-Ishii presents a semiotic analysis of computer programs along three axes: models of signs, kinds of signs, and systems of signs. Because computer programs are well defined and rigid, applying semiotic theories to them will help to reorganise the semiotic theories themselves. Semiotic discussion of programming theory can provide possible explanations for why programming has developed as it has and how computation is fundamentally related to human semiosis. This book considers the question of what computers can and cannot do, by analysing how computer sign systems compare to those of humans. A key concept throughout is reflexivity – the capability of a system or function to reinterpret what it has produced by itself. Sign systems are reflexive by nature, and humans know how to take advantage of this characteristic but have not yet fully implemented it into computer systems. The limitations, therefore, of current computers can be ascribed to insufficient reflexivity.

• Straddles the domains of semiotics and computation, as well as those of the humanities and engineering, and of studies of humans and machines • Explains the essence of semiotic theories in a formal way • Explains the 'why' of computer programming from a humanities viewpoint, which has rarely been addressed in other books about computer programming


1. Introduction; 2. Computer signs in programs; Part I. Models of Signs: 3. The Babylonian confusion; 4. Marriage of signifier and signified; 5. Being and doing in programs; Part II. Kinds of Signs and Content: 6. The statement x := x + 1; 7. Three kinds of content in programs; 8. An instance vs. the instance; Part III. Systems of Signs: 9. Structural humans vs. constructive computers; 10. Sign and time; 11. Reflexivity and evolution; 12. Conclusion.

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