Skip to main content

An integrative semiotic framework for information systems: The social, personal and material worlds

Mingers, John, Willcocks, Leslie (2014) An integrative semiotic framework for information systems: The social, personal and material worlds. Information and Organization, 24 (1). pp. 48-70. ISSN 1471-7727. (doi:10.1016/j.infoandorg.2014.01.002) (KAR id:38937)

Language: English
Download (489kB) Preview
[thumbnail of IO_Semiotics.pdf]
This file may not be suitable for users of assistive technology.
Request an accessible format
Official URL


The paper argues that semiotics, the theory of signs and symbols, is at the heart of the representation and transmission of information and meaning, and is thus central, to communication and information systems, but especially in their contemporary, more virtualized forms. The paper is distinctive in eschewing post-structuralist uses of Saussurian semiotics, and recent theorizations of sociomateriality, instead developing an integrative framework grounded in Habermasian concepts, Peirceian semiotics and an underlying, integrating critical realist philosophy. We develop a semiotic framework to help analyze the complex interactions between three different worlds – the personal, the social and the material. Here semiosis relates to the personal world through the generation and interpretation of signs and messages. It relates to the material world in that all signs must have some form of physical embodiment in order to be signs, and must also be transmitted through some form of physical media. Semiosis relates to the social world in that the connotive aspects of sign systems are social rather than individual – they exist before and beyond the individual’s use of signs. The personal, social and material worlds between them bear relationships of sociation, sociomateriality and embodiment. The framework draws on fundamental concepts of information, meaning and embodied cognition. The paper examines critically the implications of this formulation for studying information systems. It discusses commonalities with and departures from other studies, illustrates points with empirical examples, and details how the integrative framework can be utilized.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1016/j.infoandorg.2014.01.002
Uncontrolled keywords: critical theory, critical realism, embodiment, information, meaning, semiosis, semiotics, philosophical foundations
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HF Commerce > HF5351 Business
Divisions: Divisions > Kent Business School - Division > Kent Business School (do not use)
Depositing User: John Mingers
Date Deposited: 27 Mar 2014 16:13 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2021 12:52 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
Mingers, John:
  • Depositors only (login required):


Downloads per month over past year