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Cognitive Semiotics

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Iconic semiosis and representational efficiency in the London Underground Diagram

Pedro Atã / Breno Bitarello / João Queiroz
Published Online: 2014-11-21 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/cogsem-2014-0012


The icon is the type of sign connected to efficient representational features, and its manipulation reveals more information about its object. The London Underground Diagram (LUD) is an iconic artifact and a well-known example of representational efficiency, having been copied by urban transportation systems worldwide. This paper investigates the efficiency of the LUD in the light of different conceptions of iconicity. We stress that a specialized representation is an icon of the formal structure of the problem for which it has been specialized. By embedding such rules of action and behavior, the icon acts as a semiotic artifact distributing cognitive effort and participating in niche construction.

Keywords: iconicity; operational iconicity; optimal iconicity; representational efficiency; diagrammatic reasoning; London Underground Diagram; Peirce


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About the article

Pedro Atã

Pedro Atã is a student at the Post-Graduate program in Languages, Culture, and Arts at the Federal University of Juiz de Fora, Brazil. He is a researcher of the Iconicity Research Group and assistant editor of the Commens Digital Companion to Charles S. Peirce. His interests include distributed cognition, semiotic theory of mind, creativity, and abduction.

Breno Bitarello

Breno Bitarello is a tattoo artist and a Ph.D student in the Education, Arts, and History of Culture program at Mackenzie University in Brazil. His research interests are tattoo and tattooing, interactive arts, and process art.

João Queiroz

João Queiroz is a professor at the Institute of Arts and Design, at the Federal University of Juiz de Fora, Brazil. He co-edited two special issues of the journal Semiotica: “Diagrammatical reasoning and Peircean logic representations” (2011) and “Abductive inference” (2005). He is co-editor of the Commens Digital Companion to Charles S. Peirce together with Mats Bergman and Sami Paavola. His academic interests include Peirce’s philosophy and semiotics, situated and embodied cognition, and abductive inference.

Published Online: 2014-11-21

Published in Print: 2014-12-01

Citation Information: Cognitive Semiotics, Volume 7, Issue 2, Pages 177–190, ISSN (Online) 2235-2066, ISSN (Print) 1662-1425, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/cogsem-2014-0012.

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