Experimental methods in semiotics
in Versus n. 122, Empirical Research in Semiotics, pp.35-56
“Empirical” or “experimental” methods are used in semiotics, but there is
currently little consideration about their role and advantages, their theoretical status within the discipline, and also about how such methods should be applied so as to correspond to the specificity of semiotic views. I try here to show how empirical methodologies, including those with a field approach, can definitely be appropriate for semiotic studies. This is true as long as we do not replicate sociological approaches, but develop methodologies grounded on fundamental semiotic concepts. Under these conditions, empirical research can greatly help us evolve our key theoretical models.
But what does “empirical” mean in semiotics? What is the relationship between textual and empirical research? I attempt to clarify some decisive points considering three different cases of empirical research: Floch’s classic enquiry on the customers of a hypermarket and two of my studies, about the interpreters of a film and of a novel.