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A couch for a living space

Techno-Living Space

Having technology within a living space means that we, as inhabitants, are living in relation with technology. A techno-living space is a complex, meta-communicative object that includes the key agents of the designer, artifact, and user(s).

Designer-Artifact-User (DAU) System


The role of the designer is to create an artifact that can be integrated to perform a desirable function for a user.


The artifact, within a techno-living space, includes active devices, which the user directly interacts with, and passive devices that are designed to relay data to other artifacts.


A user is someone who engages, interacts with technology within the living space. 

Key Components of Techno-Living Spaces

A techno-living space, such as a smart home, has two distinct structures, one approach is using internal-based servers placed within the home, and the other approach is integrated cloud-based artifacts that connect to external servers outside of the home.


The meaning constructed for smart home technology can be improved by understanding the unconscious afforded level in the perceptual field of the user, and by enhancing the semiotic components used by a creator to predict the future behavior of smart home technology user. 

Master's Thesis

A Semiotic Model for Smart Home Affordances: Trajecting Semiotic Components in a Technological Living Environment

Alec Kozicki (2021)
Department of Semiotics
University of Tartu

Read where the research started!

This Master's Thesis is a useful resource to get a glimpse on how semiotics can improve our interrelations with technology. Listed below are the five research questions answered in the thesis:

RQ1) Identify how semiotically engineering a model of affordances can improve the concept of smart homes.

RQ2) How can resources be semiotically explained for/in a smart home?

RQ3) How is competence appropriated into a smart home?

RQ4) What do affordances provide for shaping behavior in the smart home’s environment?

RQ5) What does the semiotic scaffolding of a smart home model lead to?

Paper Abstract

In this article, the distinction between an affordance and a Ton is explored, and the role of the environment in the transformation of objective characteristics into species-specific meaning-making qualities is highlighted. The goal of this article is to broaden the theoretical concept of affordances, as it relates to the designer’s creative process of an artifact and the user’s semiosis of the designed artifact. An affordance occurs as a result of a relation between two or more subsystems that objectively exist in physical reality, and the affordance is enacted by a user during the subjective reality’s perceptual functioning (umwelt). A Ton, on the other hand, emerges and exists within the subjective user’s umwelt; the user must learn, recall, and understand what the object signifies as a meaning-carrier. Overall, environmental boundaries orient the quintessential function of translating quantitative characteristics into qualitative polysemic qualities.

Research Publication

Affordance and Ton: The meaning-carriers of semiosis

In: Kõvamees, Erik; Miyamoto, Oscar (eds.), Concepts for Semiotics (vol. 2). University of Tartu Press.

Alec Kozicki (2023b)
Department of Semiotics
University of Tartu

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