After my dissertation coordinators enthusiastically endorsed Semiosis & Sign Exchange, I was subsequently denied by the whole of the dissertation committee to pass the doctoral exam. What I found especially curious was that, as I was told anyway, during deliberations the university's president had taken an especially active part in the opposition though his intended role as chairman is mainly formal. His participation might explain why my supporters, in spite of constituting the requisite majority at first, were intimidated to follow the minority's interests in effectively squashing my work. The objection communicated to me only informally was that my work didn't comply with what was referred to as the proper form of a dissertation. I could not engage in any argument related to contents as none was offered to me. It was even tried to persuade me with the aim of overcoming opposition, which the reporting dissertation coordinators acknowledged to me as irrational, to submit what would have amounted to an altogether different dissertation. Why?
Starting from the assumption that the stated objection is unjustified, the concept of literal or rational meaning in communication deserves critical inquiry. The objective of my research has therefore been to develop a theory of meaning that accounts for behaviors such as exemplified by the members of the dissertation committee. When recognized as a successful general theory, a paradox dissolves and there would also be no more obstacles for acceptance of my dissertation. Or am I really in a double bind? Does a successful theory only make it more certain for me to fail at academic dissertation politics?
What drives one person to influence another person with apparent disregard for the latter's accomplishments? Why is a sign exchanged to mislead the receiver in the interest of its sender? Can a general structure of signs be developed from the motivational perspective? How do some theories of meaning compare that are currently influential, or that have attributed to them in significant ways?
The version of Semiosis & Sign Exchange submitted to the dissertation committee will appear to have already adequately answered the research questions. Taking the reported incursion literally for once, for its next version it only remained to make the form acceptable for favorable evaluation. The research approach was limited to writing the present text, Aspects of Form, and adding it to the original dissertation where it precedes chapter 1, Introduction. The well-guarded aspects of dissertation form — problem statement, research objective, research questions, and research approach — are now readily recognizable because here they each have a separate paragraph named after them. Readers interested in the serious questions this treatise addresses, and how some fundamental answers have been developed, are invited to continue with the Introduction. I trust that anyone who appreciates the extra level of recursion suggested by Aspects of Form will value the proposal for conceptual grounds of business information modeling.
August 2000, web edition 2010 © Pieter Wisse