Kathleen Akins argues that "the traditional view" of sensory systems assumes too quickly that their function is detecting features of the outside environment. Instead, some systems are "narcissistic"--their signals tell their own states--and others may send signals that are not about anything at all. But Akins overlooks that "traditionalists" may argue, with Millikan, that the function of sensory systems may be steering motor routines. Aboutness comes in as how the systems have steered in ways evolution liked--by gearing steering to external features. Color vision and olfaction, for example, are thus, about external features.
Elder, Crawford, "What Sensory Signals are About" (1998). Articles. Paper 4.