Media Analysis Semiotics 1 -

Media Analysis Semiotics 1 -

Introducing Media Semiotics How did it Develop? 1960s: Shift away from the more humanist approach of auteurism with its focus on mise-en-scne Interest in / influence of structuralist

ideas from France, esp. in the fields of Antrhopology and Linguistics Structuralism Structuralism very much informed by Semiology Ferdinand de Saussure (Swiss Linguist) Semiotics Charles S. Peirce (American

Philosopher) Structuralism Contd. Made popular by Roland Barthes His Mythologies remains a key work Based on the idea that objects and images of contemporary Western daily life can be analysed the same ways an ethnogrpaher analyses the myths and rituals of a primitive

society The Concept of Semiotics Semiotics is the study of everything that can be used for communication: words, images, traffic signs, flowers, music, medical symptoms, and much more. Ellen Seiter

It is therefore an extension of linguistic analysis into the field of material signs like those we encounter in the media Semiotics is primarily the study of how signs communicate According to Ferdinand de Saussures Semiotic theory: Signifier

+ Signified = Sign ICONIC SIGNS Peirce Meaning may seem less arbitrary An iconic image of a dog

The drawing could be skeletal or anatomical, in which case it might take a trained veterinarian or zoologist to recognise any structural similarity between the drawing and the signified dog. The iconic sign could be a childs drawing, in which case another expert decoder, for instance the childs parent or teacher, might be required to detect structural resemblance.

Signs and Meaning Semiotics is also the study of the rules which regulate the operation of sign systems. According to Saussure signs make meaning relationally House

How does this image communicate meaning? Meaning via Relational Differences House It is not MANSION or COTTAGE or SHACK or FLAT

A System of Meaningful Differences In order to know the meaning of BROWN, one must understand RED, TAN, GREY, BLACK etc. Jonathan Culler Therefore we can see the importance of the system: The value of signs is determined wholly by their relationships with others in a system. John Hartley

The Importance of Context Signs are Historically Culturally Socially produced Signs in Context

Therefore: Meaning can change over time Meaning can be slightly different depending upon the system in operation The meaning of a Sign is therefore dependent on its Systemic Context First and Second Order Signification

Denotation Connotation First and Second Order Signification Denotation: The single literal meaning of a sign, corresponding to its dictionary definition

Connotation: The various shades of secondary associations of a sign, which vary according to the perceiver A Rose is a Rose or is it? Symbolic Associations Romance!

Context The repeated use of/ familiarisation with the system Barthes and Myth: There are no simple, natural objects; all signs become meaningful within a particular semiotic system For example, the Eiffel Tower

Myth Making society function harmoniously Shared beliefs and perspectives on the world Modern myths are equivalent to the concept of ideology

Advertising Confirmation of the message through repetition Familiarisation and Naturalisation Organised polysemy so that despite multiple secondary meanings, the message to but is nevertheless

highlighted and un-ambiguous Women + Kitchen: A Modern Mythology? Who is usually in the kitchen? What happens if we replace the usual

character? Do things seem strange? Commutation test Film Stars Think of a Tom Cruise role

And a key scene when he is being at his most Cruiselike Stars as Signs Replace Tom Cruise with Adam Sandler, in the same scene at his most Sandler-esque

You can begin to see the star as a sign that makes meaning in contexts. In a different system the meaning changes. Undertaking Semiotic Analysis Identify the relevant signs and their dominant aspects Lisbet van Zoonen

A Semiotic analysis must also show how these semiotic components function together to generate both unified and divergent meanings Iconic Signs Syntagmatic Meaning What is the relationship that each sign has with others in the text

Paradgimatic Meaning What are the external (metaphorical) relationships of a given sign? Signs and Absence What is not present is equally as important in our analysis The example of the cover model on the magazine in the textbook is useful here, (pg.

24) Cosmopolitan Cover Components of the Image She is White not wearing x and not

(what myths do these confirm?) How would meaning change if she was or was doing something else? Signs are POLYSEMIC not fixed or singular They may carry multiple meanings This suggests that there cannot

be a definitive reading Context becomes central Sexuality Gender Age Class Education

Occupation Religion Region Race nationality Red Rose (again!) Imagine a series of photographs containing

an iconic sign a red rose A man handing one to a woman A person waving one at a political rally

Someone wearing one in Paris at the weekend Anchorage Barthes refers to this process as ANCHORAGE This is how advertisements are able to work to produce a single meaning despite

polysemic components: they are anchored in a particular context Further Reading More detailed explanation of semiotics is available in the book J. Bignell, Media Semiotics, from the reading list The following Website is also very helpful:

Daniel Chandler, Semiotics for Beginners: /semiotic.html Conclusion Van Zoonen argues that semiotics is, a powerful tool to understand how sign systems in mass media can evoke

emotions, associations, fears, hopes, fantasies and acquiescence Semiotics Exercise: Wonderbra Ad Media Semiotics Exercise: Decoding Advertisements Examine the Wonderbra Ad in groups and answer the

following questions: What are the signs that make up this advertisement? What audience is addressed by the ad and how is it defined? What are the denotative and connotative meanings of the text? What are the different ways the image might be interpreted? What meanings are produced through the interaction

of text and image? What does the semiotic analysis of this ad tell us about the language of advertising?

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