mass communication & media literacy 03
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Mass Communication & Media Literacy 03
The Greek word ‘logos’indicates a rational principle and order to explaining phenomena
‘sem’ comes from the Greek for signand is found in words such as semaphoreand semantics
Semiology seeks to identify how the content of media messages come to have significance and mean what they do
The study of meaning and the different systems that make meaning possible Images Colour Bodily gestures Music Media forms in all their variety
Rhetoric Draws our attention to
what someone is saying, along with the setting, the way they speak, etc.
Semiology Why do specific things (a
‘posh’ accent, a black face, a suit and tie, a grey backdrop, the street rather than the studio, mean what they do?
How is meaning created? Not in the mind of the
reader ... Not in the text ... In the interaction
between reader and text
‘Psychologically, what are our ideas, apart from our language? They probably do not exist. Or in a form that may be described as amorphous. We should probably be unable according to philosophers and linguists to distinguish two ideas clearly with the help of language’ (Saussure, 1993)
Language doesn’t describe the world ... it constitutes it!
Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1913)Charles Sanders Pierce (1839-1914)Roland Barthes (1915-1980)Umberto Eco (1932 - )
1. Media texts are constructions Not natural but manufactured
2. Meanings are the result of social convention not any ‘essential’ property in things or the relationship of words or other signs to the things or concepts depicted Meanings are socially determined, the organisation
and rules of language
3. Meaning is as much a result of conventions as it is the intentions of those who produced the texts
The meaning of a song is not fixed by the songwriter or singer
Meanings are produced by the conventions of used both by media workers and the listeners who consume it
Why stop at red?
SignsSignifier = physical
properties of a signSignified = the
conceptual aspect of the sign
The picture of dog presents us with the sign ‘dog’. The signifier (the image itself, with 2D physical properties) presents the signified of both ‘dogness’ and this particular dog (Sparky) in the image.
I took my dog to the vets on Friday.I’m dog-tired.I’m going to kill that dog of a boyfriend of
Don’t focus on the analysis of signs at the level of signifier and signified as the basis of understanding.
Stay at the level of the sign as a way of understanding how language works
From linguistics to media studies
Saussure was a linguist who realised that his analysis of language could be applied to any form of communication or signifying system.
So, we can extend the semiological approach to identify the signs in Computer games TV programmes Podcasts Magazine articles Adverts Films Pieces of music
And this will take us deeper than rhetoric allowed
Semiology: tools & techniques
Signs combine together to create meaningful text Single word signs – sentences – paragraphs – stories Written elements – typeface – images – photos Facial features – hairstyles – clothing – backgrounds
Meaning is determined by the selection of signs and their combination in text
Semiology makes sense of the process and the signifying results of that selection and combination
Paradigm or syntagm
The whole system of signification and its elements
Any particular utterance derived from the system or langue
Principles or rules of how language or any signifying system is put together. Paradigm is the vertical relationship: syntagm is the horizontal relationship
Study or meaning making at a particular time
Changes in language over time
Verbal and visual signs
Don’t be fooled!Once an object is captured by a signifying
system (a dog in digital photographic form or on filmic celluloid) it is no longer an innocent object. It now exists as a sign – something selected and embraced within a system of communication
Texts made out of complex signs
What are the most significant elements of this text?
Which signs are most meaningful and how are they meaningful in the hierarchy of the text?
Denotation & connotation
Barthes took up Saussure’s work and used them to think about the social context and role of the media Any sign will be associated with an initial aspect of
signification but that this will trigger further associations Literal meaning – denotation Further associative meanings - connotation
Pierce suggested three possible relationships between signs and the objects to which they refer: Iconic relationship Indexical Symbolic
Organisation of signs in texts
Different signs combined differently create different readings – connotations change Inflection Reinforcement Transformation
Polysemy – we read signs differently depending on our particular social context especially in relation to power
Eco and code
Polysemous readings are possible because of the notion of ‘code’ a means of converting information into a special format in
order to communicate it A set of rules for doing so
If the code that is used by the reader is a different one to that used to create a text then a reading different to that intended by the creators will result. Preferred readings Aberrant readings
Media producers want to keep aberrant readings to a minimum. How do they do that?
How do you know that any such analysis is valid? Demonstrating inter-subjective reading Providing detailed structural support for our analysis
Ultimately, how persuasive can we be?