mass communication & media literacy 03

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Mass Communication & Media Literacy 03

Author: clive-mcgoun

Post on 28-Jan-2015




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Page 1: Mass communication & media literacy 03

Mass Communication & Media Literacy 03

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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

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The study of meaning and the different systems that make meaning possible Images Colour Bodily gestures Music Media forms in all their variety

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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

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‘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!

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Key thinkers

Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1913)Charles Sanders Pierce (1839-1914)Roland Barthes (1915-1980)Umberto Eco (1932 - )

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Core ideas

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

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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

Hidden meanings/sub-texts

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Why stop at red?

SignsSignifier = physical

properties of a signSignified = the

conceptual aspect of the sign

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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.

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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?

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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

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Sign-object relationships

Pierce suggested three possible relationships between signs and the objects to which they refer: Iconic relationship Indexical Symbolic

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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

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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?

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Semiological analyses

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?