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SEMIOTICS 101

An introduction to Semiotics
by

Scott Hayden

on 16 November 2015

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Transcript of SEMIOTICS 101

SIGNS are made up of the following…

1.SIGNIFIER

The physical form of the sign

a poster
a horse
a smile

2.SIGNIFIED

The idea that the signifier produces

a film festival is happening
a horse like a Prince might ride
a smile could suggest love
Famous Semiotician
Ferdinand de Saussure
is seen as the Founder
Other early developers of the study of semiotics are:

Claude Levi-Strauss

Charles Sanders Peirce

Roland Barthes

Sometimes we are aware of the Signs we see,
but much of the time we are not aware of what we are taking in information about...
WHAT DO YOU SEE?
Think of all the links you can make to this picture.
LINKS

1.You may recognize the flower as a POPPY.

2.By saying the word, Poppy, you may feel a link to some past memory or even a name of a girl or pet.

3.The field of poppies maybe something you have
seen and so recall that day or experience.

4. You may think of remembrance day and the World Wars.

5. The single flower in the foreground could symbolise to you the futility of war
WE COULD GO ON AND ON.......
Activity

Identify at least three signs you see when you look at just one still image taken from the film 'Toy Story'

Identify the 'Signifier' and 'Signified's for each Sign
SIGNS YOU MAY HAVE NOTICED - KNOWINGLY OR UNKNOWINGLY

1. The wooden bed - can make you think of 'rustic'
folksey or comfort

2. The clouds on the wall paper - of summer days, and as
it is a 'cartoon' cloud shape that will remind you of
cartoons you look at as a child

3. Woody character- the traditional American Cowboy, with all
the history and the traditions that re-affirms the American pioneer spirit of the past. 'Cowboys and Indians'

4. Buzz Light Year character - the American Space Programme,
the brave pioneer spirit but this time that is looking into the future. 'To Infinity and Beyond'

5. Even the body language of the two figures will be giving you
information and forming LINKS- confident and trusting, the 'good friends' (See Woody's arm around the shoulders) together through thick and thin.

6. You have also accepted this 3D animation as normal reality.
Our thought process
The word tree -

The letters t-r-e-e and saying the word does not show tree or sound like a tree
How we receive information we are looking at, feeling, touching or hearing will be influenced by:

Your memories
Your experiences
Your upbringing
Your education
Where you live
Your nationality
Your ethnicity
Your culture
The language you speak
SEMIOTICS
SEMIOTICS
THE STUDY OF SIGNS
or a 'SIGN SYSTEM'
SUBLIMINALLY/ SUBCONSCIOUSLY
WE ARE BEING INFLUENCED WITHOUT
KNOWING IT
WHY
WHY DO WE NEED SEMIOTICS?

1. To gain a deeper level of understanding of our 'world.'
2. To give a deeper meaning to and understanding of the media we study and make.
3. In Music Video - semiotics is widely used.

Everything in the Media has been carefully selected to reinforce the messages that the company wants you to see.

Some would say to a level of brain washing or propaganda.

Look at this example:

Even with the Spanish titles we can understand the messages.

Look for the number of times you see the colour red-
The number of times you see someone smile
Signifier -
Physical image or word
Signified -
Idea it produces eg 'a tree'
The language of Media begins with Semiotics

........'the language of signs '
Roland Barthes argued that verbal language is just one way in which we communicate.
All the language used by the Old Spice guy has been CONSTRUCTED by us to produce meanings within our given culture.

The verbal and visual signs used DO NOT not have any inherent (inbuilt) meaning
The social contract of LANGUAGE means that we agree to use the same language as everyone else so they understand us.
In semiotics, a sign is "something that stands for something, to someone in some capacity"
(F. Saussure) -
SEMIOTICS SHOWS US THAT OUR PERCEPTION OF REALITY IS SHAPED BY THE WORDS AND SIGNS OF OTHERS.
You may have found that it is quite difficult to pin down one universal, precise Signified to the Signifier of the Poppy.
In the same way we do with words, we still tend to arrive at one clear definition for us all to understand.
OBJECTIVE SIGNIFIERS (Purposefully put there by the Producers to give clues about how to feel or react)

SUBJECTIVE SIGNIFIERS (Personal Connotations that reminds you of something in your life or memories from the past)
When looking at the media the audience usually picks up on the same objective signifiers but can have a whole host of differing subjective signifiers.
The ability to pick up on the signifiers depends on an audiences experience, emotional capacity and intellect.
Media Producers use the human capability for interpreting signs.

So, just as a dark room, black and red background, creaky doors and shadows have connotations of horror, fear and blood, Media Producers use specific Signifiers to evoke particular responses from their audiences.
Activity

Look through the adverts in class OR find an advert online and identify

Three Objective Signifiers
One Subjective Signifier

Create it in your Google Drive
ACTIVITY

How many signs are there in the advert?
The less emotionally experienced you are, the less likely you are to pick up on subtle emotional signifiers.

The less intelligent you are, the less likely you are to analyse an advert in depth, and so on.

The understanding of the advert is dependent on the reader.
Signs are discrete units of meaning, and include words, images, gestures, scents, tastes, textures, sounds –

Essentially, Signs are all of the ways in which information can be communicated as a message by any sentient, reasoning mind to another.
As you will have noticed, some people see things that others don't.

Theorists have found that it is easier to separate into TWO different types of Signifier:
What are your Subjective signifiers (Personal)?
What are your Objective signifiers (Purposefully put there by producers)?)
Activity

What are the CONNOTATIONS (cultural meanings) of the signs in these adverts?
For example....

SIGNIFIER (physical image) = single bed with horse pattern

SIGNIFIED (idea it creates) = child's bedroom
Do the same again with this trailer......
EXTENSION EXERCISE
Lesson Objectives

1. To be able to define the term 'Semiotics'

2. To be able to demonstrate an understanding of what 'Signs' are in Media texts

3. Explain, with examples, the term 'Connotation'

4. Demonstrate the difference between 'Objective Signifiers' and 'Subjective Signifers'

EXTENSION
5. Define the term 'Propaganda' in your own words with examples
We attach the meaning and definition of the Signs
But...sometimes we make different links to Signs.

Sometimes we see different things.
Activity

Demonstrate an understanding of Semiotics by creating a Meme...

Work in pairs
Use the PhotoBooth on your Mac
Add text
Share it in our Facebook Group

(Look at MemeBase or just Google 'Meme' for some ideas)
AIM

To gain a deeper level of understanding of Semiotics in the Media we study and make, and to help you realize the importance of Signs within your Music Video
MEME's are an example of a recent new semiotic language that is shared between people online.

The images signify information about how we feel about things e.g. angry, impressed, and/ or happy.
This has evolved online so people can share feelings/ emotions/ shared knowledge through memes...
We have constructed meaning in our culture.

It is like a social contract we buy in to so we can understand our surroundings.
Others include clothing, hairstyle and body language. These communication codes are verbal and visual.

The Media takes advantage of all these codes.
Look around the room now.

Barthes believed that and people are 'signifying' all sorts of messages about themselves.
Signs are everywhere - in the Media industry they are used to communicate information to the audience
The term 'meme' comes from controversial Professor Richard Dawkins' concept of 'memetics'.

Memes spread culturally like a virus in a similar way to genes spread through families in genetics.
BUT together with the memory of what is
associated with that word you think of
tree.

You will all think of type of tree
differently and in a different way.
THINK ABOUT THE EFFECT OF NEWSPAPER ARTICLES, CINEMA, FACEBOOK, GAMES, SOCIAL MEDIA - ALL OF THESE MEDIA SHAPE AND CONTROL THE WORLD AS WE SEE IT.
This is because there are potentially many different CONNOTATIONS (cultural meanings that we apply) that any one Signifier can create for the reader of a text.
Use the magazine examples in front of you.

Use post-its to analyse them.

Describe the Connotations
The media is constructed from signs.

To become a Media producer you need to understand how to use signs to communicate to your audience.
ACTIVITY

Can you create a propaganda image in 15 minutes?

REMEMBER you need to convince your audience of something

Use PhotoBooth

Share results in our Facebook Group
Full transcript