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Semiotics/Semiology

Edward Slopek CC8902
by

Jordan Waldman

on 17 October 2012

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Transcript of Semiotics/Semiology

Semiotics and Semiology Emilie Charlebois and Jordan Waldman Contents Semiology, Semiotics and Qualitative Analysis
Ferdinand de Saussure and Semiology
Charles Sanders Peirce and Semiotics
Roland Barthes and Myth
Conclusion
Group Image Analysis Semiology and Semiotics in Research Semiotics popular form of analysis in the 70's and 80's
One of the first to identify semiotics was the Swiss theorist Ferdinand de Saussure, he called it semiology.
Semiotics came from an American named Charles Sanders Pierce
Has become a foundation for cultural research, bridging the gap between structuralism and its theoretical followers.
Semiology is preferred in Europe and Semiotics is preferred in America
Semiology has a diatic relationship between the signifier and signified
Semiotics has a triatic relationship between the subject, object and interpretation Qualitative analysis Semiotics is 1 of 3 major forms of qualitative analysis
Others, Linguistics Analysis and Frame Analysis
The goal for social science research is to find the balance between qualitative and quantitive research Linguistic Analysis Linguistics has had a major methodological influence on semiotics
Though not originally relied on often,linguistics has gained popularity since the 80's since the start of studying media texts
Linguistics has been valuable in media studies to understand the relations between power and authority
Frame Analysis Prominent paradigm in media and communication research
Semiotics and Linguistics are rooted in European Philosophy, Frame analysis began in North America from the symbolic interactionist tradition
George Herbert Mead, Herbert Blumer and the Chicago School
First coined by Ernest Goffman in 1974 in Frame Analysis: An essay on the organization of experience
Sought to understand basic frameworks that exist in order to understand events, and to analyze the vulnerabilities of these frames of reference
The frame is the summation of the basic elements that are used to identify events
Frame analysis is the examination of the organization of experience
According to Goffman, frames are unconsciously manufactured and adopted Sign, Signifier and Signified Signifier, the physical of the sign
Signified, mental concept
Sign = Signifier + Signified
Fundamental characteristic is that it is arbitrary
Signs are different from symbols Linguistics and Signs “A word exists only within a language system, only in differentiated relations to other words in that system”

Languages impact on how one experiences the world
Langue: The abstract system which pre-exists the way we choose words
Parole: the specific way we speak
The value of a linguistic sign is referred to as signification
Words are embedded in a linear sequence which establishes their relation with one another Denotation and Connotation Denotation, the manifest content of a sign or signs, literal meaning
Connotation, the latent content what a written text might signify, operates on a more subjective level of perception and experience Codes and Conventions Signs operate structurally according to Codes and Conventions
Conventions are rules of communication that are often taken for granted

"All media texts are constrained and, at the same time, made possible by conventions. Media studies helps to reveal the building blocks of conventions out of which such texts are built, and shows us how they are put together in a particular order.”

Codes are interpretive devices, clusters of context,-specific meaning
Encoding is the process in which certain codes and conventions are constructed into a media text
Decoding is when the audience uses codes to interpret a media text Polysemy Polysemy refers to multiple readings, but not unlimited
Media texts possess certain identities governed by the codes and conventions that construct them
We have a bias exerted on us to decode in a certain context Limitations De Saussure’s linguistic model overlooks how change often occurs through speech, therefore prioritizing language over speech in his synchronic view of language as a fixed system.
Fails to take context into account.
Relies heavily on binary oppositions.
Charles Sanders Peirce 1834 - 1914
Recognized for Semiotics
Father of Pragmatism
Working under a different context from De Saussure, both stressed the need for science of signs Semiotic Analyisis •The term derives from the Greek μ, (sēemeiōotikos), "observant of signs"
•John Locke used the terms semeiotike and semeiotics in Book 4, Chapter 21 of An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690) “All that can fall within the compass of human understanding, being either, first, the nature of things, as they are in themselves, their relations, and their manner of operation: or, secondly, that which man himself ought to do, as a rational and voluntary agent, for the attainment of any end, especially happiness: or, thirdly, the ways and means whereby the knowledge of both the one and the other of these is attained and communicated.” —Locke, 174. Ferdinand de Saussure 1857 - 1913
"Course in General Linguistics"
Founder of modern linguistics and structuralism Semiotics Signs already incorporated different kinds of signs
Treat sign systems like their models
Differs by its reference and reliance on two interlocking triads
Referent: phenomena and things we experience; something we try to capture or represent with signs. First Triad First triad: sign—interpretant—object
Sign: “stands to somebody for something in some respect or capacity” and creates in the mind an equivalent or more developed sign, which is the...…
Interpretant: is the tought or “mental effect”
It also possesses a quality of endless commutability
Object: what the sign stands for
Concepts of these elements rely on representation, our perception of reality Second Triad Second triad: 3 kinds of signs
Icon: relationship between the signifier and signified is based on the quality of being alike.
Symbol: is arbitrarily connected to its object by association or habituation (meanings dependent on a cultural system)
Index: the relation between the signifier and the signified is causal and linear (the sign is directly the effect of the object).
Signs can have overlapping functions
The interpretation of particular signs requires prior knowledge (e.g. the significance of an army salute). Roland Barthes and Myth Used semiotics to analyze concept of myth
"Myth is a type of speech"
Myth is invented by a culture to define meanings in their world, yet appear natural (having always been the case). Myth History behind the photograph is put on hold
Signifier is emptied in order to be associated with a new concept The mythologist deciphers the myth as she understands a distortion

“Connect the mythical schema to a general history, to explain how it corresponds to the interests of a definite society, [to pass] from semiology to ideology […] it is the reader of myths who must reveal their essential function.” (128-129)

Myth is depoliticzed speech

“Myth is constituted by the loss of the historical quality of things: in it, things lose the memory that they once were made. The world enters language as a dialectical relation between activities, between human actions; it comes out of myth as a harmonious display of essences […] A conjuring trick has taken place; it has turned reality inside out, it has emptied it of history and has filled it with nature […] Myth does not deny things, on the contrary, its function is to talk about them; simply, it purifies them, it makes them innocent, it gives them a clarity which is not that of an explanation but that of a statement of fact.” (142-143) Mythologies constitutes his major work on various cultural myths.
By analyzing the various signifiers in relation to one another establishes the “message sign”: example Panzani ad
Gathering of vegetables with products
Colours and set-up
Brand name
Conveys “Italianicity”
Culinary experience provided by the brand meant to be interpreted as authentically Italian and provides all that is needed for an authentic dish.
Sauce is just as fresh as the produce it is aligned with Conclusion Semiotics’ is mostly useful as an analytical tool for uncovering and analyzing layers and networks of meaning. It distinguishes “units of meaning” (signs) and focuses on the ways in which these may be systematically encoded and interpreted. Although it is primarily preoccupied with language as a system, its models can be applied within other systems and cultural units such as visual media (photographs, cinema), music, advertising, or dance. It essentially provides a means for reading other cultural phenomena as forms of language and texts. Conclusion, cont.

Not so much a method as much as a critical tool and skill informing other research methods such as qualitative content analysis.

“The basic utility of semiotics for media studies students is in advancing certain concepts which can be applied to analysis of media texts. Semiotics helps us to think analytically about how such texts work and the implications they have for the broader culture in which they are produced and disseminated”

Important to acknowledge cultural assumptions and biases that inform concepts such as signified, connotation, denotation, referent, interpretant, etc.
Group Image Analysis Saussurian analysis

The image as a whole is made up of various signs. Every sign is distinct from every other sign and meaning of a sign is generated through its opposition to other signs.

Signifiers are the formal elements within the image that can be isolated and identified
Captions (text and slogans) can be considered signifiers.
Signifieds are the associative concepts the signifiers are referring to.
Denotation: literal meaning
Connotation: meaning that is imprinted by cultural significance established by convention.

What are the key signifiers in the image?
What are the possible signifieds for each of the signifiers?
What are the social codes to which the signifieds are related?
What are the codes that mutually enforce each other?
Which are the codes that are not shared?
Which fade into the background?
(Barthes) cultural process of myth: hidden social influences that underlie the social codes reinforced by the advertisement.
Does the meaning of the image in question rely on referents that are exterior to it?
What are the signs in the image (interlocking triads)
Sign, interpretant, object
Icon, index, symbol
What are the relations between the signs?
What are their functions?
What are their interpretants?
How do all these significations coalesce into the meaning of the image? Thank You! Peirce’s model of applied semiotics: Advertising: from informative to conceptual
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