Thursday, 10 January 2013

Lecture 10: Signs and signification

Communication Theory ?
Signs and signification 


To introduce key themes and concepts in semiotics
To explore key theories and theorists in the field of structural linguistics 
To explore uses of semiotics in the analysis of art and design 
Communication theory is misleading - looking at specifics - semeiotics
To try and put some of these areas into practice 

The two Ronnies - four candles 
Meaning isn't guaranteed in everything you say
Misinterpretation of words through sound

Defining Semiotics

Ferdinand De Saussure defined semiology - a study of 'sign systems'
All linguists, concerned by language, they reduced language to sign systems, which allows us to use these studies and structures 
Signifier / signified / referent
Signifier- anything which stand in place for something else
Signified - is the mental translation of the thing its self when faced with a word
Referent  The thing or the concept itself
Allows interpretation 
He separated the word (sign) from meaning - that meaning is not inherent within the sign
He also separated the act of speech (La Parole) from the system of language (La Langue)
Semiotics is a form of Meta- language - a language about 
Systems and structures (the context of the sign) dictate somewhat the reading 
Language itself doesn't not belong to us, it belongs to the human race
Sign work within systems and structures, what dictate the meaning, what tell us what to think when faced with a word, the English language is a system
Systems in: fashion, photography, advertising 

What do these colours signify ?

Green: Grass, Go
Blue: Cold, Sky

How about now?

Green: Salt and vinegar
Blue: Cheese and onion

How about now ?
No literal relation between colour and flavour, the system of significance 

How does the meaning of the colours change in relation to the other images/ information (system) ?


Saussure tells us that meaning is established in differentiation 
Rather than establishing what it is we establish what 'it is not'
'Concepts.. are defined not positively, in the terms of their content, but negatively by contrast with other items in the same system. What characterizes each most exactly is being whatever the others are not'
We don't always know what something means by what it is, but we know what something means by what it is not

Connotation and denotation

Provides us with 'levels' or 'orders' of signification 
Roland Barthes warns that denotation in NOT literal meaning but is naturalised through language 
Most evident where signifiers merely refer to other signifiers
Give us levels or order of signification as not everything works on a realistic level
Be very cautious of what may 'seen'  something that is part of a system, may denote 


Myths are signs that are culturally informed
Barthes linked myths to ideology - 'Bourgeois ideology … turns culture into nature' (1974)
Myths often appear to 'go without saying' yet function to hide dominant cultural values or beliefs 
Myths become a 'third order' of signification after denotation (first order) and connotation (second order)
Looks at series of thing, objects etc. 
What myths are to Barthes, a third order, something that bares no logical connection, something that is naturalised over time e.g (red wine and milk)
Red wine is associated with people of hight class, France, expense, intelligence 
Milk is linked with wholesomeness, strength, natural, freedom, liberty
When in actual fact there is no relation, just an assumption 
Through associated there becomes and agreed conclusion  

The mythology of wrestling: Exaggerated stereotypes, unrealistic situations, a fight between good and evil (Barthes - Mythologies)

Syntagm and paradigm

Syntagm - a series or collection of signifiers within a 'text' (e.g a sentence)
We use the word text when we are referring to images too
Syntagmatic relations - how signifiers within at syntagm relate to each other
Tell us about the formal qualities of these forms 
Paradigm - signifiers that relate through function or relative meaning (e.g boy/man, male/ female)
Paradigmatic relation - how paradigmatic signifiers contrast and contsruct meaning 

Rule of thirds
Information and product are in the bottom right corner 
What it communicates and who it communicates the advert

Metaphor and metonym

… are both non-literal forms of signification, as such require a level of interpretation 
Metaphor is where one signifier is replaces with another of similar concept or character 
Metonymy is where a where a signifier stands in for another to which it is conceptually or physically of a part of (displacement)
A metaphor as you know is one sig replaced with another 
Metonym is where a whole is used to describe a small part of the hole
Referring to a 'car' as 'wheels'

The white house in this context doesn't mean the whitehouse, is it just a building 
Ai Weiwei -'Study in perspective series' 1995 - 2003


The act of effective persuasion using language, very subtle, not even aware that it is working at all


Meta is a prefix used to alter purpose of a practice or system inwards
Meta-language - language about language 
Meta-narrative - an overarching narrative of other smaller narratives 
A word that appear in front of other words 

A movie about making a movie - a meta movie

Macrel Duchamp - The ready made, its and art work which comments on art itself 


Is the term used for the broad placation os emetics. semiology to a range of sign systems
Further than the application solely to linguistics
Structuralism emphasis structures or systems of signification 
Not what it means but how it comes to mean 
How you can use these words within the study of images, wow the images are composed, what these structures and systems are, objects, fashion, sculpture
The structuralists - took this idea of sign systems and applied it to a range of things

Roland Barthes - 'Image, music, text' 1977

Barthes analyses a range of visual media in terms of their signifying structures:
'The photographic message'
'The rhetoric of the image'
'The third meaning'
^ Essays worth reading
Barthes himself could be classed as a structuralist himself, however he was negative, and began to contradict culture

Post - structuralism 
(insert video clip)
"if you can't make it fake it by over explaining it"

While structuralism focusses on the structures of meaning in any signifying system 
Post- structuralism focusses on the inter peter/ reader and the precarious nature of meaning 
Structuralism reduces everything to related elements within a signifying system 
This is authoritarian in nature
It assumes the presence of meaning ('the meta physic of presence') 
Post - structuralists aim to deconstruct assumptions and emphasise the plurality of interpretation 
People replace post- structuralism with postmodernism 
By looking at the structures of meaning, there is an assumption of the presence of meaning, there is one there
How our culture have always privileged presence instead of absence 


Jacques Derrida established this term both in development of Saussure and disagreement
Differer - To differ and to defer / Difference - the process of differing and deferring 
Difference is both differing and deferring simultaneously 
Derrida states that meaning is not only established in difference / opposition but is also being deferred 
If you come across of word and you look it up in a dictionary and a selection of a words come up, you end up being derferred by other words, inevitably ending up with the meaning of another word

(write in quote)


Where structuralism identified/ created structures of signification 
Deconstruction aims to dismantle the structures - identifying gaps and instabilities 
Through deconstruction Jacques Derrida challenged 'binary opposites' which are deeply rooted in our culture and language 
Emphasising what is lost or cast aside
Our languages privileges things in opposition


An interesting philosopher 
All texts are connected, traces of things that have come before it

(write in quote)

Every text that is out there is subject to rules standards, representation just the same as any other area 

(write in quote)

Scary movie
Exists because of the things that it references 


The representation don't represent anything real other than themselves 
Most of our experience of the world os through representation, the news, television, the internet, images, there is not real representation, just a visual perception 

Stages of simulacra

The images that we see inform our understand of what is really there

Disney land is contrasted to mirror fantastic element of society (paris, rome, london) but is distorted into non sine - non reality 

Brands aren't about the products anymore they still posses a use, yet they are useful to say i have a 'apple mac' the stays, the signifier them selves, that is the value

Consideration for art and design 

Consideration in analysing art and design?
Consideration when creating art and design?

No comments:

Post a Comment