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What Is This ?.

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Presentation on theme: "What Is This ?."— Presentation transcript:

1 What Is This ?

2 This is a famous painting by Rene Magritte called "The Treachery of Images." Magritte's caption says, (in French) "This is not a pipe."

3 Actually it’s not a famous painting by Magritte, it’s a digital image of the painting

4 All of which illustrates Magritte's point, which is simply that an image or sign of a thing is not the thing itself. One could make the same point with any number of images, signs, and symbols.

5 Magritte's point is a simple one, so simple that we usually don't think about it. But precisely because we don't think about it, because we forget that the signs and symbols all around us are just that, signs and symbols, and not things themselves, we can come to take for granted, take as "natural," aspects of life that are anything but.

6 What is this ?

7 What is this ?


9 What is Semiotics ? Semiotics is a tradition that calls attention to meaning making in culture, particularly the media. It can be traced back to the Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure and was developed further by French thinker Roland Barthes.

10 Basics of Semiotics The basic unit of meaning in Saussure's version of semiotics, is the Sign. A sign is anything that makes meaning.

11 All signs have two aspects: The signifier and the signified
All signs have two aspects: The signifier and the signified. The signifier is any thing that signifies, e.g., words on a page, a facial expression, a picture, a bit of graffiti. The signified is the concept to which the signifier refers. Together, they make up the sign. All sig.

12 Signifier: RED ROSE----------Signified:
Together they make up the “sign” The denotation is the literal meaning of the sign. In this case, rose means a kind of flower

13 Connotations involve signifying signs, signs that become the signifier for a second signified.
Here the sign "rose" becomes a signifier for a secondary signified, namely love or passion

14 Barthes argued that there are no
“innocent” objects or images. Anything can be transformed into a sign by the imposition of “connotations.” The bringing together of signs and their connotations in the form of codes in messages creates and maintains myths and media plays a critical role in this process. The purpose of myths is to make things seem normal and natural.

15 Phto analyzed by Barthes

16 Connotation at Work

17 Connotation at Work The first thing that catches the viewer’s eye is the shiny plaque

18 Connotation Continued
This image, combined with the words on it, denotes, or literally suggests, a bronze or gold plaque. it also signifies a particular health club, presumably one in Palm Springs California. But most viewers of this ad, in turn, will also associate such a health club with wealth and the luxurious forms of leisure one might imagine that frequenters of such a desert resort might be accustomed to. The gold, shiny color of the plaque strengthens this connotation, because gold is generally associated with wealth.

19 Other Connotations of Wealth
Other signs in this ad, particularly the Faberge egg and the written sign, the word "wealthy." Together, all these signs suggesting wealth, constitute a cultural paradigm, a chain or collection of signs which invoke each other because they are culturally or paradigmatically related.

20 Putting together two or more elements from a paradigm generally invokes, in the reader's mind, many more associations from that paradigm. Of course, the advertiser's goal here is to get us to add their product to this paradigm .

21 Thus plugging a product into culturally desirable paradigms, encouraging us to connotatively associate a product with other things we value, is the basic strategy of almost all brand-name product advertising today. In this ad, as in most, there are several paradigms at work. Most obviously, alongside the paradigm of wealth, the ad invokes . . .

22 The paradigm of health, again with the hope that we will come to include the product in our own personal version of these paradigms. But the inclusion of a bottle of liquor in is not particularly persuasive. For logical reasons, after all, most people do not associate health with liquor. This is why the ad must rely on another kind of semiotic structure besides paradigmatic relations to make its message work, namely . . .

23 Syntagmatic relations, or relations of sequence
Syntagmatic relations, or relations of sequence. If paradigmatic relations make meaning by way of shared cultural associations, then syntagmatic relations are those in which the sequence or order of signs creates meaning. The words "healthy, wealthy, and wise" are a familiar sequence for two reasons: they are part of a grammatical sentence as well as a familiar rhyme -- "Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man . . ." Providing us with the conclusion to the rhyme makes us automatically think of the whole thing.

24 The cleverness in this ad is that the verbal syntagmatic relations of the phrase "healthy, wealthy, and wise" are used to establish a visual sequence that builds a relationship between otherwise unrelated images: the plaque, the egg, and the Canadian Club symbol. And by this means, the advertisers are able to associate their product, not only with paradigms of wealth and health, but -- most improbably -- with wisdom.

25 People may not really think they'll become the people they see in the ads, but the paradigms invoked by advertisements do seem to matter a great deal in terms of how people understand their social identity.

26 Signs also help constitute narratives
Because so many narratives are familiar to us, advertisements can invoke a particular narrative and all its associations by just showing us a single image that represents of one moment in the narrative, a "snapshot" that invokes the whole story.

27 Signs, Narratives and Myths

28 Is it Clearer Now ?

29 This is a larger piece of the image (from a two-page ad)
This is a larger piece of the image (from a two-page ad). You can see that now the image fills in a lot more of the story for you: it invokes a familiar sequence of events. Most viewers notice the context (the side of a remote road), the highway patrol car and patrolman (a role emphasized by his sunglasses), and the young man who seems to be walking in the direction of his motorcycle while covering his face, connoting a mood of chagrin. And given all these suggestions, we assume that this is part of a familiar sequence of events, a familiar narrative: the young man has just received a traffic ticket.


31 But the ad tells even more of the story. The words read: Too much road
But the ad tells even more of the story. The words read: Too much road. Too little time. Six miles from home. The words elaborate on the narrative: We now know that the ticket is for speeding and that the young man is near home. But that's not all.

32 What Does This Evoke ? Many people who look at this say it makes them think of "a James Dean, rebel-without-a-cause" theme. Where does this association come from? The association comes the black and white photo is in black and white. In a context in which color is the norm black and white has become a sign for "the past," due to its associations with older films and photographs. Other signs ?

33 The advertiser, then, is trying to associate Lee Jeans, not with the unpleasant event of getting a ticket, but with a certain myth. Myths in this sense are not just narratives, but narratives mixed with other signs: the rebel-without-a-cause personality, James Dean himself, his hair style, etc. (This is why many people identify this ad as invoking the rebel-without-a-cause theme without ever having seen the movie; that's a sure sign of the existence of a myth.)

34 Other signs in the ad similarly connote a vaguely specified past time, and thus invoke a "paradigm of past-ness“ What are they ? Taken together, these devices have a similar effect to starting a story with "once upon a time."

35 This leads to the question, what do connotations, narratives, and myths do to us? Do semiotic systems have any effect on human behavior?

36 Semiotics at Work



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