Tuesday, October 27, 2009
This excerpt from the reading struck me as interesting when I began to think deeper about the meaning Semiotics plays in our daily lives. As a communications major I am constantly asked to examine how certain things in communication translate to certain people. A particular example that came to mind has to do with my family. My father was born in Italy and came here when he was about 20 years old. Growing up on a farm in Italy, it was obviously a big adjustment for him but since he came here at a younger age it was easier for him then say my grandmother. She has been here for over 30 years now but she still refuses to give up her traditional Italian traditions. Although she can understand English, she can only speak a few words. If we were to spend an entire day together viewing the symbols, I wonder what different messages each of us would interpret? An ad for nutella would obviously have different meaning to her then it would for me because nutella is much more popular in Europe then in America. It may bring back memories of family gatherings for her, whereas I associate it with a favorite dessert of mine that is originally from France. This example is just one of the many I can think of that relates back to the excerpt above. Every individual has different experiences and memories that they associate with an image or message they see, and semiotics explores this even further.
"As we enter the twenty first century, it is essential that the schools be places that help students better understand the complex, symbol-rich culture in which they live in. A new vision of literacy is essential if educators are serious about the broad goals of education: preparing students to function as informed and effective citizens in a democratic society; preparing students to realize personal fulfillment; and preparing students to function effectively in a rapidly changing world that demands new, multiple literacies."
I feel semiotics is more important now than ever in our culture. Especially in a culture that is continuously changing at an exponential rate. We are constantly being bombarded with images and suggestions, and many times people just take them for what they are, without thinking twice. It is important to understand the connotations and denotations associated with [popular culture] words and expressions for the sake of communication.
I feel it is especially important to read into and analyze these messages because we really can't trust where they come from. In a world of media conglomerates, just about everything we see on television has a hidden message or agenda within. Even our entertainment is laced with ideas and product promotion. Everything is about selling something, whether it be an idea or a product, its usually about maximizing someone's profits. I feel it is really important though to constantly be reading between the lines, to see what an advertisement is really trying to sell you. For example, the health club that tries to sell the idea that you'll find a young, beautiful, physically fit girl at the club, rather than the idea of a healthier you.
Monday, October 26, 2009
Take this logo, for example. Many may not notice the white arrow that exists between the "e" and the "x", pointing to the right. This may be of some subliminal use hinting that FedEx is always heading in the right direction. Learning to depict these uses of semiotics gives a deeper meaning to everyday images that surround us.
The Semiotic Method is something I find extremely interesting. It definitely helps you realize the deeper meaning within advertisements and things such as political ads. I think that more people should be educated on how it works so that they too can understand even just the basics. I am glad that we were assigned these readings. Our current culture is strongly media driven and it is the media who in a way controls us. With the knowledge of the semiotic method you can teach yourself to look deeper into an ad and see if it really is what you want or if it’s the tactic and set up of the ad that makes you think you want whatever it is selling. With this I can be much smarter when it comes to decisions being driven by ads or other types of media with hidden meanings.
Interestingly, like the article says, the best way to understand semiotics is through examples as opposed to a definition or lecture since the defenitions are a bit vague. I also think it's a bit of a stretch when the Semiotics of New Media Literacy article moves into discussing the link between science and Semiotics. Maybe this part wasn't clear to me, how this theory relates to animals, but I understand how it works relating to New Media and literary arts
This passage from the first text on semiotics summed up my thought process whenever viewing something that has been created for consumption, be it a television show, a billboard, or just the shape of a shampoo bottle. This act of constantly questioning is simply part of being a critical, analytic thinker. If we aren't looking at why things are the way they are (even though this can lead to false conclusions by way of assumption), then we are doing nothing more than accepting what is presented to us at face value.
What did interest me was that there was a word for this. I also think the concept is pretty interesting. The idea that so many subliminal messages can go into an ad or fashion design, either consciously or unconsciously, is fascinating. In some cases it can be almost like a form of brainwashing, secretly guiding people's actions.
It's funny when you pass someone or actually meet someone, because people often judge others and make assumptions based on how they look. Had I been dressed differently, he might not have assumed what he did about me. Semiotics at least helps us put a finger on why these ideas occur to us: patterns, combinations, and juxtapositions help inform us and ingrain preconceptions so we have less associating to do all the time. But these conceptions are not always correct.
I like the idea of semiotics and I like the idea that we can find the meaning behind things like TV shows and fashion trends but I don't necessarily agree that everything in popular culture can be analyzed that easily. The reading said that, "all social behavior is political in the sense that it reflects some kind of personal or group interest." That may be true but I do not think that you can always find some deep political meaning behind, "a shirt, a haircut... anything at all". I think sometimes people wear things because it is all they have, for example you might wear a shirt that you don't really like but it was given to you as a gift and you are only wearing it because everything else was dirty. A semiotician would decode that by assuming that you are interested in whatever is on the shirt, but the truth is that is not the truth at all.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
The principles that drive semiotics are impossible to escape throughout even a drab, mundane day. When we dress ourselves, go to a certain store, or eat a certain food, we are putting out a message about ourselves. Even by attempting to not fall into a trend, or not follow one's normal routine, a clear message is perceived by others about how we want to be seen. Semiotics is interesting in that they apply to everyone, everywhere. It's a good subject to read up on as it's impossible to escape.
Similarly, it is something important to consider when attempting cross-cultural studies as well. To be aware of your own biases and the way in which you've been influenced is the best a person can do in regards to trying to remain unbiased.
In truth, it's impossible to be unbiased. Every human being has their own perception. To apply the ideas of semiotics to try and interpret meaning in as complete a way as possible is a good start, though.