How do we make meaning? Semiotics, "The Science of Signs"

Semiotics -- Three Main Areas of Study

1. The study of signs themselves;

2. The study of the codes or systems into which signs are organized;

3. The study of the culture within which codes and signs operate.












What is in a sign? (Ferdinand de Saussure)

Signs have three dimensions...

1. a physical dimension

2. a representational dimension

3. a conceptual dimension


















Joseph Kosuth, "One and Three Chairs," 1965.

Which is the "real" chair?










Characteristics of signs:

- they refer to something other than themselves and draw our attention to something outside of them






- are vehicles which carry meanings









- contain a physical, a representational, and a conceptual dimension










- are used conventionally (recall our discussion of redundancy)








- are culturally relative or specific, not universal

Authentic German Signs








- are often arbitrary, especially but not exclusively in language











René Magritte "La Trahison des Images" (The Treachery of Images), 1928/29










How do signs operate as vehicles of meaning? (Thomas Sebeok)


1. Symptom







2. Signal





3. Index











Two Portraits - Andy Warhol by Joseph Karsh, and Whistler's Mother - and a familiar face

4. Icon










5. Symbol









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6. Name







Roland Barthes Mythologies

Roland Barthes suggests an extension of our understanding of the sign and signifying practices to include the domain of myth or ideology.











Barthes' Two Orders of Signification:

1. Denotation -- that which is inscribed, literally

2. Connotation -- the realm of ideology, when signs meet with and interact with the ideas, values, beliefs and emotions of users










This image is the subject of Barthes' discussion of how signs operate to produce and reproduce ideological positions and assumptions.









How do messages perform their referential function?

1. Paradigmatic relations -- the realm of selection and substitution (metaphor) click here

2. Syntagmatic relations -- the realm of combination (metonymy)








What is a Code?

Three kinds of codes:

1. social codes








2. textual codes






3. interpretive codes









Intertexuality: the relation of the current text to texts preceding or outside of it. The meaning of the current text requires the preceding text for its meaning. Here, the current text ("L.H.O.O.Q." by Duchamp) is intertextually bound to the "Mona Lisa."








Semiotics Explained, Buzzfeed on Hipsters and Beards

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Obession for advertising...

What does it mean?

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