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Media language semiotics   lesson 2 & 3
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Media language semiotics lesson 2 & 3


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  • 1. Media Language Semiotics
  • 2.  
  • 3. Roland Barthes: The language of signs
    • He argued that verbal language is just one way of communicating, others include:
    • Hairstyle
    • Clothing
    • Body language
    • Make up
  • 4. Models for understanding language
    • Language is CONSTRUCTED by people to produce meanings within their culture
    • It is only when we name objects and events that they are given meaning and definition
    • The social contract of language means that we agree to use the same language as everyone else so they understand us.
    • We can however play with the language of our society through signs, codes and patterns as well as words.
  • 5. Three parts to every sign…
    • The Signifier: The physical form of the sign. The written word on the paper, a traffic light, a smile.
    • The Signified: This is the concept or idea that the signifier produces. A red light signifies stop. The written word ROSE connects to the idea of a rose. A smile could signify happiness.
    • The Referent: The real thing, not the signal or the idea but the real, individual thing. A real individual rose, the real feeling of happiness.
  • 6. The Semiotic Triangle Text Signifier Signified Referent GAP
  • 7.
    • Semiotics emphasises that our perception of reality is shaped by the words and signs that we use, and how we interpret the words and signs of others.
    Signifier Signified Referent A red rose An empty chair A shaved head A leather jacket
  • 8. Task
    • Watch the opening sequence from Mission: Impossible without sound. What is happening? Pick three signifiers that signify this.
  • 9. Media Language Semiotics – 2 Denotation  Connotation
  • 10. Terms…
    • Denote (denotation)
      • deconstruction of any media text begins with a detailed description of what is empirically present (visually and audibly) or what is DENOTED on the page / screen.
    • Connote (connotation)
      • after the initial description, you can move on to assessing what is CONNOTED by the signs.
    • Signifiers are denoted . What is signified is connoted.
    • The connotations of the signs create the meaning . ie red connotes (or signifies) passion, desire, blood, danger etc. The terms connote and signify are almost interchangeable.
  • 11. What do you think these elements would connote in a film?
    • 1. A dark room
    • 2. High pitched screeching music
    • 3. Shadows
    • 4. Rain
    • 5. Sunshine
    • 6. Classical pastoral music
    • 7. A frown
    • 8. A smile as an aside to the audience
    • 9. Red Light in a room
    • 10. A man carrying a rose
  • 12. The signs or signifiers in films
    • Films use the human capability for interpreting signs.
    • The black and red background to most Horror movie titles has connotations of fear and blood.
    • The creaky doorway in a thriller creates tension.
    • Romantic music puts the audience in a romantic mood and allows them to realise something romantic is about to happen.
  • 13.
    • To approach signifiers you have to realise there are Objective ones (put there intentionally to give clues about how to feel or react to the film) and
    • Subjective ones (not intentionally put there but something that reminds an individual of something in their life or memories from the past).
    • When watching a film an audience usually picks up on the same objective signifiers but can have a whole host of connotations attached to differing subjective signifiers.
  • 14.
    • The ability to pick up on the signifiers in a film depends on an audience's
    • Experience
    • Emotional capacity
    • Intellect.
    • The less emotionally experienced you are, the less likely you are to pick up on subtle emotional signifiers.
    • The less intelligent you are, the less likely you are to analyse the film in depth, and so on.
    • The understanding of a film is therefore relative to the individual watching the film.
  • 15.
    • This is why sometimes you can watch a film and get a certain amount of satisfaction from it, then watch it again a few years later and get a host of new experiences and connotations from the same film.
    • Signifiers can be created through Mis-en-scene, Lighting, Music, and Dialogue.
  • 16. Task:
    • Watch the opening sequence of Independence Day
    • List ten objective signifiers (ones put there by the director to focus the audience) and five subjective signifiers (elements in the sequence which had meanings personal to you).
  • 17. Task
    • Watch the opening to Independence Day again.
    • Describe how three of the signifiers in the sequence create meaning through their connotations.
  • 18. The Treachery of Images – Renee Magritte – 1928-29.