Semiotic analysis


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Semiotic analysis

  1. 1. SEMIOTIC ANALYSIS 15th April 2014
  2. 2. Semiotics  Ferdinand de Saussure (“so-SIR”) (1857-1913)  “It is possible to conceive of a science which studies the role of signs as part of social life. It would form part of social psychology, and hence of general psychology. We shall call it semiology (from the Greek semeîon, 'sign'). It would investigate the nature of signs and the laws governing them.”  Although the earliest origins of semiotics can be traced back to Aristotle and Augustine, it didn’t begin to be fully developed until the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  Semiotics is a broad topic which can be applied to many different fields, including media studies, theatre and music and art. 2
  3. 3. Introduction 3  There are many different ways to analyse qualitative data  Semiotics is one approach to analysing and interpreting qualitative data Written Record Data Analysis Approach Data Collection Technique Research Method Philosophical Assumptions
  4. 4. Semiotics 4  Semiotics is primarily concerned with the analysis of signs and symbols and their meaning  Signs and symbols can be studied, not only in language (both written and spoken forms), but also in rituals, culture, images and art – in fact, anything that can be ‘read’ as text  Semiotic researchers do not study signs in isolation, rather they study the conventions governing the use of signs and sign systems
  5. 5. Semiotics defined 5  ‘Semiotics is concerned with everything that can be taken as a sign’ (Eco, 1976: 7)  Words, images, actions and objects can all be studied as signs, as long as they have been recorded in some way and can be studied (e.g. in writing or on video)  Nöth (1990) refers to semiotics as the ‘science of meaning’
  6. 6. An approach to semiotic analysis (Hackley, 2003)6 Questions to ask: What does X signify to me? Why does X signify this to me? What might X signify for others? Why might X signify this for others? Possible sources of X: Objects (visual semiosis): For example, clothes, hairstyles, make-up styles, the ways objects are used by people . . . Gesture (bodily semiosis): For example, body types, facial types, expressive gestures, facial expressions, posture, gaze . . . Speech (verbal semiosis): For example, use of idiomatic expressions, regional or national accent or dialect, use of metaphor/metonymy, tone and volume of speech . . .
  7. 7. Semiotics Basically, semiotics is the study of signs and their meanings! Signs include words, gestures, images, sounds, and objects. According to Ferdinand de Saussure, a founder of modern semiotics, sign consists of two parts: the signifier (the form which the sign takes) and the signified (the concept represents).
  8. 8. Symbols Signifier Signified Schoolhouse Education Education
  9. 9. Semiotics concepts 9 1. Signifier and signified 2. Sign, object and interpretant 3. Icon, index and symbol 4. Encoding and decoding 5. Pragmatic, semantic and syntactic 6. Syntagmatic analysis 7. Paradigmatic analysis 8. Polysemy
  10. 10. Semiotics For example, an everyday example is a stop sign. In this example, the physical sign is the signifier. The concept of stopping is the signified. =the signifier STOP!!! =the signified
  11. 11. Semiotics However, signfiers can have multiple signifieds. Take the color red for example: RED APPLE LoveFIRE Blood
  12. 12. Sign  A sign is an entity which signifies another entity.  We make meanings through our creation and interpretation of signs. Charles Sanders Peirce (“purse”) (1839 –1914) 12
  13. 13. Signs 13  The meaning of signs is arbitrary. In principle, anything could stand for anything else. It is the cultural context that frames the interpretation of signs with localized meanings (Hackley, 2003: 162)  A sign can mean one thing in one particular cultural context, but mean something quite different in another  Signs can also change their meaning over time  Semiotics has been used especially in information systems, management, marketing and organizational studies  Marketing researchers have used semiotics in research on advertising, brand image and marketing communications (Hackley, 2003)
  14. 14. Sign  Whether something is a sign depends on a sentiment entity ascribing it with meaning.  Nothing is a sign unless it is interpreted as a sign.  Anything can be a sign as long as it is interpreted as signifying something. Green Leaf Drying
  15. 15. Koko the Gorilla  Koko understands signs
  16. 16. Signifier is physical, sensual Signified is psychological Dyadic Model (Saussure) Signified is psychological • Signified • Signifier Components of a Sign
  17. 17. Commonsense dictates that the signified, the concept, is primary. Signified originates in the mind. It is psychological. However, the signifier, the medium of expression is just as important because it is physical. The word “Tree” Signifier is physical, sensual Dyadic Model (Saussure)
  18. 18. Signifier and signified 18  Saussure distinguished between two things:  The signifier is a sign or symbol that can stand for something else. By definition, all words are signifiers since they always stand for something else (e.g. a thought, a feeling, or a thing). A signifier is used by the person wanting to communicate  The signified is what the sign or symbol represents – what it is interpreted to mean by the receiver of the communication
  19. 19. Sign, object and interpretant 19  Peirce distinguished between three things:  The sign that stands for something else  The object it refers to (what the sign represents)  The interpretant (usually a person) who fulfils the office of an interpreter – this refers to the interpretation placed on the sign  Peirce’s view recognizes that the same sign can have different meanings depending upon the context  the interpretant becomes the representamen for another, interrelated sign
  20. 20. Triadic Model (Peirce) Object Signified by the Interpretant Signifier
  21. 21. Icon, index and symbol 21  An icon is a sign that signifies its meaning by qualities of its own; it is like the thing it represents (e.g. the icon of a trash can on Apple and Windows computers)  A sign can also act as an index:  An indexical sign points to or indicates something else. For example, a wavy line on a road might ‘point to’ bends in the road a few hundred yards ahead. A picture of a silhouette of a man on a door might ‘point to’ or indicate that a men’s bathroom is right here behind this door (Hackley, 2003: 167)  A symbol is something that stands for or is symbolic of something else
  22. 22. Arbitrary or purely conventional 100% needs to be learned language in general, alphabet, punctuation marks, numbers, Morse code, traffic lights Symbol
  23. 23. What are some Symbols? Word sword s words
  24. 24. – Resembling or imitating the signified – similar in some quality – portrait, cartoon, onomatopoeia, metaphors, sound effects imitative gestures Icons
  25. 25. What are some Icons? “Chirp chirp” “miu miu” “vroooom”
  26. 26. – existential connection to the signified – evidence, smoke, footprints, pain, thermometer, clock, knock on a door, photograph, handwriting Index
  27. 27. What are each of these? Icon of a real-world symbol (street sign): IndexSymbol Symbols Icons
  28. 28. Icon: Road Sign Symbol: The letters on it Index: The picture of it Icon, Symbol and Index. Signs can be one, two or all three of these at once.
  29. 29. Semiotics is about a System of Meaning  Signs don’t have an essential or intrinsic connection to nature.  Meaning is structural and relational rather than referential.  Signs refer primarily to each other.  Signs only make sense as part of a formal, generalized and abstract system.
  30. 30. Semiotics is about a System of Meaning  The word “cat” only makes sense in relation to other words:  “dog”  “animal”  “pet”  “owner”  “cute”  “purr”  “lick”  “hunt”
  31. 31. The word “cat” has more in common with other words than it does an actual cat purr lick dog anima l pet owner hunt cute
  32. 32. Semiotic Terms  Semantics: the relations of signs to their contexts and to what they signify.  Syntactics: the kinds of signs, their ordering, and their relations to one another.  Pragmatics: the ways in which signs are used and interpreted.
  33. 33. The Semiotic Square  Opposites give each other meaning. For example, black & white, love & hate.  Binary Opposition: One signifier (A) vs. another signifier (B) For example, good guy vs. bad guy.  Semiotic Square: A visual representation of the logical articulations of any semantic category. 
  34. 34. approximately exactly approximately not exactly not approximately exactly not approximately not exactly Semiotic square
  35. 35. Structure Relationship Type Relationship Elements Complex Contrary S1 + S2 Neutral Contrary ~S2 + ~S1 Schema 1 Contradiction S1 + ~S1 Schema 2 Contradiction S2 + ~S2 Deixes 1 Implication ~S2 + S1 Deixes 2 Implication ~S1 + S2 S1 = positive seme S2 = negative seme S = complex axis (S1 + S2) ~S = neutral axis (neither S1 nor S2) The Greimas Square is a model based on relationships:
  36. 36. The Semiotic Square
  37. 37. Example The Semiotic square - also known as Greimas' rectangle or semantic rectangle - is a way of classifying concepts which are relevant to a given opposition of concepts, such as feminine- masculine, beautiful-ugly, etc. and of extending the relevant ontology. It has been put forth by Lithuanian linguist and semiotician Algirdas Julien Greimas, and was derived from Aristotle's logical square or square of opposition. Starting from a given opposition of concepts S1 and S2, the semiotic square entails first the existence of two other concepts, namely ~S1 and ~S2, which are in the following relationships: S1 and S2: opposition S1 and ~S1, S2 and ~S2: contradiction S1 and ~S2, S2 and ~S1: complementarity The semiotic square also produces, second, so-called meta-concepts, which are compound ones, the most important of which are: S1 and S2 neither S1 nor S2 For example, from the pair of opposite concepts masculine-feminine, we get: S1: masculine S2: feminine ~S1: not-masculine ~S2: not-feminine S1 and S2: masculine and feminine, i.e. hermaphrodite, bi-sexual neither S1 nor S2: neither masculine nor feminine, asexual
  38. 38. Semiotic Square  The semiotic square diagrams the ways in which, starting from any given term, a complete meaning system can be derived through exhaustion of logical possibilities. This is accomplished by developing the traditional logical concepts of contradictory (diagonal arrows) and contrary (horizontal arrow)
  39. 39. Language is Binaristic and Negative Things are defined not by what they are, but by what they are not.  Cat vs. Dog  Man vs. Woman  Nature vs. Culture  Good vs. Evil  Yes vs. No  Black vs. White  0 vs. 1  Life vs. Death  Gay vs. Straight  Up vs. Down  Pretty vs. Ugly • Cold vs. Hot • Happy vs. Sad • Sleep vs. Awake • Free vs. Pay • Pretty vs. Ugly • West vs. East • Paper vs. Plastic • Republican vs. Democrat • Healthy vs. Sick • Few vs. Many
  40. 40. Things are defined not by what they are, but by what they are not. Red
  41. 41. Most of the information communicated is actually negative. Red
  42. 42. Linguistic Signs are Immaterial (Saussure)  Word signifiers have no material value magically embedded in their sounds or appearance.  This immateriality is their value.  If linguistic signs draw attention to their materiality this hinders their communicative transparency.  New words can be invented or imported as needed
  43. 43. Olympic Style Guide for Beijing Citizens  No wearing pajamas in public Semiotic Analysis
  44. 44. Semiotic Analysis Olympic Style Guide for Beijing Citizens  No more than three color groups in your clothing.  No white socks with black leather shoes  No public displays of affection  When standing toes should point outwards  Handshakes should not last more than 3 seconds
  45. 45. Semiotic Analysis  Man  Sexy  Healthy / Ripped  Calvin Klein brand  Comfortable  Virility  “Package”  Inadequacy?  Jealousy?  Fear?
  46. 46. Semiotic Analysis  Corporate  Propaganda  Alienated (from brand)  Black and white  form and mass rather than color  authenticity What are potential unintended signifieds?
  47. 47. Matching Meaning Connotation  Figurative  Signified  Inferred  Suggests meaning  Realm of myth Denotation  Literal  Signifier  Obvious  Describes  Realm of existence
  48. 48. Encoding and decoding 48  The only way that messages can be sent from one person to another is via the use of a code  Encoding is the process of transforming any thought or communication into a message  Decoding is the process of reading the message and understanding what it means  For example, consider the road code - only someone who can read the road signs correctly is allowed to obtain a driver’s license
  49. 49. Syntagmatic analysis 49  Syntagmatic analysis involves studying the structure of a text and the relationships between its parts. There are three syntagmatic relationships (Chandler, 2008): 1. Sequential relationships, as found in film and television narrative sequences. 2. Spatial relationships, as found in posters and photographs (where signs and symbols are juxtaposed) 3. Conceptual relationships, such as in an argument
  50. 50. Paradigmatic analysis 50  Paradigmatic analysis seeks to identify the various paradigms which underlie the content of texts  A paradigm ‘is a set of associated signifiers or signifieds which are all members of some defining category, but in which each is significantly different’ (Chandler, 2008)  A paradigmatic analysis involves studying ‘the oppositions and contrasts between the signifiers that belong to the same set from which those used in the text were drawn’ (Chandler, 2008)
  51. 51. Polysemy 51  Texts and signs can have multiple meanings  Barthes suggests that all images are polysemous. Images imply a ‘floating chain’ of signifieds, with the reader able to choose some and ignore others (Barthes, 1985)  Scott (1994) says that meaning is not static and that the meaning of texts and signs is continually shifting
  52. 52. Intertextuality  Conscious or unconscious  Parody  Style  Genre  Quote  Metaphor  Like or as  Metonomy  Implied  Association with known image  Nehru Topi  Red rose
  53. 53. Codes  Audiences negotiate meaning  Intended meaning  Negotiated meaning  Oppositional meaning  All-pervasive  Specific  Clear cut  Personality, social roles, institutions, ideology  Genre, formula  Rituals, expectations
  54. 54. How to use semiotics 54  The qualitative researcher using semiotics has to study the signs and symbols that are used in a particular domain and identify the conventions of their use  He or she has to decode the meanings conveyed by the signs  The idea is to uncover the rules that govern human behaviour
  55. 55. Critique of semiotics 55  Semiotics is potentially a very powerful way of analysing and interpreting qualitative data in business and organizational settings  Semiotics is well-grounded in linguistics and structural anthropology – hence it is relatively easy to justify  One disadvantage of semiotics is its tendency to treat people as somewhat passive
  56. 56. Websites  Cyber Semiotic Institute.  What is Semiotics?  Semiotics Links  The American Journal of Semiotics  Semiotics - University of Colorado and Denver  Bibliographic sources  Semiotics for Beginners   semiotic.htm Semiotic Analysis of Images.  University of Aarhus Center for Semiotics Homepage  Sites of Significance for Semiotics.  pdf Semiotics as tool box