Chapter 14Social SemioticsConstructing Stuff in Everyday Life Phillip Vannini ID 501 – Kıvılcım Çınar
Content Social semiotics Structural semiotics versus social semiotics Three circles of social semiotics Everyday reality for social semiotics Socio-semiotic research strategies Dimensions of social semiotic analysis
Keywords Social semiotics, structural semiotics, semiotic analysis, unnoticed stuff, everyday life perspective, signifier, signified, semiotic power, arbitrariness, ideological complex, discourse, genre, style, modality, semiotic rules, and semiotic transformation
Phillip Vannini He discusses the significance of social semiotics as an everyday life perspective. He explains social semiotics as a body of critical and interpretive theory. He examines social semiotics as a research strategy. He defines dimensions of social semiotic analysis with van Leeuwen approach.
Stuff. The world is full of it.(Despite our lives being so full of stuff, we know very little about the significance of our day to day interaction with it.) We are all supposed to know that the meaning of the object lies in its obvious function; however we never question them. For the studies of unnoticed stuff, he reviews the analytical perspective known as ‘social semiotics’.
Social semiotics: studies the ways in which people use semiotic resources both to produce communicative artifacts and to interpret them in the context of specific social situations and practices compares and contrasts semiotic modes studies ways in which semiotic resources are regulated in specific locations and practices practice of analysis and observations to discover new semiotic resources Reads all artifacts as texts Does not study what signs stands for but how it is used
Why use social semiotics to understand stuff? Social semiotics is best equipped for understanding different modes of expressing meaning through all the senses. (EL stuffs – non linguistic level) Social semiotics is particularly useful in making mute mundane objects speak:in bringing their unnoticed significance and functionality to light. Social semiotics is highly eclectic and it can be used easily in combinations with a broad variety of E.L sociological perspectives. Social semiotics focuses on meanings in context and therefore on situated practices of communication, rather than merely on abstract, structural and formal grammar-like associations.
As a semiotic theory Saussure offered a 'dyadic' or two-part model of the sign. He defined a sign as being composed of: a 'signifier' (signifiant) - the form which the sign takes; and the 'signified' (signifié) - the concept it represents.
Three schools (circles) of social semiotics Sdyney Semiotics Circle (Roland Barthes, Micheal Halliday’s functional grammer tradition) Grammer of language is not based in unchangeable codes or rules but rather in a system of resources for making meanings. European – Critical Discourse Analysis Group (Faucauldion version) Power and meaning are inseparable. Discourse is shaped by unequal arrangements of power. It is a field that is concerned with studying and analyzing written and spoken texts to reveal the discursive sources of power, dominance, inequality and bias. North American Network influenced by the sociologists who have combined elements of social semiotics with the post Marxist, the pragmatist and symbolic interactionist.
Structural Semiotics And Social Semiotics Structural Semiotics ; signifiers refer to mental concepts not to actual material things. Structural semioticians emphasize the importance of structures because they believe that the interrelations of semiotic systems hold the codes or rules “that govern the conventions of signification, whether these be in kinship, etiquette, mathematics, or art” Structural semioticians conducting ethnographic work, therefore, are primarily interested in understanding how signs and structures of semiotic rules make people, rather than in understanding how people make, use, and renegotiate semiotic rules.
Structuralist semioticians believe that meaning arises out of a structure of oppositions. from the linguistic side (e.g: skirt – shirt, short, squirt) from the cultural side ( binary position of values, social and moral norms) (e.g: Cold vs. Hot, Happy vs. Sad, Sleep vs. Awake) Social semioticians reject, instead, all forms of structural determinism. Social semiotics attributes meaning to power instead ofmerely attributing power to meaning
Structuralist Semioticians look for meaning in deep structures of semantic associations and differences. agree that languages express or represent thoughts. tend to focus on language and its deep structures of signification informing speech. concentrate on synchronic associations (one point in time) Social Semioticians look for meaning in social-meaning -making practices and in the contexts where specific practices occur. suggest that the social organization of thinking shapes both language itself and other, multimodal,forms of communication. tend to focus on instances of speech and their effects on larger linguistic order. concentrate on the importance of diachrony (semiotic transformations over time)
rejecting the idea of arbitrariness productive semiotic power does not only weigh on us as a force that says no it traverses and produces things, it induces pleasure, forms knowledge, produce discourse. power struggles over competing definitions of meaning stable social organization they exercise their force by successfully imposing their ideological complexes.
Ideological complex exists to sustain relationships of both power and solidarity. represents the social order as simultaneously serving the interests of both dominant and subordinate. does not determine what people will do, feel or think at any given moment. is not forever lasting.
For Social Semiotics Social and agentic Grammar of communication the existence of context-bound rules and conditioning imposed upon meaning by the grammar and physicality of signs. users may be able to subvert the meaning either accidentally or intentionally. intend the system of rules inscribed into texts and acts of communications (Grammar of visual) everyday reality Particularities of context Context logonomic systems prescribe and proscribe the conditions under which meanings are produced, distributed and consumed.
Socio-semiotic research strategies Making an inventory of semiotic resources. Data generally include semioticized and unsemioticized empirical material. Semioticized: consist of motivated traces of human communicative behaviour such as films, television series, sculpture and bodily expressions. Unsemioticized: materials which haven’t been created by human practice. Social semioticians have developed a keen interest and refined their conceptual vocabulary to best understand multimodality rather than pure linguistic discursivity alone. Most socio-semiotic analyses deal with multimodal material.
Social semioticians are in the business of: Inventorizingsemiotic resources and investigating how they are used in specific contexts Discover and develop new semiotic resources and new ways of using them. Inventorizing different types of rules, taken up in different ways in different contexts Analyzing the various ways semiotic resources are used through analysis of discourse, genre, style, and modality in which they are used.
Discourse what of communication a talk, whether spoken or expressed through written word. an expression of a socially constructed body of language. Discourses work by presenting and evaluating social practices by regulating activities, the manners in which activities are carried out, what actors can participate, how they ought to present their roles and identities.
Genre how of communication speech acts (speech acts that construct realities of their own, such as apologies, declarations of intent, requests, offers and demands. Social semioticians have investigated a wide variety of genres, focusing for the most part on multimodal genres. Van Leeuwen has examined in great detail the genre of media interviews, Cranny-Francis has examined representation of gender in popular fiction. Socio-semiotic analysis of genre reveals that genres format experiences and practices by laying out shared expectations on the form, and therefore on the potential for meaning, of semiotic resources.
Style Styles are broad signifying systems which link together smaller parts, turning them into concrete wholes. individual style social style lifestyle what people do as a result of group membership individual difference self-expression impression management is a combination of both individual and social lifestyles.
Modality Modality is a measure of how true a representation is, in terms of both degree of truth and the mechanisms through which an impression of truth is achieved. Modality can be either linguistic or non-linguistic ( visual, abstract, sonsory and naturalistic)
Semiotic Transformation Meanings and logonomic systems have changed over time. the need for new resources new ways of using existing resources e.g: look at the example of fashion, certain contexts may be more or less open to change, and certain properties of those contexts may facilitate or prevent change. (Vannini 2008) Social semioticians have examined semiotic transformations in a wide variety of settings. From technology side, Scollon have reflected how the internet has changed the sense of place in a small Alaskan town. Kress has looked at the phonetic emergence of words and studied the significance of changes in spelling over time. Annemarie Jutel has analysed the changing meanings of fatness throughout history.
Semiotic Rules Important for both structuralist and social semiotics. Rules (written or unwritten) are made by people. (can be changed) difficult process as they become institutionalized and protected. Grammar Rules Lexicon Rules stipulate what signifiers refer to. Stipulate how coherent messages can be built up with smaller semiotic resources. e.g: Western society, artificially tanned skin connotes such things as physical appeal, a relatively affluent lifestyle and youth. e.g: A tanned body is to be presented as a complex multimodal text which expressing its muscular fitness, sense of fashion, and other resources connoting a coherent lifestyle.
Semiotic Multimodality Tounderstandhumancommunication in all of it forms, socialscientistsmustbecomeabletorelinquishmethodsthatrely on thecollection of words. Thesocialsemioticattentiontomultimodaltracesof humanbehaviourespeciallyacquires a particularimportancewhenwethink of howeveryday life is increasinglymediatedby a pluralityof media of communication, andhowsocialinteraction is moreandmoresurroundedbyandenabledthroughdeceivinglysimpleand yet soimportant ‘stuff’.
Semiotic Functions Example of semiotic function Instrumental function – its most immediate, obvious, and taken for granted function. Regulative function – its strategic use in the house. (Placing it in the kitchen or on the table in the living room) Informative function – as a semiotic resource (type of meal which will be served) Interpersonal function – absense of forks enables people to feed with their hands off a common plate. Personal function – a sign of a class status (fork comes from university cafeteria) Heuristic function – it can be used to find out things. (poking of fish to understand whether the fish is cooked or not.
To sum up, Social Semiotic the tools to understand materiality of semiotic resources. the significance of context-bound rules and conditions importance of agency the openness to be mixed with a variety of research strategies and theoretical perspectives