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Different Culture - Different sign perception

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Recognizing where “cultural differences are” is the first step toward understanding and respecting each other. http://www.slideshare.net/guest5efb65/different-culture-different-sign-perception
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Different Culture - Different sign perception

  1. 1. Semiotics 1Semiotics 1 Winter seminar ; 2003 - 2004Winter seminar ; 2003 - 2004 Thana Al Zoghaiby Università della Svizzera italiana
  2. 2. Different cultureDifferent culture Different sign perception ThemeTheme Thana Al Zoghaiby
  3. 3. In a world as complex as ours, each of us isIn a world as complex as ours, each of us is shaped by many factors.shaped by many factors. culture is one of the powerful forces that actsculture is one of the powerful forces that acts on uson us.. 3 Thesis Anthropologists Kevin Avruch and Peter Black explain t he importance of culture this way: One's own culture provides •the "lens" through which we view the world; •the "logic" by which we order it; •the "grammar" by which it makes sense. - In other words, culture is central to what we see, how we make sense of what we see, and how we express ourselves
  4. 4. Introduction  Humans, like most animals, are able to communicate verbally and non- verbally.  Humans use language in verbal communication and signs, symbols, sound or paralinguistic means to communicate a message.  However, humans, unlike animals, have cultural identities.  The semiosis (sign processing) takes place within this cultural 4 Thana Al Zoghaiby
  5. 5. TheThe frameworkframework  The sign. This entails the study of the various types of signs, and the different ways they have of conveying meaning, and the way they relate to the people who use them.  That to which the sign refers. In other words, the codes or systems into which signs are organised. This includes the ways that various codes have developed to meet the needs of a society or culture, or to exploit the channels of communication available for their transmission.  The users of the sign. In other words, the culture within which these codes and signs operate. 5 can be summarised into the followingcan be summarised into the following three fields of studythree fields of study Thana Al Zoghaiby
  6. 6. Semiotics-ArbitrarinessSemiotics-Arbitrariness of signof sign Saussure stressed the ‘arbitrariness of sign as the principle ofSaussure stressed the ‘arbitrariness of sign as the principle of semiologysemiology Why ? Do we use the sequence of sound “sister” to mean female sibling We could just as well use ‘soeur’ French ‘schwester’ German ‘ukht’ Arabic 6 Thana Al Zoghaiby
  7. 7. Saussure saw language as being an ordered system of signsSaussure saw language as being an ordered system of signs whose meanings are arrived atwhose meanings are arrived at arbitrarilyarbitrarily Example  There is no necessary reason why a pig should be called a pig . It doesn't look sound or smell any more like the sequence of sounds 'p-i-g‘.  It is only because we in our language group agree that it is called a 'pig' that that sequence of sounds refers to the animal in the real world .  You and your circle of friends could agree always to refer to pigs as 'squerdlishes' if you want. 7 As long as there is general agreement, that's no problem until you start talking about 'squerdlishes' to people who don't share the same convention. by a cultural convention Thana Al Zoghaiby
  8. 8. Types of signs andTypes of signs and meaningmeaning  The primary function of signs is to create or generate meaning.  A specific sign will generate different meanings depending on the culture in which it takes place.  A sign can create multiple meanings or a single one; the relationship between signs can generate a different set of meanings; a sign is active and always generates some meaning. 8 Thana Al Zoghaiby
  9. 9. CONNOTATIONCONNOTATION ANDAND DENOTATIONDENOTATION  The primary function of signs, namely to generate meaning, has been discussed but now the levels of meaning (or signification) have to be investigated.  One can distinguish between denotation (what a sign stands for)  and connotation (a sign’s cultural associations). 9 LEVELS OFLEVELS OF MEANINGMEANING Thana Al Zoghaiby
  10. 10. DenotationDenotation  It can be said that denotation refers to "first order" of signification generated by the relationship between the signifier and the signified within the sign .  Or the initial, common-sense and obvious meaning of the sign (Fiske 1982: 91).  According to Roland Barthes (cited in Fiske 1982: 91) the referents of the sign have their referents in the external reality. 10 Common sense, suggests Barthes, isCommon sense, suggests Barthes, is deeply ideological.deeply ideological. Thana Al Zoghaiby
  11. 11. Connotation refers to the "second order" ofConnotation refers to the "second order" of signification. Hall (cited in Chandler: WWW)signification. Hall (cited in Chandler: WWW) sees this as the associative meaning, since itsees this as the associative meaning, since it describes the interaction that occurs when adescribes the interaction that occurs when a sign meets the feelings or emotions of the userssign meets the feelings or emotions of the users and the value of their culture.and the value of their culture.  Connotation describes the interaction that takes place when the signConnotation describes the interaction that takes place when the sign meets the emotions of the user and the values of his culture. Connotationmeets the emotions of the user and the values of his culture. Connotation is directly related to the inner reality of the user/receiver and is thusis directly related to the inner reality of the user/receiver and is thus highly subjective.highly subjective.  This is when meanings move towards the subjective, or at least the inter-This is when meanings move towards the subjective, or at least the inter- subjective: it is when the interpretant is influenced as much by thesubjective: it is when the interpretant is influenced as much by the interpreter as by the object or the sign.interpreter as by the object or the sign.  Connotation involves emotional overtones, subjectiveConnotation involves emotional overtones, subjective interpretation,interpretation, socio-cultural values and ideologicalsocio-cultural values and ideological assumptionsassumptions (Chandler: WWW).(Chandler: WWW). 11 ConnotatiConnotati onon Thana Al Zoghaiby
  12. 12. SignsSigns Is of the opinion that semiotics is the pivotal science of communication.Is of the opinion that semiotics is the pivotal science of communication. Communication is concerned with the formulation and encoding of messages byCommunication is concerned with the formulation and encoding of messages by senders;senders; these messages are then transmitted via mediums.these messages are then transmitted via mediums.  The "decoding and interpretation of these messages by destinations and theirThe "decoding and interpretation of these messages by destinations and their signification".signification".  The communication process (and semiosis too) takes place within a context thatThe communication process (and semiosis too) takes place within a context that affects its receivers, and in turn is affected by its context.affects its receivers, and in turn is affected by its context. 12 generate meaning individually and as agenerate meaning individually and as a structured whole in a specific context. Asstructured whole in a specific context. As indicated, there are different types of signs that,indicated, there are different types of signs that, as a result, can create different types ofas a result, can create different types of messages in the communication process.messages in the communication process. Roman JakobsonRoman Jakobson Thana Al
  13. 13.  which are governed bywhich are governed by rules or conventionsrules or conventions  that arethat are agreedagreed upon by all the members of theupon by all the members of the community whocommunity who use that codeuse that code (Fiske 1982: 68).(Fiske 1982: 68).  These rulesThese rules represent a social dimension:represent a social dimension: the code is a set ofthe code is a set of practices familiar to the users of the medium operating within apractices familiar to the users of the medium operating within a  cultural frameworkcultural framework.. 13 CODES AND SYSTEMS INTO WHICHCODES AND SYSTEMS INTO WHICH SIGNS ARE ORGANISEDSIGNS ARE ORGANISED Semioticians organiseSemioticians organise signssigns into systemsinto systems.. Thana Al Zoghaiby
  14. 14. CulturCultur ee  Codes are dynamic systems that change all the time and are therefore historically and socio-culturally influenced. Due to the fact that codes and culture inter- relate dynamically  Members of a specific culture will understand the codes that operate within that culture.  Cultural communities may correspond with country frontiers; cultural differences do exist between countries. 14 is a concept that is broad – it includes aspects of everyday life to cognitive and social structures - and complex. For this reason it is linked to the concept of socialisation. In this broad sense, culture then refers to communities which have different attitudes towards political and social issues, different cultural practices and references in their private lives, different social background, etc. Thana Al Zoghaiby
  15. 15. SemioticsSemiotics and cultureand culture  Since it is the case that the codes we use are the result ofSince it is the case that the codes we use are the result of conventions arrived at by theconventions arrived at by the users of those codesusers of those codes,,  then it is reasonable to suppose that thethen it is reasonable to suppose that the values of the usersvalues of the users willwill in some way be incorporated into those codes.in some way be incorporated into those codes. They will, for example, have developed signs for those thingsThey will, for example, have developed signs for those things they agree to be important, they will probably have developed athey agree to be important, they will probably have developed a whole array of signs to draw the distinctions between thosewhole array of signs to draw the distinctions between those things which are of particular significance in their culturethings which are of particular significance in their culture .. 15 Saussure freely admits that when he is stressing the arbitrariness of the sign, he is stressing something which is actually fairly obvious. As he sees it, though, the problem is that people haven't paid enough attention to the implications of the fact that sign- systems are arbitrary. Thana Al Zoghaiby
  16. 16. In other wordsIn other words ......'reality' is always encoded,'reality' is always encoded, or ratheror rather the only way we can perceive and make sense of reality is by thethe only way we can perceive and make sense of reality is by the codescodes of our cultureof our culture.. There may be an objective, empiricist reality out there, but there is no universal,There may be an objective, empiricist reality out there, but there is no universal, objective way of perceiving and making sense of it.objective way of perceiving and making sense of it. What passes for reality in any culture is the product of the culture's codesWhat passes for reality in any culture is the product of the culture's codes, so, so 'reality' is always already encoded, it is never 'raw'. Fiske (1987pp 4-5)'reality' is always already encoded, it is never 'raw'. Fiske (1987pp 4-5) 16 you might reasonably expect that the ideologies prevalent in those cultures will have been incorporated into the codes used Thana Al Zoghaiby
  17. 17. CultureCulture CodesCodes The existence of suchThe existence of such codescodes in relation to the interpretation of textsin relation to the interpretation of texts is moreis more obvious when we examine texts which have beenobvious when we examine texts which have been produced within and for aproduced within and for a different culture,different culture, …… such as advertisements produced indigenously in a different country from oursuch as advertisements produced indigenously in a different country from our own for the domestic market in that country.own for the domestic market in that country. Interpreting such texts in the manner intended may require 'culturalInterpreting such texts in the manner intended may require 'cultural competency' relevant to the specific cultural context of that text's production,competency' relevant to the specific cultural context of that text's production, even where the text is largely visual (Scott 1994a; Scott 1994b; McQuarrie &even where the text is largely visual (Scott 1994a; Scott 1994b; McQuarrie & Mick, 1999).Mick, 1999). 17 Learning these codes involves adopting the values, assumptions and 'world-views' which are built into them without normally being aware of their intervention in the construction of reality. Thana Al Zoghaiby
  18. 18. SociologistsSociologists generallygenerally  Understanding such codesUnderstanding such codes  Their relationshipsTheir relationships  The contexts in which they are appropriateThe contexts in which they are appropriate is part of what it means to be a member of a particular culture.is part of what it means to be a member of a particular culture. Marcel Danesi has suggested that 'a culture can be defined as a kind of "macro-Marcel Danesi has suggested that 'a culture can be defined as a kind of "macro- code", consisting of the numerous codes which a group of individualscode", consisting of the numerous codes which a group of individuals habitually use to interpret reality'habitually use to interpret reality' (Danesi 1994a, 18)(Danesi 1994a, 18) .. 18 prefer the term 'reader' to 'receiver' (even of a painting, photograph or film) and often use the term 'text' to 'message'. This implies that receiving a message (i.e. 'reading a text') is an active process of decoding and that that process is socially and culturally conditioned Thana Al Zoghaiby
  19. 19. ConclusioConclusio nn Oftentimes, we aren't aware that culture is acting upon us. Sometimes, we are not even aware that we have cultural values or assumptions that are different from others! When dealing with vastly differing cultures Moral issues and values in one culture (say the source text culture) could have an adverse or no effect on the “other culture” receivers, and could lead to a conflict of values, which in turn will influence the message ( text) and its perception. 19 cultural values sometimes conflict. We can misunderstand each other, and react in ways that can hinder what are otherwise promising partnerships. Thana Al Zoghaiby
  20. 20. AnthropologistsAnthropologists Avruch and BlackAvruch and Black have notedhave noted  This tendency, if indulged, gives rise on the individual level to prejudice.  If this propensity is either consciously or unconsciously integrated into organizational structures,  Then prejudice takes root in our institutions -- in the structures, laws, policies, and procedures that shape our lives.  Consequently, it is vital that we learn to control the human tendency to translate "different from me" into "less than me”, “weird”, “wrong” or “frightening” 20 when faced by an interaction that we do notwhen faced by an interaction that we do not understand “again because of differences inunderstand “again because of differences in cultural identities” , people tend to interpret thecultural identities” , people tend to interpret the others involved as "abnormal," "weird," or "wrong."others involved as "abnormal," "weird," or "wrong." Thana Al Zoghaiby
  21. 21. Last butLast but not leastnot least Learning about different ways that people communicate can enrich our lives.Learning about different ways that people communicate can enrich our lives. People's different communication styles reflect deeper philosophies and “worldPeople's different communication styles reflect deeper philosophies and “world views" which are the foundation of their cultureviews" which are the foundation of their culture.. Understanding these deeper philosophies gives us a broader picture of what theUnderstanding these deeper philosophies gives us a broader picture of what the world has to offer us.world has to offer us. 21 people frompeople from different culturesdifferent cultures should not assume thatshould not assume that breakdowns in communicationbreakdowns in communication occur because of “theoccur because of “the others” are on the wrong track.others” are on the wrong track. But it is because of different cultural values and the factBut it is because of different cultural values and the fact that “that “codes and culture are inter-relatecodes and culture are inter-relate dynamically.dynamically. Thana Al Zoghaiby
  22. 22. Becoming more aware of ourBecoming more aware of our cultural differences, as well ascultural differences, as well as exploring our similarities, canexploring our similarities, can help us communicate with eachhelp us communicate with each other more effectively.other more effectively. Recognizing whereRecognizing where “cultural differences“cultural differences are” , is the first stepare” , is the first step toward understandingtoward understanding and respecting each other.and respecting each other. Thana Al Zoghaiby

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