Revelations from the secret agent


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Applied semiotic analysis of advertising, use of metaphors ("Love is a game"), facial expression, objects as a reflection of personality, etc. etc.

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Revelations from the secret agent

  1. 1. Revelations from the Secret Agent Applied Semiotic Analysis Arthur Asa Berger Professor Emeritus San Francisco State University
  2. 2. Students at a lecture If you shot off a gun at sporadic intervals and asked students what they were thinking when the gun went off you’d find: <ul><li>20% pursuing erotic thoughts </li></ul><ul><li>7% described mood as “love.” </li></ul><ul><li>20 % reminiscing about something </li></ul><ul><li>20% paying attention </li></ul><ul><li>12% actively listening </li></ul><ul><li>Rest of students: worrying, daydreaming, thinking about lunch or religion </li></ul><ul><li>20% said they were happy </li></ul><ul><li>12% said they were sad </li></ul><ul><li>68% were neutral </li></ul>
  3. 9. Revelations about: <ul><li>Semiotics of “Frenchness” </li></ul><ul><li>The meaning of facial expressions </li></ul><ul><li>Objects as a reflection of our personalities </li></ul><ul><li>Signs and symbols in a perfume advertisement </li></ul><ul><li>Love as a game </li></ul><ul><li>Conclusions: cartoons I’ve drawn </li></ul>
  4. 11. Saussure’s Theory <ul><li>Signs are sound/objects + concepts </li></ul><ul><li>Sound/object is Signifier </li></ul><ul><li>Concept is Signified </li></ul><ul><li>Relation between signifier/signified is arbitrary, based on convention </li></ul><ul><li>Concepts are relational </li></ul>
  5. 14. Semiotics: Science of Signs Signs: Signifiers and Signifieds, icons, indexes, symbols. Signs: Anything that can stand for something else. Signs: Can lie or mislead. We are always sending messages (signs) about ourselves and interpreting signs others send about themselves. We “read” everyone we see in mediated texts…but do we read them correctly?
  6. 15. Signifier/Signified Game <ul><li>Secret Agent (Signified) </li></ul><ul><li>Signifiers: </li></ul><ul><li>Dark Glasses </li></ul><ul><li>Revolver with silencer </li></ul><ul><li>Trench Coat </li></ul><ul><li>Sports Car </li></ul><ul><li>Slouch hat </li></ul><ul><li>Beautiful Women </li></ul><ul><li>Etc. </li></ul><ul><li>Frenchness (Signified) </li></ul><ul><li>Signifiers: </li></ul>
  7. 16. Peirce on Signs <ul><li>Kind of Sign Way Works </li></ul><ul><li>Icons Resemblance </li></ul><ul><li>Photographs, Statues </li></ul><ul><li>Index Cause and Effect </li></ul><ul><li>Smoke and Fire </li></ul><ul><li>Symbol Must be Learned </li></ul><ul><li>Flags, Sacred Objects </li></ul>
  8. 17. Facial Expressions Shown Seven Universal Emotions (Paul Ekman) <ul><li>Determination </li></ul><ul><li>Pouting (show displeasure, disappointment) </li></ul><ul><li>Fear </li></ul><ul><li>Neutral (no emotion) </li></ul><ul><li>Sadness </li></ul><ul><li>Anger </li></ul><ul><li>Surprise </li></ul><ul><li>Disgust (repugnant) </li></ul>
  9. 18. Facial Expressions <ul><li>1 2 3 </li></ul><ul><li>4 5 </li></ul><ul><li>6 7 8 </li></ul>
  10. 21. Paul Ekman on Facial Expressions <ul><li>Neutral 2. Disgust 3. Sadness </li></ul><ul><li>Fear 5. Pouting </li></ul><ul><li>6. Anger 7. Surprise 8. Determination </li></ul>
  11. 22. Reading People in Mediated Texts Applied Semiotic Analysis <ul><li>Hair Color Body Language </li></ul><ul><li>Hair Style Makeup worn </li></ul><ul><li>Eye Color Clothes worn </li></ul><ul><li>Eye Pupils Eyeglasses/sunglasses </li></ul><ul><li>Facial Structure Jewelry </li></ul><ul><li>Body Type Setting </li></ul><ul><li>Age Occupations of People (guessed?) </li></ul><ul><li>Gender Activities Suggested </li></ul><ul><li>Race Language Used, Dialogue </li></ul><ul><li>Facial Expressions Music, Sound Effects, etc. </li></ul>
  12. 24. Interpreting Signs: A Class Exercise in a Semiotics Seminar Students brought object in brown paper bag. Nobody knew who brought which object. Qualities of person as reflected in sea shell found by students in seminar: Sterile Empty Dead Lifeless
  13. 25. What Student Who Submitted Sign Wrote: Delicate, Beautiful, Natural, Lovely. MORAL: Signs you are sending about yourself may be misinterpreted. Interpreting Signs
  14. 27. Fidji Perfume Advertisement <ul><li>Snake is a phallic symbol (Freud) </li></ul><ul><li>Flowers are sexual organs of plants </li></ul><ul><li>Myth of passion in Polynesian islands (Gauguin) </li></ul><ul><li>Adam & Eve (and snake) </li></ul><ul><li>Dark hair and ideas about sexuality </li></ul><ul><li>Perfume as magic (and like venom?) </li></ul><ul><li>Fidji and sophistication: cost and advertisements </li></ul><ul><li>Design of ad: leads eyes to perfume </li></ul><ul><li>Fingers grasping perfume in strange way </li></ul><ul><li>Sex found hidden in images </li></ul>
  15. 28. Power of Metaphors in Music “ All in the wonderful game called love...” Love is a Game Metaphor Love is Like a Game Simile Analogy is basic to metaphor, similes
  16. 29. Implications of “Love is a Game” <ul><li>1. </li></ul><ul><li>2. </li></ul><ul><li>3. </li></ul><ul><li>4. </li></ul><ul><li>5. </li></ul><ul><li>6. </li></ul><ul><li>7. </li></ul>
  17. 30. Love is a Game…. Games have winners and losers Games have rules People cheat at games Trickery and deceit in games Games end eventually People aren’t serious about games Games take place in certain spaces
  18. 40. Summary <ul><li>Semiotics is one of the most important ways to analyze texts and culture </li></ul><ul><li>Cultures can be read as texts </li></ul><ul><li>Semiotics sees itself as the master science </li></ul><ul><li>With some basic semiotic concepts one can analyze just about everything </li></ul><ul><li>“The world is perfused with signs if not made up entirely of them.” C.S. Peirce. </li></ul>
  19. 50. Reading People = Interpreting Their Signs Hats Facial Ornamentation Hair Style Facial Hair (Beards, etc.) Hair Color Makeup Hair Decorations Eyes (pupils) Facial Expressions Teeth We always “read” people in films, television programs, advertisements, plays, and everyday life.
  20. 59. Summary on Reading People Signs can be used to lie (Umberto Eco) Meaning of signs can change Can’t always tell what a sign means (ambiguity) Every aspect of image can be analyzed We’re always reading the messages people send about themselves and sending messages that other people read about us.
  21. 66. Love is a Game…. Games have winners and losers Games have rules People cheat at games Trickery and deceit in games Games end eventually People aren’t serious about games Games take place in certain spaces
  22. 69. Reading People (Continued) Body Language Language Used/Dialogue Body Decoration Accent Clothing Worn Tone of Voice Shoes Space Occupied Props Body Language