Perspectives in Media
1b) Media Language
To reinforce the basic media language
that create meaning in texts.
To have a basic understanding of how
to evaluate your coursework against
the media language that you used.
Importance of media language
Every medium has its own language or
combination of languages that it uses to
communicate meaning. Television, for
example, uses verbal and written language
as well as the languages of moving images
We call these languages because they use
familiar codes and conventions that are
Media messages are constructed using a
creative language with its own rules. Each
form of communication-- whether
newspapers, TV game shows or horror
movies-- has its own creative language:
scary music heightens fear, camera close-
ups convey intimacy, big headlines signal
Understanding the grammar, syntax and
metaphor system of media language,
especially the language of sounds and
visuals which can reach beyond the rational
to our deepest emotional core, increases
our appreciation and enjoyment of media
experiences as well as helps us to be less
susceptible to manipulation.
E.g the example from Men s
Health is so transparent once
you know how to read a media
text (and you can t grow
Back to Basics - Semiotics
According to philosopher Charles Sanders
Peirce (1931), we think only in signs .
Signs take the form of words, images,
sounds, odours, flavours, acts or objects,
but such things have no intrinsic meaning
and become signs only when we invest
them with meaning.
Nothing is a sign unless it is
interpreted as a sign (Peirce, 1931).
Anything can be a sign as long as
someone interprets it as 'signifying'
something - referring to or standing
for something other than itself. We
interpret things as signs largely
unconsciously by relating them to
familiar systems of conventions. It is
this meaningful use of signs which is at
the heart of the concerns of semiotics.
Linguist Ferdinand de Saussure (1974)
offered a 'dyadic' or two-part model of
the sign. He defined a sign as being
a 'signifier' (signifiant) - the form
which the sign takes;
and the 'signified' (signifié) - the
concept it represents.
Charles Sanders Pierce (1931)
Three types of sign...
Icon/iconic: a mode in which the signifier is
perceived as resembling or imitating the
signified (recognizably looking, sounding,
feeling, tasting or smelling like it) - being
similar in possessing some of its qualities:
e.g. a portrait, a cartoon, a scale-model,
onomatopoeia, metaphors, 'realistic'
sounds in 'programme music', sound
effects in radio drama, a dubbed film
soundtrack, imitative gestures;
Index/indexical: a mode in which the signifier
is not arbitrary but is directly connected in
some way (physically or causally) to the
signified - this link can be observed or inferred:
e.g. 'natural signs' (smoke, thunder, footprints,
echoes, non-synthetic odours and flavours),
medical symptoms (pain, a rash, pulse-rate),
measuring instruments (weathercock,
thermometer, clock, spirit-level).
Symbol/symbolic: a mode in which the
signifier does not resemble the signified but
which is fundamentally arbitrary or purely
conventional - so that the relationship must
be learnt: e.g. language in general (plus
specific languages, alphabetical letters,
punctuation marks, words, phrases and
sentences), numbers, morse code, traffic
lights, national flags.
Denotation, Connotation and
In semiotics, denotation and connotation
are terms describing the relationship
between the signifier and its signified, and
an analytic distinction is made between
two types of signifieds: a denotative
signified and a connotative signified.
Meaning includes both denotation and
As Roland Barthes (1967) noted, Saussure's
model of the sign focused on denotation at
the expense of connotation and it was left
to subsequent theorists (notably Barthes
himself) to offer an account of this
important dimension of meaning .
Barthes (1977) argued that in photography
connotation can be (analytically)
distinguished from denotation.
As John Fiske (1982) puts it denotation is
what is photographed, connotation is how
it is photographed . Link to Barthes editing
at stage of production we discussed.
Related to connotation is what Roland
Barthes (1977) refers to as myth. For Barthes
myths were the dominant ideologies of our
time. The 1st and 2nd orders of signification
called denotation and connotation combine
to produce ideology - which has been
described as a third order of signification by
Fiske and Hartley (1982).
Paradigms and Syntagms
Roman Jakobson (1956), and later
Claude Levi-Strauss, emphasized
that meaning arises from the
differences between signifiers;
these differences are of two kinds:
positioning) and paradigmatic
In film and television, paradigms
include ways of changing shot (such
as cut, fade, dissolve and wipe). The
medium or genre are also paradigms,
and particular media texts derive
meaning from the ways in which the
medium and genre used differs from
Evaluating media language is an evaluation of
all the micro elements and how they have
created meaning to inform us about genre,
narrative, representations/ ideology,
targeting of audiences (through micro
This therefore requires us to use semiotic
terminology to explain our encoding of
elements and codes and conventions within
We must also remember to discuss the
preferred meaning (Hall, 1980) that we
wanted our audience to DECODE based on
what we ENCODED - could link to readings.
Micro Elements: Mise-en-Scene
Mise-en-scène constitutes the key aspect of
the pre-production phase of the film and
can be taken to include all aspects of
production design and Cinematography.
Mise-en-Scene creates the diegetic
world/diegesis - the fictional space and
time implied by the narrative, i.e. the world
in which the story takes place.
Aspects of Mise-en-Scene
video and print style
1. Location - settings, set-design and
2. Character Costume, Properties and
Make Up, Actors and Gesture
3. Cinematography - Lighting and
4. Layout and Page Design colour,
juxtaposition of elements.
Micro Elements: Camerawork
There are Four aspects to camerawork
that you need to understand:
1.Shot Types ± particularly relevant for
Link to Propp (1928)
The villain struggles against the hero.
The donor prepares the hero or gives the hero
some magical object.
The (magical) helper helps the hero in the quest.
The princess and her father gives the task to the
hero, identifies the false hero, marries the hero, often
sought for during the narrative. Propp noted that
functionally, the princess and the father can not be
The dispatcher character who makes the lack
known and sends the hero off.
The hero or victim/seeker hero reacts to the
donor, weds the princess.
[False hero] takes credit for the hero s actions or
tries to marry the princess.
Micro Elements: Editing
Editing is a post-production technique in
which the footage shot during production is
cut up and reassembled in such a way as to
tell the story.
TV shows are not filmed in chronological
They are filmed out of order in short
sequences, called takes , which then have
to be assembled in the correct order.
Long Takes: takes of an unusually long
Short Takes: takes that only last for a few
There are two basic types of editing:
For print products this can be linked
to juxtaposition of elements within a
frame at the stage of post production
see notes on eye line vectors within
creation of narrative in print.
The Structure Of The Classic Narrative
According to Pam Cook (1985), the
standard Hollywood narrative structure
Linearity of cause and effect within an
overall trajectory of enigma resolution.
A high degree of narrative closure.
A fictional world that contains
verisimilitude especially governed by
spatial and temporal coherence.
Tzvetan Todorov (1977) is a Bulgarian structural
linguist. He was interested in the way language is
ordered to infer particular meanings and has
been very influential in the field of narrative
Claude Lèvi-Strauss (1958) ideas about
narrative amount to the fact that he
believed all stories operated to certain
clear Binary Opposites e.g. good vs. evil,
black vs. white, rich vs. poor etc.
Barthes (1977) suggested that narrative works
with five different codes and the enigma code
works to keep up setting problems or puzzles
for the audience. His action code (a look,
significant word, movement) is based on our
cultural and stereotypical understanding of
actions that act as a shorthand to advancing
Adrian Tilley (1991) used the buckling of the
gun belt in the Western genre as a means of
signifying the preferred reading of an
imminent shoot out, and this works in the
same way as the starting of a car engine etc.
Micro Elements: Sound
Sound is layered on tracks in order to
create meaning. On Premiere you used
multiple audio tracks (one for dialogue and
music). You can have sound bridges and
sound motifs to enhance meaning.
There are 2 types of sound:
Diegetic Sound, which refers to sound whose
origin is to be located in the story world such as
the voices of the actors, sound effects etc.
Non-diegetic Sound, which refers to sounds not
explained in terms of any perceived source within
the story world, such as mood music, or voice-of-
God type commentaries.
Music added to enhance the show s action is the
most common form of non-diegetic sound.
Diegetic sound includes:
2. Sound Effects and in some cases«
Non- Diegetic sound includes:
1. Incidental Music
2. Voice Over/Narration
3. Non-diegetic sound effects (which can
Media is communication . Discuss the
ways that you have used media language to
create meanings in one of your media