The way in which a text is
constructed to create meaning for
a reader or viewer of the text
Some of the content is adapted from Chandler (2005) http://www.aber.ac.uk/media/Documents/S4B/sem02.html
For the exam you need to be
Write a coherent analysis of the media language in your
teaser trailer including:
Reference to theory - Semiotics
Examples of the denotative and connotative levels of
meaning within your teaser trailer.
Appropriate use of key terms (e.g. denotation and
connotation, signifiers and signified, codes and
KEY TERM: Semiotics
Definition: The study of SIGNS
(& the role of signs in social life)
Semiotics examines how signs construct meaning
(i.e. how the use of mise-en-scene, camerawork,
editing and sound construct meaning in your teaser
trailer, poster or magazine cover).
Semiotics – The Study of Signs
Saussure (a founder of semiotics)
summarised it in the following equation:
The Sign = signifier + signified
the form which
the sign takes
the concept it
So meaning is not fixed, the sign can be different
depending on the signified, i.e. the reader’s interpretation
of the signifier.
What other words have you used before that could
replace the words signifier and signified?
…denotation and connotation.
How to read the signs and
signifiers within a Media Text
All media texts have 2 layers of meaning:
What we actually see/hear
What you associate with this image
Roland Barthes and semiotics
Barthes was an influential theorist who
explored the way in which media texts make
(Saussure was more interested in how meaning was created
in language, Barthes was more interested in the cultural
significance of Semiotics.)
He considered that all cultural forms, are essentially made up
of a system of signs that could be deconstructed to reveal
how cultural meanings are constructed.
He analysed the denotative and connotative level of signs
in a media text.
This image denotes a tropical
The image connotes
paradise, holiday, summer to some
…but think about the film
‘Castaway’, the victims of the Bali
bombings or the recent tsunami - in
this case the image may connote
isolation, fear or even death
It is important to note that images
have different connotations
depending on the reader of the
Denotation & Connotation within a
Media Text – A Movie Poster
The Mission Impossible Poster
denotes a MATCH and a
GLOBE OF THE WORLD
What are the connotations of
a) The match?
b) The globe?
What are they communicating to
an audience? Why?
Semiotics – codes and
We interpret things as signs largely unconsciously by relating
them to familiar systems of codes and conventions (e.g.
genre conventions, cultural conventions, etc.).
e.g. low key lighting which casts dark shadows in a film scene can
symbolise mystery or sinister characters.
But it all depends on context!
What made the shadows mysterious or even
sinister in the last slide?
What different meanings are created in the
images on this slide?
Shadows as symbolic codes
Shadows are not mysterious in themselves.
I am tapping into cultural ideas that connect
darkness with the unknown or hidden.
Also, expectations based on our understanding
of thriller/horror film codes and conventions,
which associate low key lighting and dark
shadows in a scene with mystery or sinister
Signs can be polysemic (have many possible
Why do viewers interpret certain meanings over
– Context is important – how signs work in combination will
lead us towards particular readings over others.
– Dominant cultural ideas will lead us towards certain
interpretations over others.
– We understand the conventions of particular media forms.
Textual analysis of media language
reveals how the following adverts are
constructed to create certain meanings
in relation to their product.
Ecstatic, pleasure lost
in ecstacy, laid back,
pure, toned, ideal,
Over to you
Analyse your own media product
Annotate it with denotations and connotations
(or signifiers and signified)
In your connotations, try to link to genre,
narrative, audience and representation where
Roland Barthes and semiotics
Barthes argues that the organisation of signs encodes
particular messages and ideologies and that these
ideologies can be revealed as constructed through textual
He described these constructed messages and ideologies as
Over to you
Go back to your analysis.
Summarise any overall messages it
connotes or cultural myths it reinforces.
For those of you who want to really
stretch your academic muscles…
‘Semiotics is important because it can help us not to take 'reality' for granted as
something having a purely objective existence which is independent of human
It teaches us that reality is a system of signs. Studying semiotics can assist us to
become more aware of reality as a construction and of the roles played by ourselves
and others in constructing it
…Meaning is not 'transmitted' to us - we actively create it according to a complex
interplay of codes or conventions of which we are normally unaware. Becoming aware of
such codes is both inherently fascinating and intellectually empowering…
In defining realities, signs serve ideological functions. Deconstructing and contesting
the realities of signs can reveal whose realities are privileged and whose are
The study of signs is the study of the construction and maintenance of reality. To
decline such a study is to leave to others the control of the world of meanings which we
Daniel Chandler (2005)