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Introducing Media Languages 1

Steve Campsall | Tuesday December 07, 2010

Categories: Theory, Semiotic Theory, Introductory Resources, Intro to Media Languages

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The Four Media Studies Key Concepts

These four ideas or concepts are at the core of your course and will, eventually, come to be at the core of all the many analyses and discussions of media texts you carry out. You’ll be covering each one in increasing detail over the next two years of your course but, for the next few lessons, there’ll be just a brief introduction.


Any media product, such as an MP3 file, a CD, a DVD, magazine, newspaper or a film, is called a media ‘text’. The individual parts that make up these media texts are, even if they have no words, often referred to as media language. This ‘language’ can be images (moving or still) or words – or anything else that makes meaning for its particular ‘target audience’.

  • If you break down any media text you will find it is made up from a whole series of parts that work both individually and together to create the overall meaning. Each of these parts are, in media terminology, called signs and the signs combine to create what is called a ‘code’.

  • So, if you look at the photographic model’s face to the right, even details such as the skin qualities and tone can be thought of one of the many individual ‘signs’ that work together to make up the whole image; the girl’s eyes are another sign; the perfectly white, straight teeth are another; the full red lips are a sign; the glossy well-groomed hair is one, too…. And the whole group of these individual signs work to create, rather like a jigsaw, what is called, not a sign, but a code.

In this case, we could say that the code created connotes (which means ‘suggests’) things such as ‘health’, ‘beauty’, ‘attractiveness’ and much more. The photographer will have worked hard to ensure that the model has been chosen for having particular ‘signs’ that will appeal to the magazine’s ‘target audience’. He or...

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