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Introducing Media Languages 2

Steve Campsall | Tuesday December 07, 2010

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

Analysing Media Texts Using Semiotics

Semiotics is a way of analysing any media text to uncover the ways it creates meaning for its target audience. Some key terms in semiotics are sign, code, denotation and connotation.

Media texts, like the magazine ad on the right (from a charity’s campaign against verbal abuse), can be made powerful and compelling.

If you’ve been to any recent film at a multiplex cinema with an ultra-wide screen and surround Dolby 5.1 sound, you’ll have experienced how very realistic media companies can now make their ‘representations’ of the world…

So believable, often, that it really does seem as if the media is able to offer us a ‘window on the world’.

Semiotics provides important ways for you to be able to ‘deconstruct’ a media text so you can work out how it is working on its target audience to create particular meanings and feelings.

Sometimes, too, a media text will be working to create or reinforce a particular way of viewing or thinking about the world.

Semioticians believe that when we, as humans, put ‘things’ together to create some kind of meaning, we end up saying far more than simply what the things in themselves ‘say’, that is, we create ‘codes of meaning’. Sounds confusing? Read on…

Semioticians would say that a common and important ‘sign system’ is the clothing we each use to cover our bodies. They say that clothing means far more – in our culture – than merely to act as a body covering.

Instead, we use clothing as a series of meaningful signs that are placed together to create an even more meaningful code, one that our ‘audience’ (i.e. those we dress to impress!) can ‘crack’ and so ‘read’ that we are trying to say… ‘I’m cool’, ‘I’m a Goth’, ‘I’m a Hippy’... serious, fashionable, clever… and perhaps most especially, that ‘I am an individual’ and ‘…not poor’, ‘street wise’… and whatever else we deem...


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