Semiotics (Discussion)

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Television on semiotics

  1. Groups 5 & 1: What would be two examples of C. S. Pierce's "indexical sign" (aka, index) that are not mentioned in the textbooks? Explain how they are examples of this type of sign.
  2. Groups 6 & 2: What would be two examples of C. S. Pierce's "iconic sign" (aka, icon) that are not mentioned in the textbooks? Explain how they are examples of this type of sign.
  3. Group 3: What would be two examples of C. S. Pierce's "symbolic sign" that are not mentioned in the textbooks? Explain how they are examples of this type of sign.
  4. Group 4: What would be one example of syntagmatic structure that is not mentioned in the textbooks? Explain how it is an example of syntagmatic structure.

Ellen Seiter on semiotics

All groups

  1. Ellen Seiter, in Channels of Discourse, writes, "The picture [of Fangface] itself is a syntagm. ... In the paradigmatic dimension the options are a pair of categories nature/culture (or animal/human...), which is the source of the image's meaning." She continues, "...Hodge and Trip have introduced the binary opposition (nature/culture) and proceeded to organize the elements of the television image into paradigmatic sets."
    • List three or four "paradigmatic sets" in the "Weirdo on Maple Street" episode of Stranger Things. Provide specific examples from the episode.
    • Analysis of syntagmatic structure asks how the order of a groups of things (shots, chunks of story, musical themes) has an impact on meaning. Take the three instances ("syntagms") that include the Clash's "Should I Stay or Should I Go?" At different points in the episode, it serves different narrative functions. What are those functions? How does its third appearance derive meaning from the first two? That is, how does its location in the episode lend it specific meaning?
  2. Define "denotation" and "connotation." What does semiotician Roland Barthes mean by the term, "myth"?
    • What are the denotations and connotations of the Wonder Years' opening montage?
      • Denotations: List/identify as many of the images as you can.
    • Are there any "paradigmatic sets" to be found in the Wonder Years montage?
    • Both programs are about high-school students. How might paradigmatic sets be used to identify a similar thematic structure in the two programs?

Strengths/Weaknesses

All groups

  1. List two strength(s) of semiotic/structuralist analysis. List two weaknesses of this approach (no, a difficult vocabulary does not count). Best responses are boldfaced by Dr. Butler.
    • Group 1:
      • s: 1) Gives a vocabulary we can use to discuss language. 2) Focusing on the paradigms of a text makes it easier to pinpoint the themes of the text, or what the text is trying to say.
      • w: 1) Semiotics analysis tends to pick out what it needs from a text and ignore what it doesn't. 2) Since it is limited to cultural understanding, it might be difficult for an outsider of the culture to analyze the text.
    • Group 2:
      • s: (1) Makes it easy to look at the big picture Historical context is significant, (2) making it more powerful if the context is understood and known
      • w: (1) Relies heavily on interpretation so it can be difficulty to come to one conclusion Historical context is significant, (2) making it difficulty to understand the signs if you are unaware of the context
    • Group 3:
      • s: (1) Not the same from show to show, (2) multiple meanings behind each set
      • w: (1) sometimes too many misrepresentations, (2) too broad
    • Group 4:
      • s: (1) Easiest way of learning is comparing things. (2) Obvious results
      • w: (1) cliche, (2) deeper plot lines
    • Group 5:
      • s: (1) Applies meanings to things that would not normally have meanings; (2) You can find your own messages
      • w: (1) Sometimes too thought-provoking; (2) Interpretation can be incorrect
    • Group 6:
      • s: (1) Good way to evaluate media in different point of views
      • w: (1) Not always necessary, monotonous, TV is for entertainment, (2) May not support story (may be own interpretations)

Bibliography

  1. Jeremy G. Butler, Television: Visual Storytelling and Screen Culture (NY: Routledge, 2011).
  2. Ellen Seiter, "Semiotics, Structuralism and Television," in Robert C. Allen, Channels of Discourse, Reassembled, second edition (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1992).

External links