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CARLETON UNIVERSITY / Political Science / POLS 2003 / what is Structuralist theory?

what is Structuralist theory?

what is Structuralist theory?


School: Carleton University
Department: Political Science
Course: Theoretical Foundations in Communication and Media Studies
Professor: Ira wagman
Term: Fall 2017
Tags: structuralism, Semiotics, and zoonen
Cost: 50
Name: Quiz #3
Description: Exactly what's on the quiz tomorrow! Information from the lectures and the readings.
Uploaded: 11/12/2017
6 Pages 7 Views 9 Unlocks

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what is Structuralist theory?

Chapter 15 - Structuralism: “The Two Principles of Narrative” - Todorov  - genres have recurring themes so people know what to expect & can make the right  decision  

- core of structuralism: idea that stories have recurring, repeated, and constant  elements  

- interest lies in how things happen, not what happens  

- structuralism - fundamental way of thinking about the world which is mainly  concerned with perception & description of structures  

- can be argues that the preponderance of recurring structures help limit the kinds of  stories that can be told  

- structuralism’s significance in social inequalities: expect certain races to behave in  certain ways  

- structuralism came from linguistics (how language works) and that's why its often  related to ideas of grammar and writing - like media theory created by people not  interested in media but has been adapted to media by subsequent thinkers  

what is ferdinand de saussure theory of language?

- structuralism also acknowledges the differences between stories that must exist in  order to remain interesting  

- genre analysis (Todorov) = structuralist analysis  

- narratives rely on cause and effect, must link events  

- two principles of a narrative are succession and transformation  

Structuralism & Semiotics Lecture (attempts to theorize how meaning is communicated)  - determinism brings about questions of if humans have free will/agency, to make  decisions, be unique  

- common answer to how things are: that’s how we made them, that's just how things  are, individuals make things and bring them into existence, things are what they are  because of some system we don't understand and is out of our individual control  

The Big Questions:  

1) What makes meaning? - structures (systems of meaning)  

what are the 2 key concepts for saussure theory?

We also discuss several other topics like john baldwin ucsb

2) How is meaning communicated?  

3) How do I understand the world?  

4) Is it me or something bigger?  

- our understanding of the world comes through our ability to interpret different signs  and symbols that are part of languages that convey meaning - an attempt to recognize  systems of meaning  

Structuralist theory - aim to provide scientific explanation for structures in all societies  to determines how people make meaning and how its communicated  

- sentences organize thoughts using rules (grammar) and we understand its syntax  (container allowing the content to be delivered) and its semantics (content/meaning)  because you have learned the rules  

- understanding sentence structures allows you to understand all sentences (new and  unheard ones too): you have internalized the rules, the structure

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Ferdinand de Saussure  

- takes up questions of language as a linguist  

- people studied diachronically - changing use of words and meaning over time, but  Saussure studied synchronically - languages across different cultures  - suggested that languages have 1) system of arbitrary signs (words, symbols) and 2)  the active use of that system  Don't forget about the age old question of radhika kamath

- argued societies have rules within language to determine order - tries to develop a  science of language  

- believes language is a “fund accumulated by members of the community through the  practice of speech” - we develop a fund and expose children asap by talking to teach  communication  

- argues that all languages establish rules that are baked into us through the practice of  speech and when we talk, what we say isn't original because we are drawing on the  wealth of words (the “fund”) and reordering them (not the first time of arranging)  

- this idea can be called “semiology” - science of signs (words) that shows what  constitutes signs and what laws govern them  

2 Key Concepts for Saussure (How Meaning is Organized for Saussure)  1) Langue = language, system, structure  

2) Parole = speech, use, utterance, instance  

- they’re interrelated, can't have one without the other  

- parole is the sentence itself, shows us the presence of langue, existence of the  structures that provide the framework for communication  

- langue provides meaning to understand individual utterance (sentence and our  understanding of it) so we can truly understand its significance  We also discuss several other topics like Who is Muhammad Ali?

- therefore, no individual utterance is important in and of itself, individuals  express and reveal aspects of social structures  

- Saussure also argues that languages are systems of signs, each sign has 2 components:  1) signifier - word, sound-pattern (ex. the word P-U-L-L)  Don't forget about the age old question of gen 201 university of phoenix

2) signified - notion of what the word indicates (ex. the sign to “pull” the door)  - for Saussure, the relationship between signifier and signified is neither historical or  natural, but arbitrary  

Types of Signs  

1) Icon - signifier has likeness to signified (“growl”)  

2) Index - expression (visual, textual), loosely correlates to something (“you”)  3) Symbol - representation for something in the world (word “canoe” stands in)  - this is Saussure’s attempt to understand structure/rules that determine  communication  

- existentialism rose in France: individuals determine change (Sarte), but people began  to realize individuals are part of larger systems and using the systematic way is how to  begin to understand this  

- Levi-Strauss - “words (and kinship) acquire meaning only if they’re integrated into  systems” - these systems are baked in, unconsciously

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- he comes to realize that all cultures have common things (customs), and argues that  these customs are baked into your brain like computer code (binaries)  - therefore, cultures customs have binaries (ex. binary = ways to convert  raw food to cooked food)  

- Levi-Strauss believes we activate these binaries in different ways  - cultural practices can be read like sentences, every new practice can be understood  (different ways of living can be understood even if you’ve never seen before because of  the base binary of separating the outside from the inside), rules of culture are  internalized  

Chapter 16 - Feminist Media Studies: “New Themes” - Liesbet van Zoonen  - representation is an important battle ground for contemporary feminism and also  symbolic conflict about definitions of feminism  Don't forget about the age old question of purdue soc 324

- different classifications of feminism differ in location (ex. the liberal feminism is seen  more in US than in Britain/Europe)  

- problem in presenting feminism in typologies is that not all are recognized because  they’re constructed out of general feminist thinking  

- feminist critiques on communication studies:  

1) feminists have drawn attention to the under representation of higher  education and as scientists (women have been prevented from gaining  access to the outside world)  

2) feminists have pointed at the sexes use of science  We also discuss several other topics like because of unlimited liability, it is easy for sole proprietors to borrow large sums of money.

3) traditional science (themes, theories, methodologies) ignored women’s  problems and are made based on male experience, presenting it as  universal validity  

4) objectivity and neutrality are offsprings of masculine modes of  thinking and denies validity of women’s  

5) feminists have produced a post-modernized understanding of science  as socially constructed and grounded in social experiences  

- 3 themes of feminist media studies:  

1) stereotypes and gender socialization - images in media  

2) ideology - media are views as hegemonic institutions that present  capitalism and patriarchy as normal  

3) pornography - media serves needs of patriarchy by representing  woman as objects and suppressing women’s experiences  

- two step flow - people’s opinions are influences by others who are influenced by mass  media  

- one step flow = hypodermic needle/magic bullet models/theories - people are directly  influence by mass media  

Chapter 19 - Postmodernism: “The Implosion of Meaning in the Media” - Baudrillard  - 3 hypotheses:  

1) information produces meaning and can't make up for the loss of  signification in every domain (negentropic factor)  

2) necessary correlation between information and meaning  

3) because we think information = meaning, the opposite occurs

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- Information devours its own content (communication and social)  1) exhausts itself in act of staging communication/meaning  

2) mass media and pressure of information destroys social, therefore  media are producers of the implosion of the social in the masses  

Structuralism and Post-Structuralism Lecture  

- How is meaning communicated? - through signs  

- How can we understand the ways that meaning is possible? - because you understand  the rules and structure of speech, you’ve internalized the structure  - What creates the potential for meaning?  

1950’s - decade of conformity, expansion of computer systems, conformist & systematic  1960’s - civil rights movements, counter culture, Vietnam war, rebellion against systems  (authorities, rules)  

- chess as a structure/system like a sentence, words/pieces don't mean anything unless  put into relation with each other, unless put into a sentence  

Culler - language enables critics to focus not on meaning, but the structures that  produce meaning  

Todorov - structuralism applies to literature, all stories have structures, can study things  like we study sentences (ex. genres)  

- Example - Situation-Comedy = man’s desire for woman meets resistance, but he ends  up getting girl  

- Specific example of the Situation-Comedy - Big Bang Theory: “The  Misinterpretation Agitation”:  

- Structural components of the episode (utterance): group - disturbance  from outside - misinterpretations - tension - resolution - return to normal  for next week’s episode  

- Episode (utterance) reveals the structure  

- can read episodes like sentences  

- Can be seen in advertising too: “Gender Advertisemento” - Erving Goffman:  - 5 ways women are presented as weak in advertisements:  

1) relative size (to men)  

2) touch (touching themselves)  

3) function ranking (occupation)  

4) subordination (submissive)  

5) licence withdrawal (looking out through far away glances)  

- advertisements make sense because of structures (arranged of different components  in relation to each other) which makes it possible to study advertising as a system of  communications  

Structuralism - a theory/method in which discipline is imagined as having inter-related  systems - the interrelationship between elements is most important

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“Post” Something - something happened after something else; theoretically - something  advances a position past where it was  

- structuralism can't tell us how things change over time  

- system is arbitrary because can only mean something in relation  - structuralism attempts to help the world make sense again  

Derrida - nostalgia for origins/order when there is none  

- Saussure - relationship between signifier and signified is arbitrary  - Derrida (step further) - if its really arbitrary, there’s no relationship between signifier  and signified  

- Derrida argues that words are just words, they don't refer to anything but the words  themselves  

- words cannot capture all meaning of a thing - to assume so is to engage in an act  called “logocentrism”  

- if meaning isn't tied to words, meaning can be infinite  

- when we speak, all we’re doing is using language but meaning will always be partial  (empty meaning) - real meaning is always absent/postponed  

- if meaning has been constructed, its our job to deconstruct it  

Post Structuralism - an extension of structuralism which rejects structuralism’s claims  to objectivity and comprehensiveness, emphasizing the instability and plurality of  meaning. The individual elements are more significant than their interrelationship to  larger structures - post structuralism challenges any socially conceived structure, but  also rejects any attempt to build a structure for anything  

Butler - post structuralism rejects claims of totality  

Derrida - contrary to everything Levi-Strauss says about structuralism  How is meaning communicated? Derrida - There’s no way to know in a systematic  sense, we should be suspicious of people who claim to have systems of knowledge,  meanings are personal and individual  

- examples of systems of knowing and ordering: legal and justice, political, scientific  medical, educational, and media systems  

L. van Zoonen - Feminist Reading  

- women’s movement is about symbolic conflict of definitions of femininity, meaning is  polysemic (coexistence of many possible meanings for a word)  

- how is meaning communicated? - politics and power dynamics structure systems that  determine what we know  

- media systems as systems of knowing  

- 1980s and 1990s - early examples of internet, satellites, expansion of media systems  than ever before (media covering the war and streaming it)  

Jean Baudrillard  

- believes in the excess of meaning (too much)  

- ex. music videos being played one after the other (MTV) no connection

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- the internet allows everything to happen at once, creating too much meaning  - myth that this will make things make more sense  

- “Thus the media are producers not of socialization, but of exactly the  opposite, of the implosion of the social in the masses”  

- meaning isn't tying society together, we’re overwhelmed by information (it hasn't  helped to make things make more sense)  

- “only the medium can make an event” - is war coverage/streaming the war or  something else? Baudrillard says its something else  

- media systems work to structure what we know and generate meaning for things that  don't exist in the real world

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