Design Culture Introduction
Design Culture Introduction DESMA 10
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This 6 page Class Notes was uploaded by Jennyfer Skiles on Friday September 4, 2015. The Class Notes belongs to DESMA 10 at University of California - Los Angeles taught by E. Huhtamo in Fall. Since its upload, it has received 105 views. For similar materials see /class/177918/desma-10-university-of-california-los-angeles in Design Media Arts at University of California - Los Angeles.
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Date Created: 09/04/15
Desma l0 Design Culture an Introduction Professor Erkki Huhtamo DESIGN CULTURE AND SEMIOTICS Some basic concepts SEMIOTICS Etymology from the Greek word quotsemeionquot quotsignquot Semiotics is a field of research that studies sighs as an essential part of cultural life and communication According to semiotics we can only know culture and reality itself by means of signs in other words through the processes of signification Semiotics has two founders the Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure died l9l3 and the American philosopher Charles Sandres Peirce died l9l4 quotEvery message is made of signs correspondingly the science of signs termed semiotic deals with those general principles which underlie the structure of all signs whatever and with the character of their utilization within messages as well as with the specifics of the various sign systems and of the diverse messages using those different kinds of signsquot Roman Jacobson Signs are the perceived perceivable aspect of communication They can be visual auditive tactile Reading and interpreting signs is a fundamental cultural activity We would not be able to live our lives without it Design is a particularly semiotic activity because it depends on the construction of signs by the designer and their decoding by the customer citizen etc FERDINAND DE SAUSSURE DEFINITION OF quotSEMIOLOGYquot SEMIOTICS quotLanguage is a system of signs that express ideas and is therefore comparable to a system of writing the alphabet of deaf mutes symbolic rites polite formulas military signals etc But it is the most important of these systems A science that studies the life of signs within society is conceivable it would be part of social psychology and consequently of general psychology I shall call it semiology from the Greek semeion 39sign39 Semiology would show what constitutes signs what laws govern them Since the science does not yet exist no one can say what it would be but it has a right to existence a place staked out in advance Linguistics is only a part of the general science of semiology the laws discovered by semiology will be applicable to linguistics and the latter will circumscribe a well defined area within the mass of anthropological factsquot 1916 FERDINAND DE SAUSSURE THE BASIC CONCEPTS OE SEMIOTICS ACCORDING TO SAUSSURE Langueparole languagespeech For Saussure language is a basic semiotic system which is in a dynamic and mutual relationship with speech the actual localized use of language When one speaks a sentence language gets activated speech is only possible because it is based on the system of the language Language is the sum total of all available speech instances The relationship between quotlanguagequot and quotspeechquot is similar to that between quotcodequot and quotmessagequot used by most later semioticians We put together and send messages by referring to a code an existing system of relationships Most semioticians agree that no messages are possible without the existence of a code although its actual structure may be difficult to demonstrate The sign signifiersignified For Saussure a si consists of two entities that cannot be separated from each other Signifier represents its quotformquot whereas the signified represents the idea the sign expresses The relationship between the signifier and the signified is conventional it is based on an agreement For example the word quothorsequot put together of the 39phonemes39 h o r s e does not resemble the animal it refers to The principle of difference quotthe identity of a given signifier or a given signified is established through the ways in which it differs from all other signifiers or signifieds within the same systemquot Thus a language is not an object it is a system of relationships Paradigmatic and syntagmatic relationships According to Saussure the use of language has two dimensions which are activated simultaneously When forming a sentence we make choices from existing paradigms lists of alternatives such as words or grammatical forms and arranging them in syntagmatic relationships word after word etc There are rules that govern both A sign39s value is determined by its paradigmatic and syntagmatic associations According to Roland Barthes this principle can be extended to all kinds of sign systems such as fashion dressing up we choose the clothes from different alternatives and create a quotsyntagmquot the combination of the clothes we wear CHARLES SANDERS PEIRCE l839 l9l4 DEFINITION OF THE SIGN quotA sign is something which stands to somebody for something in some respect or capacity It addresses somebody that is creates in the mind of that person an equivalent sign or perhaps a more developed sign That sign which it creates I call the interpretant of the first sign The sign stands for something its object It stands for that object not in all respects but in reference to a sort of idea which I have sometimes called the groundquot Peirce39s understanding of the sign is quottriadicquot He separates two triads PEIRCE39S FIRST TRIAD SIGN INTERPRETANT OBJECT Sign is something we perceive and which represents something else According to Peirce there are many kinds of signs Peirce separated 66 classes of signs Peirce39s sign roughly corresponds with Saussure39s signifier The sign trigger39s in the observer39s mind another kind of quotmentalquot sign the interpretant Sign stands for something in the real world the object or quotreferentquot The sign stands for the referent in some respect which is called ground this somehow corresponds with 39code39 Peirce says that the interpretant can become a sign which produces a new interpretant and so on endlessly This resembles Umberto Eco39s idea of quotunlimited semiosisquot signs from endless chains of signs PEIRCE39S SECOND TRIAD ICON INDEX SYMBOL Icon resembles its conceptual object in certain ways It may share certain of the properties which that object possesses or it may duplicate the principles according to which that object is organized Examples images and diagrams eguations graphs Index quota real thing or fact which is a sign of its object by virtue of being connected with it as a matter of fact and by also forcibly intruding upon the mind guite regardless of its being interpreted as a signquot Examples weathervane a pointing hand a symptom of a disease etc Symbol the relationship between the sign and its conceptual object entirely arbitrary although occasional resemblances are possible Example natural languages and notational systems are pre eminently symbolic A national flag is a symbol Peirce emphasizes the overlapping and flexibility of the sign categories in signifying practices Photograph is both icon and index a portrait egually particularly to a person who knows the sitter The richest signs are usually combinations of different types ROLAND BARTHES BASIC CONCEPTS OF SEMIOTICS Code and message In our lives we contantly send messages that consists of different signs These messages basically anything from making a phone call waving our hand or the clothes we wear are based on codes culturally defined systems of relationships Living in a certain environment we internalize sets of codes that effect our semiotic behaviour whether we are aware of it or not Barthes claimed that there is only one exception to the rule quotno message without a codequot the photographic image because it shows us something reproduced without human intervention by means of a mechanical chemical process This idea has been much criticized particularly after the breakthrough of digital photography which seriously challenges photography39s earlier ontological status Denotation and connotation The distinction between denotation and connotation is the guiding idea of Barthes39 semiotic theory He claims that when we read signs and sign complexes we can distinguish between different kinds of messages Denotation is the quotliteral or obvious meaningquot or the quotfirst order signifying systemquot For example the denotative meaning of an image refers to its literal decriptive meaning Connotation refers to quotsecond order signifying systemsquot additional cultural meanings we can also find from the image or text Barthes identifies connotation with the operation of ideology which he also calls quotmythquot According to Barthes quotideology or quotmythquot consists of the deployment of signifiers for the purpose of expressing and justifying the dominant values of a given society class or historical period the signs express not just quotthemselvesquot but also all kind of value systems that surround them As myths signs tend to appear quotnaturalquot and self evident although they are basically always artificial coded hiding the operations of ideology Anchorage and relay According to Barthes there are two kinds of relationships between text and image anchorage and relay All images are quotpolysemicquot they are open to basically endless numbers of different readings implying an uncertainty of meanings Because of this a linguistic message is usually associated with every image to guide their interpretation ln ANCHORAGE the text quotanchorsquot the meaning of the image by naming the intended denoted meanings helping identification On the level of connotation the linguistic message guides interpretation The principal function of anchorage is ideological the text directs the reader through the signifieds of the image towards a meaning chosen in advance ln RELAY the text and the image are in a complementary relationship Both the words and images are fragments of a more general syntagm and the unity of the message is realized on a higher level Relay can often be found in comic strips and films Drawing painting is always coded because l it requires a set of rule governed transpositions that are historical perspective rules etc 2 there is a division between the significant and the insignificant Drawing and painting always involves choices 3 drawing reguires apprenticeship learning Barthes believed a photograph is a quotmessage without a codequot because it is produced automatically without human intervention It would be a quotpiece of naturequot captured by the camera This view has been much criticized Critics have emphasized to which extend the photograph is a result of choices made by the photographer framing timing etc Closed and open systems In his book SZ Barthes developed further his idea of the relationship between denotation and connotation denotation is associated with closure and singularity it is the enemy of free play opposing even the limited plurality made possible by connotation while connotation represents the principle of opening up the text to all kinds of cultural meanings even to the point of questioning the coherence and the identity of the text This leads to the issue of closed and open systems two types of semiotic systems Classical Hollywood cinema is an example of a closed system It wants to be quotreadquot in a certain way guiding the viewer and resisting alternative readings Experimental films are often open systems There is no quotcorrectquot way of interpreting their meaning on the contrary they are open to all kinds of readings COMMUNICATION quotEvery cultural pattern and every single act of social behaviour involves communication in either an explicit or implicit sensequot Edward Sapir Communication is culture culture is communication ROMAN JACOBSON ON COMMUNICATION quotmeaning resides in the total act of communication It is not a stable predetermined entity which passes untrammeled from sender to receiverquot depending on the situation one of the elements of the speech act may dominate over the others but all contributing factors should be considered THE quotCLASSICALquot MODEL OF COMMUNICATION by Roman Jacobson CONTEXT MESSAGE SENDER gt RECEIVER CONTACT quotchannel of communication CODE THE quotIMPROVEDquot MODEL OF COMMUNICATION includes the idea that communication involves the negociation of signification CONTEXTS codel code2 SENDER gt MESSAGE gt RECEIVER encoder decoder CONTACTS ENCODING DECODING Stuart Hall According to Stuart Hall all images are both encoded and decoded They are encoded in the production process and in the placement Within a certain cultural setting They are decoded by the viewersreaders According to Hall there are three positions the viewers can adopt as decoders 1 Dominant hegemonic reading They can identify with the hegemonic position and receive the dominant message of an image or text such as a television show in an unguestioning manner 2 Negotiated reading They can negotiate an interpretation from the image and its dominant meanings 3 Oppositional reading They can take an oppositional position either by completely disagreeing with the ideological position embodied in an
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