Mary Lim

Monday, January 27, 2014

act: intro to semiotics

Terms Defined

semiotics - the study of signs and symbols to communicate
sign - something that is representative of something else
signifier - the representation (for example, a photograph or simplification)
signified - object/idea that is being represented
icon - a sign that makes a direct reference to what it is representing, using appearance or very apparent qualities
index - a sign that implies the object indirectly
symbol - a sign which uses arbitrary marks where meanings have to be learned/taught
syntagm -a group of signs that follow a sequence that is affected by other signs around it
paradigm - an intentional decision made based on a guideline or rule. 
code - paradigms with both a fixed number of units (digital) and unlimited number of units (analogue).
polysemy - something that has many meanings for one object

Notes on reading

Visible Signs by Crow, pg 7-8, 12-17, 22-23, 30-33, 39-41

     1. Components
        What is theory?
  • "There are three main areas that form what we understand as semiotics: the signs themselves' the way they are organized into systems and the context in which they appear."
  • Saussure (linguist, no inclusion of audience, structure) --> looked at language as a system of signs and were concerned with the underlying principles of language
    • a word = signifier / object it represents = signified
      • "this divorce between meaning and form is called duality"
  • Peirce (more concerned with how we make sense of world around us, social process)
    • sign itself, user of the sign, & the external reality
    • Object [O] = external reality / Sign [representamen S/R] = similar to signifier / Interpretant [I] = similar to signified [Sd], meaning varies with the reader
     2. How Meaning is Formed
         Categories of Signs
  • icon, index, symbol
  • Peirce's three levels of properties for signs:
    • firstness (qualities) - sense of something (feeling 'blue' = functions on first level)
    • secondness (brute facts) - level of fact (physical relation of one thing to another)
    • thirdness (law) - mental level; relates sign to object as a convention (Stars and Stripes connection to United States --> mental relationship that relies on this convention)
      • all signs become classifiable as combinations of each three elements
  • collection of signs that are organized in a linear sequence (b/o/o/k) guided by conventions/rules
    • ex. an outfit is made up of separate garments, or syntagms --> garments are made up of sleeves, collars, cuffs --> the value of the outfit is determined by the combination of garments

  • Paradigm - the units in the set are similar & each unit is obviously differs from others in set
    • Ex. 'A' is part of the paradigm, the alphabet. But '5' and '+' are not
    • Making choices in the paradigm of the alphabet, we get another paradigm
      • b/o/o/k --> change n for o --> bonk
      • meaning changes
    • Ex. way we chose to apply color to a painting
    • Ex. when writing poetry, rhyming words = paradigms based on sound
  • digital codes - paradigms that have a fixed number of units to choose from (alphabet)
  • analogue code - paradigms that have unlimited choices (musical notation)

Visual Communication by Baldwin, pg 34-37

  • semiotics suggests communication is the production of meaning itself
    • not a linear process from A to B (recipient)
  • design is known as 'text'
  • person receiving is the 'reader'
  • who is the 'author'?
  • why cliches work: overused signs that quickly relay information
  • designers need to be aware of what things mean in context so as not to cause misunderstandings [and not subvert them, only when there is intended effect]
  • signs have two levels:
    • denotation: intended meaning
    • connotation: understood meaning
  • requirements for a sign:
    • 1. signifier has to be a non-abstract object
    • 2. has to refer to something other than itself
    • 3. has to be understood
  • understanding of a sign is relative to the person

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