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CCT210H5 Study Guide - Midterm Guide: Umberto Eco, Constant Craving, Arbitrariness

Communication, Culture and Technology
Course Code
Elizabeth Peden
Study Guide

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CCT210 Midterm
Semiotics: A science that studies signs and their uses in representation.
- “Semiotics is concerned with everything that can be taken as a sign”
Umberto Eco
- Involves the study not only of what we refer to as „signs‟ in everyday speech, but
of anything which „stands for‟ something else.
Sign: Something that stands for something or someone else in some capacity.
- take the form of words, images, sounds, odours, flavours, acts or objects
- have no intrinsic meaning and become signs only when we invest them with
Ferdinand de Saussure:
- uses a two part model
- defined a sign as being composed of:
o Signifier: the form which the sign takes (the outer image)
o Signified: the concept it represents (the meaning behind it)
- the sign is the whole that results from the association of the signifier with the
- i.e. Signifier: the word “open”
Signified: the concept of romance and love
- the value of a sign is determined by the relationships between the sign and other
signs within the system as a whole
- a sign has no „absolute‟ value independent of the context
o i.e. a cat is not a dog/ is not a bird
Arbitrariness: definition is different for every person
- not all signifying systems are socially or historically arbitrary
o language
o red for traffic light
- the sign is arbitrary a priori (before the experience) but ceases to be arbitrary a
posteriori (after the experience)
o after the sign has come into historical existence it cannot be arbitrarily
Charles Sanders Peirce:
- 3 part model
o The Representamen the form which the sign takes (not necessarily
material) = to Saussure‟s signifier

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o An Interpretant not an interpreter but rather the sense made of the sign
= to Saussure‟s signified
o An Object to which the sign refers or attempts to accomplish (not in
Saussure‟s model)
Ideology: the shared set of values and beliefs that exist within a given society and
through which we live our lives
4 paradigm shifts in “representation”:
- from pictographic to alphabetic writing
- movable type technology
- advancements in electronic technology
- establishing a world-wide civilization
Pop Culture
- the invention of writing
- the spread of literacy
- the immergence of mass media
- the convergence/diffusion of electronic mass media
- Neomania : constant craving for new forms of entertainment and goods
- Juvenilization: the tendency for people to think of themselves as “forever young”
and attractive
- can be seen as extended metaphors
- helps us make sense of our experiences within our culture
- they express and serve to organize shared ways of conceptualizing something
within a culture
- serve the ideological function of naturalization
o to naturalize the cultural
to make dominant cultural and historical values, attitudes and
beliefs seem „natural‟, „normal‟, obvious „common-sense‟
- myths can function to hide the ideological function of signs and codes
At the denotative level this is a photograph of the movie star Marilyn Monroe.
At a connotative level we associate this photograph with Marilyn Monroe's star
qualities of glamour, sexuality, beauty - if this is an early photograph - but also
with her depression, drug-taking and untimely death if it is one of her last
photographs. At a mythic level we understand this sign as activating the myth
of Hollywood: the dream factory that produces glamour in the form of the stars
it constructs, but also the dream machine that can crush them - all with a view
to profit and expediency.

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Metaphor is the application of a name or descriptive term or phrase to an object or
action to which it is imaginatively but not literally applicable.”
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