COMM 1F90 Chapter Notes - Chapter 9: Intertextuality, Semiotics, Polysemy
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Course CodeCOMM 1F90
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October 30th, 2018
Chapter Nine: Reading Images and
The image is read through its signs and signiﬁers, content, codes, and conventions. There are 4 key aspects of
the image in order to tease out the factors that inﬂuence interpretation:
1. Photographic composition and conventions (lighting, camera angle, camera lens). The angle will entail sub-
ordinance or dominance over the image (ex. low angle at a doctors oﬃce because the doctor has more
power). The size emphasizes threat to the viewer.!
2. The type of photograph (family snapshot, art portrait, news photo or ad). There are conﬂicting signiﬁers;
some connote reality and some suggest ﬁction. Black and white colour signify realism. They have a high
3. The photographic content (ex. surgeon wearing masks and gloves= signs and signiﬁers). What is in the
image to tell the viewers something?!
4. The setting. The setting can be thought of with more favourable connotations, In relation to the image, we
tend to foreground the unsettling connotations because of the photographic codes— the way the image
has been photographed.!
•This analysis aims to develop semiological analytic skills and to demonstrate the importance of
considering who the audience is. Interpretations will depend on the cultural and social position of the
readers, and on the assumptions about the audience that are embedded in the text.!
•Consider who the implied reader is and how the audience is positioned or addressed by the image by
constructing a story!
•Drawing on understandings of textual conventions and thinking through how the audience is being
addressed, give us the ability to supplement our interpretation by imaging the story, context, and
relationships in which an image is located.!
•Images are often polysemic; thus, they have many meanings (a doctor could be performing a heart surgery,
delivering a baby, demonstrating a procedure, etc.) !
•The capacity of images to carry a number of meanings does not suggest images can mean anything at all.!
•These things are denoted; hence there are limitations to polysemy.!
•Consider how the context of an image and its relationship to other similar images inﬂuences its meaning. !
•In diﬀerent contexts of reception, our understanding of the inscribed reader and the meaning of the
photograph will shift substantially.!
•Our readings of certain image are dependent on our cultural knowledge and are constructed intertextually (in
conjunction with the meanings produced in related texts).!
•The photographic codes complement this: horror and science-ﬁction ﬁlms use conventions of harsh shadows
and distorted camera views to create disturbance (if you see an ad similar, you can gain an understanding of
•Captions anchor the image to a particular meaning narrowing the polysemic possibilities !
•Refer to connotations and paradigms when connecting the relationship between words and meanings.!
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