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Communication, Culture and Technology
Elizabeth Peden

CCT210 - reading notes – Week 1 Semiotics Semiotics is a way of studying culture where all images, language, and symbols impact upon each other. Simply put, semiotics is a science that studies sigs and their uses in representation. One of the broadest definitions is that of Umberto Eco, who states that 'semiotics is concerned with everything that can be taken as a sign'. Semiotics involves the study not only of what we refer to as 'signs' in everyday speech, but of anything which 'stands for' something else. In a semiotic sense, signs take the form of words, images, sounds, gestures and objects. Consumers find it difficult to articulate what they really want, often their needs depend on what they can have—that is, what is already there (invented). You typically wouldn‘t ―need‖ something if it is nonexistent in the first place let alone think about it at all. Semiotics provides a way of studying culture, rather than people. Exploring the context in which consumers live but don‘t always consciously recognize. We take cues from sources such as brand communications, popular culture, socio- historical practices, and even theological or folk traditions. A Semiotician‟s job is to think about the world of popular culture and how it might be manipulated for commercial benefit. What‟s a Sign? Simply put, a ―sign‖ is something that stands for something or someone else in some capacity Signs take different forms which include words, images, sounds, odours, flavours, acts or objects Signs have no intrinsic (built-in) meaning and become signs only when we invest them with meaning. Anything can be a sign as long as someone interprets it as 'signifying' something - referring to or standing for something other than itself. TWO MODELS: o Ferdinand de Saussure o Charles Sanders Peirce Saussure‟s model of a “sign”:  Saussure uses a two part model: CCT210 - reading notes – Week 1 Semiotics  He defined a sign as being composed of:  a 'signifier' - the form which the sign takes; and  The 'signified' - the concept it represents.  The sign is the whole that results from the association of the signifier with the signified Example:  ―Open‖  Signifier: the word ―open‖  Signified‖ the concept that the shop is ―open‖ for business  Remember that you as the shopper/the person reading the sign have invested it with meaning „Value‟ of the Sign:  Saussure refers to as the 'value' of a sign depends on its relations with other signs within the system  In other words, Saussure believes that a sign has no 'absolute' value independent of this context.  Chess game analogy. 
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