Week 10 – Semiotics and Meaning

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The core argument in Schirato and Yell’s reading regarding semiotics and the development of new theories about meaning is associated with two main concepts:

  1. Words are problematic; and
  2. There are differing meanings of words and these can be manipulated to suit certain acts and experiences

These two concepts are very much drawn upon by Volosinov who highlights the importance associated with words and their potential to create problematic situations. Similarly, through this, he highlights the importance of context in manipulating meanings of words. For example the value and meaning of a woman (or signifier) and the way they are treated in a culture is representative of the “ideological struggle” (Schirato and Yell 2001, p.26) associated with meaning and differing contexts. If women are associated with domesticity, lack of freedom and unprofessionalism, it is difficult to change the conditions in which they find themselves and the cultural perceptions of this gender.

Similarly, the politics of meaning as described by the authors through the use of the white settlement/invasion example depict how the through various strategies only one set of meanings are conveyed as the most rational, sensible and truthful. As the authors note, this creates a “conflict over meanings” (Schirato and Yell 2001, p. 33).

Lury applies this concept of influencing context and opinion through describing the widespread use of the logo sign and symbol, its positioning and content. The author notes that “marks or logos organise a process of identification, presenting a mark of social identity” (Lury 2004, p.75). Using this example, Lury is able to highlight the importance of this semiotic approach, in creating a symbolic and iconic item (or recognisable logo) and influencing individual’s perceptions and behaviour linked to certain products. Through strategies such as repetition, brand positioning, personification, indexing (secondness) and iconic figures/symbols (physiognomics), Lury highlights how the logo is able to “focus and channel sense and meaning” (Lury 2004, p.78) whether it be to users, consumers, company officials or the general public. For example, the use of Virgins CEO Richard Branson as a logo, the use of Dick Smith as the product name for Australian condiments and other products, Nike linking the use of their products with iconic sporting individuals, Kleenex or Kodak which has a ‘no-nonsense’ tone which is easy to commit to memory. All these examples, as Lury notes, have a “lasting, emotional tie with consumers” (Lury 2004, p. 90).

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