This report will be giving an informative as well as an illustrative account of how images and languages are being used, or rather manipulated, in the realm of Media. It draws on chapter one of Gill Brandson and Roy Stafford’s Media Student’s Book. Precedent to our discussion of languages and images in media, it would be more advantageous to give a brief introductory discussion on media itself as a Feld of study. Interestingly enough, media is so pervasive and a globally integrated part of every individual’s life unexceptionally that is considered the new role model and the new value-shaping factory and consequently capable of shaping people’s lives the way it wants. Having said this, it is deemed necessary to reveal the factors that come into play as far as media products are concerned. For this reason, media has been a subject to a wide range of serious and thorough studies that attempted to bring these factors to the surface, and the book here is but one of these attempts.
2. Images and Languages:
To start with, it is worth mentioning that images and languages in the different usages of media are so much interrelated that you cannot talk about one in isolation from the other; implications are commonly coded through the combination of both images and words stringed together. Variant approaches were postulated to expound this synthesis. They are laid out as follows:
2.1. Literary and Art Criticism:
This was one of the earliest approaches, as early as the 1950s, that initiated the explication of, and tried to give an account for, media’s widespread inTuence. However it soon turned out to be an inadequate medium and was eventually overridden.
It is also generally known as ‘semiology’, and it is concerned with the study of signs and the social production of meaning by sign system. The applications of this approach have yielded considerable outcomes when it was tested in the area of media studies. Saussure, one of the pioneers in this domain, argues that language is one of the many systems of meaning. Signs work by means of two criteria:
First, each individual sign (e.g. word, image, sound etc.) has a physical form called the signifier. The meaning or idea expressed by this sign is referred to as the signified which is purely a concept and necessarily not a real thing in the world. The referent is the object referred to in the immediate environment. Thus we can say that word divide the world into categories.
Second, these categories work by means of differences which work within many systematic structures. In this respect we have to make a distinction between two crucial
a) Denotation: is the property of a sign to indicate or refer to
something we experience in the world by means of a word symbol, etc. (e.g. the word ‘red’ denotes a certain color which is different from other colors).
b) Connotation: signs have tendency to connote as well, which is the idea or feeling which a word invokes to a person in addition to its literal or primary meaning. (e.g. the color red signifies blood, danger, passion, etc.).
Sign denotation and connotation differ from one context to another and across cultures, depending on personal or social history and experience as we shall see in what follows. It is of significant importance to mention that sounds too have the propensity to signify. Just take as an example the televised products, say a film, in which the creak of a door is a potential sign of horror and mystery. Another concrete example would be if you take a movie which is free of soundtracks it cannot have any emotional impact on the viewer.
A concept within the framework of semiotics that has a lot to justify concerning media messages is the notion of polysemy. It is the ability of a sign to have many possible meanings or interpretations (e.g. the painting of the Mona Liza triggers as many interpretations as possible). This is due ,on the one hand, to the ambiguity and instability of signs which stimulate different responses from the part of readers; for example, some may interpret the amber trac light as ‘slow down for red light’ whereas other may interpret it as ‘speed up to avoid red’, and on the other hand to the many elements that constitute these signs (be it an image, sound, video, music, etc.) each capable of signifying in multiple ways which give rise for many possibilities of polysemy. This is perfectly illustrated in the ‘Sleau lunch’ ad in Fgure 1.2 where different examples of polysemy can be made out. One way to narrow down the range of possible disruptive and undesired polysemy of signs is by means of anchoring (e.g. the use of
caption in images).
An insight into understanding how signs trigger possible interpretations is to make a distinction between four types of signs:
Arbitrary: there is no indication in the signifier that can give a clue about its signified, so we say that the relation between the signifier and the signified is arbitrary (onomatopoeic words are an exception).
Iconic: iconic signifiers always resemble what they signify; there is a physical similarity between a photo of a rose and our ideas of those Towers as objects in the immediate environment.
Indexical: it is used of signifiers that act as a kind of evidence (e.g. a sundial as an indexical sign of time passing, or a barometer for heat).
Symbolic: are signs which are significant purely in terms of what is being represented or implied; for instance, the image of the ‘torch of learning’ is a symbol of the place where that learning happens, or the cross in the Christian tradition which stands for sacrifice. Signs are mostly arbitrary; far from just naturally labeling things. However, it should be noted that the – meaning of such signs will differ across cultures and over time as well. Just take the example of the expression ‘ ‘واعرin the Moroccan dialect which has become recently an expression of amazement and bewilderment after being originally an expression of awe and danger. Another more elaborate example is the Tag of the ‘Islamic State’; for the west it would mean terrorism and warmongering, whereas the Islamic population will see it as a symbol of Martyrdom and God’s word.
Codes are crucial notions in the scope of semiotics. It stresses the fact that we most often learn to read signs in different kinds of combinations (codes) without being conscious of it. And this is what media attempts to do through signifying in different ways by means of using different combinations. Take the following examples:
Color signification: colors signify differently for different cultures. While the white signifies innocence for the west, for many Asian cultures it is associated with death and mourning.
Expressions and gestures: mostly common in cinematography and role playing. When raising the hands in combination with certain facial expressions means threat. Oddly enough nodding
the head can mean refusal for some cultures.
Lighting: reference is made here mostly to arts such as photography where lighting has a lot to signify. A dim picture is notably associated with decay or mystery, while a broadly lit one would convey a sense of beauty and naturalness.
Because signs are interpreted differently, the implication that all of the available meanings are always working on audiences is generally refuted. That’s why it is suggested to use terms such as ‘offer’ or ‘suggest’ or ‘invite the reader to’ when analyzing these signs within media products.
2.2.3. Intention, meaning, value:
The intention to communicate is not applied in semiotic approaches. In addition to this, and because meanings are ultimately uncontrollable by their originator, it is more wise to use the word ‘signify’ rather that ‘mean’ as we said earlier. To say that something means this or that usually claims one interpretation and claims that this is the correct one. As evident as it should seem, semiotic analysis is not interested in the question of value, it is only concerned with how meanings have been produced and to deconstruct a text, programme, or film into its component signs irrespective to their values.
Structuralist approaches as defined by the Oxford English Dictionary are ‘methods of interpretation and analysis of aspect of human cognition, behavior, culture, and experience, which focused on relationships of contrast between elements in a conceptual system’. It was adapted to a wide range of social and cultural studies and Media is no exception, especially in the 1960s. It broadly emphasized the following two points: That human organization is determined by large social or psychological structures with their own irresistible logic dependent of the human will or intention. This was brought by the Austrian founder of psychoanalysis Sigmund Fraud who argues that the human psyche, which consists of conscious and unconscious mind, is a structure that makes us act in ways of which we are not aware, but which are glimpsed in the meanings of some dreams, slips of the tongue, etc. Meanings, whether linguistic or anthropological can only be understood within this systematic structures. This was elaborated by Marx who points out that economic life and particularly people’s relationships to the means of production.
In Media Studies, the structuralists mentioned most often are Saussure, Peirce, Barthes and Lévi-Strauss who emphasized the importance of structuring oppositions in order to deconstruct an ad or a film by observing what parts of it seem to be in a systematic opposition.
3. Case Study
The study was carried out to see how sounds, as opposed to images, are coded and how they signify in the same complex way that photographic images do. As live on-air as radio broadcasts seem they are still readily recognized as made up. The codes which come at play in this process are the pitch of the sound, its volume, the texture, the shape and the rhythm. Technical qualities of radio voice play a significant role in molding the sounds, basics of which are the acoustic of the studio, the choice of the micro phone, and the engineer’s processing of the signal. Certain cultural phone, and the engineer’s processing of the signal. Certain cultural codes are defined, such as accent, dialect, and language register, which decode how the message is said rather than what the direct message may be.
These conceptions are seen as the groundwork for media studies nowadays and knowledge of them is crucial to understanding how work in the Feld of media is progressing. This will be laid out at length in the succeeding chapters in which we will discover the different results that such approaches have yielded.