Semiotics is Delicious

Semiotics is Delicious

Summary of what I have read about Semiotics, reconstructed  examples from the book “Semiotic: the basics”,  some others I have goggled with samples from the book semiotics-representation – Thinking Practice. Week 1

Daniel Chandler (born 1952) is a British visual semiotician based (since 2001) at the department of Theatre, Film and Television Studies, His best-known publication is Semiotics: The Basics was published by Routledge in 2002. read more on

Why study semiotics?
Semiotics is a field of study involving many different theoretical stances and methodological tools. Semiotics is often employed in the analysis of texts however some theorists classify media according to the ‘channels’ involved (visual, auditory, tactile and so on).
Semiotics represents a range of studies in art, literature, anthropology and the mass media rather than an independent academic discipline. Those involved in semiotics include linguists, philosophers, psychologists, sociologists, anthropologists, literary, aesthetic and media theorists, psychoanalysts and educationalist. Beyond the most basic definition, there is considerable variation amongst leading semiotics as to what semiotics involves. It is not only concerned with intentional communication but also with our assigning of significance to anything in the world.
We learn from semiotics that we live in a world of signs and we have no way of understanding anything except through signs and the codes into which they are organised. through the study of semiotics, we become aware that these signs and codes are normally transparent and disguise our task in ‘reading’ them.
(Chandler:Semiotics Basics P.14-15)
Re-materialising the signs
The sign stands for something, its. A sign is something which stands to somebody for something in some respect or capacity. It addresses somebody, that is, creates in the mind of that person an equivalent sign, or perhaps a more developed sign. As early as 1929 Valentin Voloshinov published Marxism critique of Saussure’s of psychological and implicitly idealist model of the sign. He insisted that ‘a sign is the phenomenon of external world’ and that ‘signs are particular, material things’
(Chandler:Semiotics Basics p.50-51)

Signs and things: the word is not the thing.

Rene Magritte was a Belgian surrealist artist. He became well-known for a number of witty and thought-provoking images. His intended goal for his work was to challenge observers’ precondition perceptions of reality and force viewers to become hypersensitive to their surroundings.
read more on Wiki.
The invention of language gives tremendous power to human beings. All advances in science and technology, engineering and medicine would not have been possible without the foundation of language.
As much as language helps in changing our environment, it is also the source of much misery, misunderstanding and suffering. Words can deceive and words can hurt. Words can influence masses of people and words can make people fight with each other. The root cause of all the problems caused by our language can be traced to Alfred Korzybski’s the founder of movement known as ‘general semantics’. declared that’ the map is not the territory’ and that ‘the word is not the thing’ P66. also can be described in the Magritte’s painting ‘The Treachery of Image’ in 1936, that it has become one of  his most famous and widely reproduced works suggests the enduring fascination of its them. At first glance, its subject is banal. we are offered a ‘realistic’ depiction of an object which we easily recognise: a smoker’s pipe(in side-on view). However. the painting shows a pipe but it labelled also the text’ this is not a pipe’. what could it mean? as our minds struggle to find a stable, meaningful interpretation. that this  image of pipe is ‘only’ an image” and that we can’t smoke it seems obvious.p65 however, we do habitually refer to such realistic depictions in terms which suggest that they are nothing more nor less than what they depict.P66 other related subject: The word”is not the bird” by Nora Miller

Representation and the construction of reality: Postmodernist empty signifiers free play of signifiers: Baudrillard’s signs of late capitalism (simulacra):
The things we use are increasingly the product of complex industrial processes, we lose touch with the underlying reality of the goods we consume. According to Baudrillard, it is capital that now defines our identities, the purity still attainable in primitive societies. Outside of late capitalism, one dose not see another form of sign system and simulacra in quite the same intensive way. Rather, one sees the possibility of of escape,”Baudrillard not Poststructural!”
Semiotics is often encountered in the form of textual analysis, it also involves philosophical theorising on the role of signs in the construction of reality. Semiotics involves studying representations and the processes involved in representational practices, and to semioticians, ‘reality’ always involves representation.”Chandler:Semiotic for beginners”

Textual interactions-the positioning of the reader (the subject) in the text, intertextuality (interactions between texts) post-structuralist semiotics (p,213)
In the interaction between text and reader Wolfgang Iser (1926-2007) starts by saying that every work’s study should be divided in two parts: the one referring to the text and the one referring to the actions involving inside a person while he or she is reading it. However, the text itself is not enough to explain how the reader constructs the aesthetic object of the work. So, according to this fact, he designates two poles:
the artistic, concerning to the text, and the aesthetic, concerning to the realization that the reader gets. read more
The interpretation of  signs by their users can be seen from a semetic perspective as having three levels, loosely related to C.W. Morrits framework for branches of semiotics syntactic, recognition of the sign (in-relation to other sign), semantic, comprehension of the intended meaning of the sign. Pragmatic, interpretation of the sign in terms of relevance, agreement, etc. C6. P.194. while the term intertextuality would normally be used to refer to allusions to other texts, a related kind of allusion is what might be called “intertextuality” involving internal relations within the text. C6.P.201

limitations and strengths of semiotic analysis:

Semiotics can be applied to anything which can be seen as signifying something – in other words, to everything which has meaning within a culture. Even within the context of the mass media you can apply semiotic analysis to any media texts (including television and radio programmes, films, cartoons, newspaper and magazine articles, posters and other ads), I strongly recommend detailed comparison and contrast of paired texts dealing with a similar topic: this is a lot easier than trying to analyse a single text. It may also help to use an example of semiotic analysis by an experienced practitioner as a model for your own analysis.
read more: semiotics for beginners:Chandler:                                    
Traditional structural semiotics was primarily applied to textual analysis but it is misleading to identify contemporary semiotics with structuralism.  structuralist semiotics seeks to look behind or beneath the surface of the observed in order to discover the underlying organisation of phenomena. C7.P.214

Some other related samples:

Amelia Jones is an American art historian, art critic and curator specializing in feminist art, body/performance art, video art and Dadaism. Her written works and approach to modern and contemporary art history are considered revolutionary in that she breaks down commonly assumed opinions and offers brilliantly conceived critiques of the art historical tradition and individual artist’s positions in that often elitist sphere. Read more on
About Re-materialising from the book (The Body and Technology ) by Amelia Jones
Whether overtly or not, all visual culture plumbs the complex and profound
intersections among visuality, embodiment, and the logics of mechanical, indus-
trial, or cybernetic systems. By making and interpreting visual culture, visual
theorists (artists, art critics, and art historians) explore aspects of the human
body/mind complex as a “complicated machine” capable of extension into the world through vision (per Julien Offray de la Mettrie in his 1748 book L’homme
machine). Enacting technologies of representation through embodiment, visual theo-
rists articulate “bodies” of visuality in images or words, in each case performing our own specific historical relationships to the body/machine matrix. read more here:

Ways of Seeing is a 1972 BBC four-part television series of 30 minute films created chiefly by writer John Berger and producer Mike Dibb. Berger’s scripts were adapted into a book of the same name. The series and book criticize traditional Western cultural aesthetics by raising questions about hidden ideologies in visual images. Read more on
From the book Ways of seeing:
Seeing comes before words. The child looks and recognises before it can speak.
The way we see things is affected by what we know or what we believe. In the Middle Ages when men believed in the physical existence of hell the sight of fire must have meant something different from what it means today. Neverless their idea of Hell owed a lot to the sight of fire consuming and the ashes remaining – as well as to their experience of the pain of burns. The world – as – it – is, is more than pure objective fact, it includes consciousness.
read more here :

Roland Barthes ( 1915 – 1980) was a French literary theorist, philosopher, critic, and semiotician. Barthes’ ideas explored a diverse range of fields and he influenced the development of schools of theory including structuralism, semiotics, existentialism, social theory, Marxism, anthropology and post-structuralism.
An outline From Work to Text by Ed.Philip Rice and Patricia Waugh:
Barthes states in this essay that it is best to speak of literary text rather than work because the former suggests, via its allusion to the interweaving of different strands of material (text originally meant cloth-fabric), the way in which each text is caught up in a web of intertextuality. That is, if every sign gestures towards every other sign, then so does each text.
Barthes argues that there are a number of differences between a literary text and a literary work. and the rest of the text is divided into 6 other paragraphs expelling R. Barther’s theory read more here:   

and in more detail about Form Work to Text by Roland Barther


About sirwanbaker

MA art and media practice student, Freelance graphic designer, Visual artist
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One Response to Semiotics is Delicious

  1. Pingback: waeving week 2 posts « thinking practices

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