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THEORY: SEMIOTICS

A sign stands FOR something TO someone.

SIGNIFIER + SIGNIFIED = SIGN

The sign is not the thing itself!

The someone (interpretant) assigns meaning to the sign.

Signs can be:

  • Words
  • Images
  • Sounds
  • Gestures
  • Objects
  • Etcera

There are three types of signs:

  • Iconic: the signifier resembles the signified (picture of pipe)
  • Symbolic: the signifier bears no relationship to the signified, but is determined by (cultural) agreement: “pipe”
  • Indexical: a cause/effect relationship between sign and signified: smoke = fire: no smoke = no fire.

A sign has no meaning unless it is interpreted. The interpretation is a “construction” of the sign.

“‘Commonsense’ suggests that ‘I’ am a unique individual with a stable, unified identity and ideas of my own. Semiotics can help us to realize that such notions are created and maintained by our engagement with sign systems: our sense of identity is established through signs. We derive a sense of ‘self’ from drawing upon conventional, pre-existing repertoires of signs and codes . . .. We are thus the subjects of our sign systems rather than being ‘users’ who are fully in control of them.”
(Daniel Chandler, Semiotics: The Basics, Routledge, 2006)
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