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Thana Al Zoghaiby Semiotics 1 Uninirsita Della Svizzera Italiana Winter seminar ; 2003 - 2004
Different culture Different sign perception Thanà Al Zoghaiby Theme
<ul><li>In a world as complex as ours, each of us is shaped by many factors. culture is one of the powerful forces that acts on us . </li></ul>Thesis Anthropologists Kevin Avruch and Peter Black explain the importance of culture this way: One's own culture provides the "lens" through which we view the world ; the "logic" ... by which we order it; the " grammar " ... by which it makes sense. In other words, culture is central to what we see, how we make sense of what we see, and how we express ourselves
Introduction <ul><li>Humans, like most animals, are able to communicate verbally and non-verbally. </li></ul><ul><li>Humans use language in verbal communication and signs, symbols, sound or paralinguistic means to communicate a message. </li></ul><ul><li>However, humans, unlike animals, have cultural identities . </li></ul><ul><li>The semiosis (sign processing) takes place within this cultural orientation </li></ul>
The framework <ul><li>The sign . This entails the study of the various types of signs , and the different ways they have of conveying meaning , and the way they relate to the people who use them . </li></ul><ul><li>That to which the sign refers . In other words, the codes or systems into which signs are organised . This includes the ways that various codes have developed to meet the needs of a society or culture , or to exploit the channels of communication available for their transmission. </li></ul><ul><li>The users of the sign . In other words, the culture within which these codes and signs operate. </li></ul>can be summarised into the following three fields of study
Semiotics-Arbitrariness of sign <ul><li>Saussure stressed the ‘arbitrariness of sign as the principle of semiology </li></ul><ul><li>Why ? Do we use the sequence of sound “sister” to mean female sibling </li></ul><ul><li>We could just as well use </li></ul><ul><li>‘ soeur’ French </li></ul><ul><li>‘ schwester’ German </li></ul><ul><li>‘ ukht’ Arabic </li></ul>
Saussure saw language as being an ordered system of signs whose meanings are arrived at arbitrarily <ul><li>Example </li></ul><ul><li>There is no necessary reason why a pig should be called a pig . It doesn't look sound or smell any more like the sequence of sounds 'p-i-g‘. </li></ul><ul><li>It is only because we in our language group agree that it is called a 'pig' that that sequence of sounds refers to the animal in the real world . </li></ul><ul><li>You and your circle of friends could agree always to refer to pigs as 'squerdlishes' if you want. </li></ul>As long as there is general agreement, that's no problem until you start talking about 'squerdlishes' to people who don't share the same convention. by a cultural convention
Types of signs and meaning <ul><li>The primary function of signs is to create or generate meaning. </li></ul><ul><li>A specific sign will generate different meanings depending on the culture in which it takes place. </li></ul><ul><li>A sign can create multiple meanings or a single one; the relationship between signs can generate a different set of meanings; a sign is active and always generates some meaning. </li></ul>
CONNOTATION AND DENOTATION <ul><li>The primary function of signs , namely to generate meaning , has been discussed but now the levels of meaning (or signification) have to be investigated. </li></ul><ul><li>One can distinguish between denotation ( what a sign stands for ) </li></ul><ul><li>and connotation ( a sign’s cultural associations ). </li></ul>LEVELS OF MEANING
Denotation <ul><li>It can be said that denotation refers to "first order" of signification generated by the relationship between the signifier and the signified within the sign . </li></ul><ul><li>Or the initial, common-sense and obvious meaning of the sign (Fiske 1982: 91). </li></ul><ul><li>According to Roland Barthes (cited in Fiske 1982: 91) the referents of the sign have their referents in the external reality. </li></ul>Common sense, suggests Barthes, is deeply ideological.
Connotation refers to the "second order" of signification. Hall (cited in Chandler: WWW) sees this as the associative meaning, since it describes the interaction that occurs when a sign meets the feelings or emotions of the users and the value of their culture. <ul><li>Connotation describes the interaction that takes place when the sign meets the emotions of the user and the values of his culture. Connotation is directly related to the inner reality of the user/receiver and is thus highly subjective. </li></ul><ul><li>This is when meanings move towards the subjective, or at least the inter-subjective: it is when the interpretant is influenced as much by the interpreter as by the object or the sign. </li></ul><ul><li>Connotation involves emotional overtones, subjective interpretation, socio-cultural values and ideological assumptions (Chandler: WWW). </li></ul>Connotation
Signs <ul><li>Is of the opinion that semiotics is the pivotal science of communication. Communication is concerned with the formulation and encoding of messages by senders; </li></ul><ul><li>these messages are then transmitted via mediums. </li></ul><ul><li>The "decoding and interpretation of these messages by destinations and their signification". </li></ul><ul><li>The communication process (and semiosis too) takes place within a context that affects its receivers, and in turn is affected by its context. </li></ul>generate meaning individually and as a structured whole in a specific context. As indicated, there are different types of signs that, as a result, can create different types of messages in the communication process. Roman Jakobson
<ul><li>which are governed by rules or conventions </li></ul><ul><li>that are agreed upon by all the members of the community who use that code (Fiske 1982: 68). </li></ul><ul><li>These rules represent a social dimension: the code is a set of practices familiar to the users of the medium operating within a </li></ul><ul><li>cultural framework . </li></ul>CODES AND SYSTEMS INTO WHICH SIGNS ARE ORGANISED Semioticians organise signs into systems .
Culture <ul><li>Codes are dynamic systems that change all the time and are therefore historically and socio-culturally influenced. Due to the fact that codes and culture inter-relate dynamically </li></ul><ul><li>Members of a specific culture will understand the codes that operate within that culture . </li></ul><ul><li>Cultural communities may correspond with country frontiers; cultural differences do exist between countries . </li></ul>is a concept that is broad – it includes aspects of everyday life to cognitive and social structures - and complex. For this reason it is linked to the concept of socialisation . In this broad sense, culture then refers to communities which have different attitudes towards political and social issues, different cultural practices and references in their private lives, different social background, etc.
Semiotics and culture <ul><li>Since it is the case that the codes we use are the result of conventions arrived at by the users of those codes , </li></ul><ul><li>then it is reasonable to suppose that the values of the users will in some way be incorporated into those codes. </li></ul><ul><li>They will, for example, have developed signs for those things they agree to be important, they will probably have developed a whole array of signs to draw the distinctions between those things which are of particular significance in their culture . </li></ul>Saussure freely admits that when he is stressing the arbitrariness of the sign, he is stressing something which is actually fairly obvious. As he sees it, though, the problem is that people haven't paid enough attention to the implications of the fact that sign-systems are arbitrary.
In other words <ul><li>... 'reality' is always encoded, </li></ul><ul><li>or rather the only way we can perceive and make sense of reality is by the codes of our culture . </li></ul><ul><li>There may be an objective, empiricist reality out there, but there is no universal, objective way of perceiving and making sense of it. </li></ul><ul><li>What passes for reality in any culture is the product of the culture's codes , so 'reality' is always already encoded, it is never 'raw'. Fiske (1987pp 4-5) </li></ul>you might reasonably expect that the ideologies prevalent in those cultures will have been incorporated into the codes used
Culture Codes <ul><li>The existence of such codes in relation to the interpretation of texts is more obvious when we examine texts which have been produced within and for a different culture, </li></ul><ul><li>… such as advertisements produced indigenously in a different country from our own for the domestic market in that country. </li></ul><ul><li>Interpreting such texts in the manner intended may require 'cultural competency' relevant to the specific cultural context of that text's production, even where the text is largely visual (Scott 1994a; Scott 1994b; McQuarrie & Mick, 1999). </li></ul>Learning these codes involves adopting the values, assumptions and 'world-views' which are built into them without normally being aware of their intervention in the construction of reality .
Sociologists generally <ul><li>Understanding such codes </li></ul><ul><li>Their relationships </li></ul><ul><li>The contexts in which they are appropriate </li></ul><ul><li>is part of what it means to be a member of a particular culture. </li></ul><ul><li>Marcel Danesi has suggested that 'a culture can be defined as a kind of "macro-code", consisting of the numerous codes which a group of individuals habitually use to interpret reality' (Danesi 1994a, 18) . </li></ul>prefer the term 'reader' to 'receiver' (even of a painting, photograph or film) and often use the term 'text' to 'message'. This implies that receiving a message (i.e. 'reading a text') is an active process of decoding and that that process is socially and culturally conditioned
Conclusion <ul><li>Oftentimes, we aren't aware that culture is acting upon us. Sometimes, we are not even aware that we have cultural values or assumptions that are different from others! </li></ul><ul><li>When dealing with vastly differing cultures </li></ul><ul><li>Moral issues and values in one culture (say the source text culture) could have an adverse or no effect on the “other culture” receivers, and could lead to a conflict of values, which in turn will influence the message ( text) and its perception. </li></ul>cultural values sometimes conflict. We can misunderstand each other, and react in ways that can hinder what are otherwise promising partnerships.
Anthropologists Avruch and Black have noted <ul><li>This tendency , if indulged, gives rise on the individual level to prejudice. </li></ul><ul><li>If this propensity is either consciously or unconsciously integrated into organizational structures, </li></ul><ul><li>Then prejudice takes root in our institutions -- in the structures, laws, policies, and procedures that shape our lives . </li></ul><ul><li>Consequently , it is vital that we learn to control the human tendency to translate "different from me" into "less than me”, “weird”, “wrong” or “frightening” </li></ul>when faced by an interaction that we do not understand “again because of differences in cultural identities” , people tend to interpret the others involved as "abnormal," "weird," or "wrong."
Last but not least <ul><li>Learning about different ways that people communicate can enrich our lives. </li></ul><ul><li>People's different communication styles reflect deeper philosophies and “world views" which are the foundation of their culture . </li></ul><ul><li>Understanding these deeper philosophies gives us a broader picture of what the world has to offer us. </li></ul>people from different cultures should not assume that breakdowns in communication occur because of “the others” are on the wrong track. But it is because of different cultural values and the fact that “ codes and culture are inter-relate dynamically.
Becoming more aware of our cultural differences, as well as exploring our similarities, can help us communicate with each other more effectively. Recognizing where “cultural differences are” is the first step toward understanding and respecting each other.