Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Differences in Signs

The most interesting part of the reading for me in Chapter 1 was the section on “sign.” According to Sturken, a sign is made up of the “signifier,” which is the image/sound/word, and the “signified” or the actual meaning of the word. I find that I can closely relate these terms to denotation and connotation in that the signifier is the literal definition of what’s there and the signified is the underlying meaning and what is connoted by the image.

Anyway, here’s an example of the Statue of Liberty. I wanted to examine how differently a “sign” can be viewed depending on which culture the image is placed in.

Here, the signifier is the statue of a lady carrying a book and holding a lighted torch. If shown to a typical college level Media Criticism class, the signified is freedom, liberty, justice, beauty, unity, and patriotism. These qualities all exist under the ideology of nationalism, to Americans, because that is the common ideology US citizens are expected to believe in. However, this “sign”posted in the Middle East, would raise many different feelings and the “signified” would be very different. Instead of prideful feelings, the people might have feelings of disgust and warfare because they live under an ideology of distastefulness towards America and what it represents, hence, instead of wanting to exhibit praise towards this statue, they would probably want to destroy it.

The moral of this shows that the production of a “sign” is dependent on both a social and cultural context. Each viewer who sees it interprets it differently depending on the context of the image and the social expectations of what they are supposed to think of the image. We live in a world of signs, and it is important to remember that the “labor of our interpretation makes meaning of those signs” (Sturken 29).

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