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G235: Critical Perspectives in Media Theoretical Evaluation of Production 1b) Media Language


Aims/Objectives • •

To reinforce the basic media language that create meaning in texts. To have a basic understanding of how to evaluate your coursework against the media language that you used.


Importance of media language • Every medium has its own ‘language’ – or combination of languages – that it uses to communicate meaning. Television, for example, uses verbal and written language as well as the languages of moving images and sound. • We call these ‘languages’ because they use familiar codes and conventions that are generally understood.


• Media messages are constructed using a creative language with its own rules. Each form of communication-- whether newspapers, TV game shows or horror movies-- has its own creative language: scary music heightens fear, camera closeups convey intimacy, big headlines signal significance.


• Understanding the grammar, syntax and metaphor system of media language, especially the language of sounds and visuals which can reach beyond the rational to our deepest emotional core, increases our appreciation and enjoyment of media experiences as well as helps us to be less susceptible to manipulation. • E.g the example from Men’s Health is so transparent once you know how to read a media text (and you can’t ‘grow’ muscle....)


Back to Basics - Semiotics • According to philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce (1931), “we think only in signs” . • Signs take the form of words, images, sounds, odours, flavours, acts or objects, but such things have no intrinsic meaning and become signs only when we invest them with meaning.


• “Nothing is a sign unless it is interpreted as a sign” (Peirce, 1931). • Anything can be a sign as long as someone interprets it as 'signifying' something - referring to or standing for something other than itself. We interpret things as signs largely unconsciously by relating them to familiar systems of conventions. It is this meaningful use of signs which is at the heart of the concerns of semiotics.


• Linguist Ferdinand de Saussure (1974) offered a 'dyadic' or two-part model of the sign. He defined a sign as being composed of: • a 'signifier' (signifiant) - the form which the sign takes; • and the 'signified' (signifié) - the concept it represents.


Charles Sanders Pierce (1931) – Three types of sign... • Icon/iconic: a mode in which the signifier is perceived as resembling or imitating the signified (recognizably looking, sounding, feeling, tasting or smelling like it) - being similar in possessing some of its qualities: e.g. a portrait, a cartoon, a scale-model, onomatopoeia, metaphors, 'realistic' sounds in 'programme music', sound effects in radio drama, a dubbed film soundtrack, imitative gestures;


• Index/indexical: a mode in which the signifier is not arbitrary but is directly connected in some way (physically or causally) to the signified - this link can be observed or inferred: e.g. 'natural signs' (smoke, thunder, footprints, echoes, non-synthetic odours and flavours), medical symptoms (pain, a rash, pulse-rate), measuring instruments (weathercock, thermometer, clock, spirit-level).


• Symbol/symbolic: a mode in which the signifier does not resemble the signified but which is fundamentally arbitrary or purely conventional - so that the relationship must be learnt: e.g. language in general (plus specific languages, alphabetical letters, punctuation marks, words, phrases and sentences), numbers, morse code, traffic lights, national flags.


Denotation, Connotation and Myth • In semiotics, denotation and connotation are terms describing the relationship between the signifier and its signified, and an analytic distinction is made between two types of signifieds: a denotative signified and a connotative signified. Meaning includes both denotation and connotation.


• As Roland Barthes (1967) noted, Saussure's model of the sign focused on denotation at the expense of connotation and it was left to subsequent theorists (notably Barthes himself) to offer an account of this important dimension of meaning .


• Barthes (1977) argued that in photography connotation can be (analytically) distinguished from denotation. • As John Fiske (1982) puts it “denotation is what is photographed, connotation is how it is photographed”. Link to Barthes’ editing at stage of production we discussed.


• Related to connotation is what Roland Barthes (1977) refers to as myth. For Barthes myths were the dominant ideologies of our time. The 1st and 2nd orders of signification called denotation and connotation combine to produce ideology - which has been described as a third order of signification by Fiske and Hartley (1982).


Paradigms and Syntagms • Roman Jakobson (1956), and later Claude Levi-Strauss, emphasized that meaning arises from the differences between signifiers; these differences are of two kinds: syntagmatic (concerning positioning) and paradigmatic (concerning substitution).


• In film and television, paradigms include ways of changing shot (such as cut, fade, dissolve and wipe). The medium or genre are also paradigms, and particular media texts derive meaning from the ways in which the medium and genre used differs from the alternatives.


Link?

• Evaluating media language is an evaluation of all the micro elements and how they have created meaning to inform us about genre, narrative, representations/ ideology, targeting of audiences (through micro elements). • This therefore requires us to use semiotic terminology to explain our encoding of elements and codes and conventions within our texts. • We must also remember to discuss the preferred meaning (Hall, 1980) that we wanted our audience to DECODE based on what we ENCODED - could link to readings.


Micro Elements: Mise-en-Scene • Mise-en-scène constitutes the key aspect of the pre-production phase of the film and can be taken to include all aspects of production design and Cinematography. • Mise-en-Scene creates the diegetic world/diegesis - the fictional space and time implied by the narrative, i.e. the world in which the story takes place.


Aspects of Mise-en-Scene – video and print style 1. Location - settings, set-design and iconography 2. Character – Costume, Properties and Make Up, Actors and Gesture 3. Cinematography - Lighting and Colour 4. Layout and Page Design – colour, juxtaposition of elements.


Micro Elements: Camerawork • There are Four aspects to camerawork that you need to understand: 1.Shot Types – particularly relevant for print. 2.Camera Composition 3.Camera Movement 4.Camera Angles


• Link to Propp (1928) • The villain — struggles against the hero. • The donor — prepares the hero or gives the hero some magical object. • The (magical) helper — helps the hero in the quest. • The princess and her father — gives the task to the hero, identifies the false hero, marries the hero, often sought for during the narrative. Propp noted that functionally, the princess and the father can not be clearly distinguished. • The dispatcher — character who makes the lack known and sends the hero off. • The hero or victim/seeker hero — reacts to the donor, weds the princess. • [False hero] — takes credit for the hero’s actions or tries to marry the princess.


Micro Elements: Editing • Editing is a post-production technique in which the footage shot during production is cut up and reassembled in such a way as to tell the story. • TV shows are not filmed in chronological order. • They are filmed out of order in short sequences, called ‘takes’, which then have to be assembled in the correct order.


• Long Takes: takes of an unusually long length. • Short Takes: takes that only last for a few seconds. • There are two basic types of editing: 1.Continuity and… 2.Non-Continuity.


• For print products this can be linked to juxtaposition of elements within a frame at the stage of post production – see notes on eye line vectors within creation of narrative in print.


Continuity • • • • • • • • •

Establishing/Re-establishing Shot Transitions. The 180° Line Rule. Action Match. Crosscutting. Cutaway. Insert Shots. Shot-Reverse Shot Structures. Eyeline Match.


The Structure Of The Classic Narrative System • According to Pam Cook (1985), the standard Hollywood narrative structure should have: • Linearity of cause and effect within an overall trajectory of enigma resolution. • A high degree of narrative closure. • A fictional world that contains verisimilitude especially governed by spatial and temporal coherence.


• Tzvetan Todorov (1977) is a Bulgarian structural linguist. He was interested in the way language is ordered to infer particular meanings and has been very influential in the field of narrative theory.


• Claude Lèvi-Strauss’ (1958) ideas about narrative amount to the fact that he believed all stories operated to certain clear Binary Opposites e.g. good vs. evil, black vs. white, rich vs. poor etc.


• Barthes (1977) suggested that narrative works with five different codes and the enigma code works to keep up setting problems or puzzles for the audience. His action code (a look, significant word, movement) is based on our cultural and stereotypical understanding of actions that act as a shorthand to advancing the narrative. • Adrian Tilley (1991) used the buckling of the gun belt in the Western genre as a means of signifying the preferred reading of an imminent shoot out, and this works in the same way as the starting of a car engine etc.


Non-Continuity 1. 2. 3. 4.

Montage Sequence. Flash Back/Forward. Ellipsis. Graphic Match.


Micro Elements: Sound • Sound is layered on tracks in order to create meaning. On Premiere you used multiple audio tracks (one for dialogue and music). You can have sound bridges and sound motifs to enhance meaning. • There are 2 types of sound: • Diegetic • Non-diegetic sound


• Diegetic Sound, which refers to sound whose origin is to be located in the story world such as the voices of the actors, sound effects etc. • Non-diegetic Sound, which refers to sounds not explained in terms of any perceived source within the story world, such as mood music, or ‘voice-ofGod’ type commentaries. • Music added to enhance the show’s action is the most common form of non-diegetic sound.


Diegetic sound includes:

1. Dialogue 2. Sound Effects and in some cases… 3. Music


•

Non- Diegetic sound includes:

1. Incidental Music 2. Voice Over/Narration 3. Non-diegetic sound effects (which can be asynchronous)


Essay • “Media is communication”. Discuss the ways that you have used media language to create meanings in one of your media products.

trc media department critical perspectives  

a brilliant guide to media language