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Notes taken from Daniel Chandler’s Semiotics for Beginners www.aber.ac.uk/media When you analyse media texts using media language you start by decoding the signs that you see. You analyse the connotations of those signs by looking at the codes and conventions used by that text within its genre. The genre tells us what type of ‘reader’ we are supposed to be using a particular mode of address. The mode of address tells us the assumptions the producer is making about his/her intended audience. The understanding of a text means that we have to take on an appropriate ideological identity. In other words, to understand an advert we have to adopt the identity of a consumer who desires that product. Remember the reader profiles your lecturers asked you to look at in your AS year? This was to help you ‘get into the head’ of an ideal or typical reader of a particular magazine. So, to fully analyse ‘MixMag’, we have to adopt the ideological identity of a MixMag reader. Do you agree with this statement? Does a female feminist have to suspend her principles when analysing the front cover of Loaded even if she finds the image degrading to women? Colin MacCabe (1974) wrote about the ‘classic realist text’ and claimed that everything seems ‘obvious’ when we begin to analyse texts. Simply put, the text has only one meaning and we decode it. However, critics state that texts can have many meanings and that not every reader is the ideal reader. There is always some freedom of interpretation – we can interpret the text in any way depending on dominant cultural and ideological values or context in which we find the text. So, rather than the ideal reader being an individual, s/he is a subject. The subject is constructed by the text. Chandler paraphrases Louis Althusser by saying that ideology is a system of representations of reality offering individuals certain subject positions they could occupy. ‘Ideology transforms individuals into subjects by the act of interpellation’. Althusser 1971 Interpellation has been described as a text ‘hailing’ you the reader; that when you read, watch or listen to a text you are believing that the text is addressing you and presenting you with a world view which you choose to accept. According to this view, the mass media is powerful because it is able to make us believe that what we see is a reflection of everyday reality. Our ability to understand or make meaning from texts is dependent on a shared cultural ideology or shared myths. The concept of myth comes from the work of Levi-Strauss. ‘I claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men’s minds without them being aware of the fact’. Levi-Strauss 1970 This quote shows how Levi-Strauss believed that myths shape our reading of texts without knowing. The easiest way to describe this is by looking at classic


Hollywood narrative structure: these films rely on dominant ideologies such as the romantic love, good over evil, rags to riches etc to make them recognisable and enjoyable. One final quote to mess with your minds: ‘man speaks, but it is only that the symbol has made him man’. Lacan cited in Coward and Ellis 1977. Althusser, Louis (1971): Lenin and Philosophy (trans. Ben Brewster). London: New  Left Books  Coward, Rosalind & John Ellis (1977): Language and Materialism: Developments in  Semiology and the Theory of the Subject. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul  Foucault, Michel (1970): The Order of Things. London: Tavistock Lévi­Strauss, Claude (1970): The Raw and the Cooked (trans. John & Doreen  Weightman). London: Jonathan Cape MacCabe, Colin (1974): 'Realism and the Cinema', Screen 15(2), pp. 7­27


Notes taken from Daniel Chandler on Semiotics