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Mortelmans Dimitri :
Re: Fiske;
Fri, 14 Jun 1996 11:06:50 PDT

Paul Rousseau wrote:

> What I like about semiotic analysis (and I am not in any way formally
> trained in this...my interest is as one who studied social (political)
> science who happens to find himself teaching at a community college to
> students studying the technical end of advertizing text (copy, graphics an
> so on) is that it provides a good set of anlytical tools.   So, this is
why
> Fiske appeals to me right now.  he writes for a communication studies
> audience and not (I think) as linguistic audience.  Consequently, his book
> is "entropic" (as one of my students told me) and may seem to have a lot
> of theoretical holes.  It would be great to have Fiske in on this
discussion.
>

Fiske is indeed a good introduction in semiotics to communication
scientists. My problem with Fiske is that he takes the Barthesian
denotation-connotation distinction. Barthes defines connotation as the
second-order meaning of a sign. As Fiske writes 'A photograph of a street
denotes that particular street'. All emotional states or values coming up
while seeing the photograph he calls the connotations of the photograph.

I would rather not hierchize both as Stuart Hall did. The polysemic
character of a sign is nothing more than all the possible connotations this
sign can have [within a certain cultural context]. Signs are man-made Fiske
said, so even denotation is man-made. I think of denotation more than a
'privileged' meaning of a sign. A privileged meaning that is presented as
the 'literal' or denotative meaning by the dominant culture [could off
course be more than one meaning]. Jeans, a t-shirt and a base-ball cap can
have hundreds of (culturally accepted) meanings, one of which is the
connotation 'I belong to  a group of 15 to 20 year olds' but the denotative
meaning is I think something like 'clothing'. Again, depending on the social
context, this connotation, or another, or even the literal denotation,
becomes the most important meaning attached to these signs.

Concerning advertisement research this is a very important difference.
Equalizing all possible connotations frees the way to fight with meanings in
order to get them culturally accepted as the most fixed. I think some
advertisement campaigns are only aiming at loading their product with some
new connotations while others try to create a sort of imago around their
brand or product with some denotative aspirations.

Dimitri Mortelmans

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Dimitri Mortelmans (R2.20)
Departement Politieke en Sociale Wetenschappen
Universitaire Instelling Antwerpen
Universiteitsplein 1                    e-mail: mortel@uia.ua.ac.be
2610 Wilrijk                            voice : 03/820.28.58.
Belgium                                 fax   : 03/820.28.82.
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