Sunday, October 25, 2009

Is this blog a metaphor?

As I said last week, it seems like we can never have enough explanations about the signifier and the signified: people will get confused no matter what. And speaking of confusion, I think I agree with the idea that “everything can be analyzed semiotically” (p. 5); why didn’t Berger offer up examples of how the idea can be “questionable”? In my humble opinion, using Sherlock Holmes as an example to explain signifiers and signifieds was brilliant. Likewise, Eco’s work was explained in a very simple way and had very good examples. Isn’t propaganda the art of creating signs that lie beautifully?
Finding Baudrillard here was a treat. A brilliant and misunderstood thinker, Baudrillard´s ideas must hold the record for being the ones most taken out of context. As usual, hyperreality was only granted a few paragraphs and the three branches that grew from it were totally ignored. Why is this? Why can’t people realize that Baudrillard was very right in what he was pointing out?
I also had a small problem with the fact that Berger discussed “codes” (p. 15-16) without ever mentioning culture. Thankfully, he then mentions culture as soon as he begins his discussion on connotation and denotation. The perfect example of this is given on page 27 when it is stated that: “In order for parody to be effective, audience members must be familiar with the original text…”
For my thesis, I used something that could be compared to Propp´s functions (along with some Foucault), but I don’t think so much space should’ve been dedicated to his work in this chapter…especially after hyperreality was dispatched with by a couple of paragraphs. Could it be said that Berger has more of a quantitative mind?
It was great to see Ana clearing the idea of “socially engaged scholarship” (p. 17). It was also interesting to see that the author brought back the idea that “power-defining discourse practices become so automatic that people do not notice them as they go about their everyday lives” (p.18). In that case, why is discourse analysis never presented as a way to understand ourselves? Why has it become so specialized (i.e. working on a single text)? Should we blame academia for not making discourse analysis available to the general public?
Ana also writes about how public discourse reproduces “societal dominance relations” (p. 21). If we take this idea and the one discussed in the previous paragraph, could we say that the main difference between the public and the “powers” is intent? Doesn’t all this come back to cultivation theory and, in some degree, to a hypodermic-needle idea in which power creates a discourse that gets absentmindedly repeated by the masses?
I agree that metaphor is way more than “poetic color and superficial ornamentation” (p. 26) in most cases, but it can also be used just for that: decoration. The thing that we really need to pay attention to is the fact that the decoration is usually used to paint over something else, to hide true meaning. Also, the discussion about “love as madness” was interesting, but doesn’t it prove that even metaphors can become overused morsels of discourse?
It was interesting to see that the author used “unpacking” (p. 36) to talk about decoding; did he “mean” something by it? In my humble opinion, the first part of the chapter explains metaphors in everyday life pretty well, so much so that the discussion about metaphors in law and social policy were a tad boring and long.
The author calls mass media “undeniably powerful” (p. 50) (he says they “have tremendous power” in the same page) in his discussion of it. Nevertheless, access is mentioned only in passing: should we assume that he expected us to know something about the trickle-down effect of mass media? Last but not least, the discussion in which he included Martín-Barbero (whom I was very glad to see mentioned here) was not complete because Stuart Hall was missing. A conversation about mass media, homogeneity (or lack there of) and culture cannot be had without Hall’s three decoding schemes. So why did Ana wait so long before finally bringing Hall into the discussion?

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