Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sebastián's questions 10/25

Within textual analysis, we can adopt a discourse, an ideological or a metaphoric approach. What are the boundaries between these different approaches? All of them seem to be strongly interrelated. For example, through discourse analysis we are searching for latent themes or ideas that organize the discourse. In order to become meaningful, however, these latent principles must refer to shared ideologies. On the other hand, many of these latent issues become manifest in the discourse through the use of metaphors.

Santa Ana seems to place so much power in the media that he reminded me of propaganda theory and the bullet theory of media effects. I agree that if we are going to conduct a textual or content analysis of media representations we have to be convinced (or, at least, convince others) that the media are powerful so as to justify the importance of research and our findings. But if we focus on media messages only and not on audience responses, don’t we risk overstating the potential power of messages? Isn’t this too much of a media-centric approach? If so, what are the risks of becoming media-centric?

We learn that in semiotic analysis oppositional relationships between concepts is crucial. Concepts don’t have a meaning per se but in relation to other terms, and this relation is always on some topic that connects them. However, I can see that there are several dimensions on which apparently oppositional concepts can be related. Taking the example of rich versus poor, the topic may be wealth, but also a number of other things: information, education, leisure time, health, and –dare I say it?— happiness. How does one make the case for a topic as the connecting theme between concepts, when it may be that several of them apply? Does this matter at all?

I have some questions for semioticians: From a communication perspective, which types of research questions are better addressed through semiotics? If everything is a sign, does that mean that semiotics is a method to study the whole human experience? If the appropriation of signs is what drives advertising, how does this idea apply to news consumption, that is, what does news consumption signify?

On a minor note: I was particularly attracted by Berger admitting the resistance of U.S. scholars to deal with “foreign” ideas, such as semiotics and Marxism. I wonder the role that American exceptionalism plays in explaining this resistance. Perhaps there is a Marxist explanation: the U.S. is the dominant class, hence foreign ideas are seen as, literary, second-class.

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