Social Semiotics

Published by Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
Online ISSN: 1470-1219
Print ISSN: 1035-0330
In this paper, we argue that education and the possibility of becoming educated are in tension with sexuality in schools and that, consequently, students tend either to suppress all kinds of knowledges—embodied and otherwise—that are neither welcome nor recognised within the formal contexts of schooling or debar themselves from success in terms of educational achievement. Students embody identities both as learners and as sexual subjects. Discourses of sexuality and education, therefore, come together in embodied ways. The difficulty for students arises from the discursive and semiotic construction of schools as being on the “rational”, “mind” side of the “mind–body” split, which typifies modernist, Enlightenment thinking. The paper examines specific ways in which four girls produce themselves in dialogue with, on the one hand, official (Governmental and school) discourses of “standards” and “achievement” and, on the other, particular powerful constructions of sexuality.
The paper seeks to expose the incoherencies within the activity of bodybuilding, suggesting that both the bodybuilder's body and the activity of bodybuilding can be regarded as 'queer'. However, the paper will not use 'queer' as a trendy synonym for 'gay' but will focus on queer's potential to describe mismatches of sex, gender and sexuality. 'Queer' draws its subversive potential from being in opposition with 'normal' rather than 'heterosexual'. The paper will argue that the extreme, competition standard, male bodybuilder's body is a gender dissident body which simultaneously affirms masculine and feminine characteristics: muscles and angularity are combined with curvaceousness, hairlessness and made-up skin. A body which offers a haemorrhaging of meaning.The second part of the paper will focus on the activity of training in the gym. It will suggest that the experience of pumping up, which has famously been described as a sexual experience, is a form of dissonant sexuality. The auto-eroticism of pumping up in the gym can even be described in the archaic term of 'onanism'.The paper will conclude by asking why someone would want to push his body to such an extreme degree of freakiness and will suggest that the condition of hysteria may be useful in understanding the obsessive activity. Although hysteria has been culturally connected to the female body, Lacan described hysteria as gender confusion. The hysteric is confused as to his/her gendered subjectivity in relation to the phallic order. The bodybuilder, like the hysteric, seeks a complete rejection of the body, owing to a lack, in his history, of symbolization of the body. Therefore the bodybuilder dreams of an autotelic body and this causes erotogenic zone displacements and the resulting auto-eroticism of extreme, male bodybuilding.
This paper traces the resilience of Orientalist representations in contemporary political and popular cultural constructions of space and time. Derrida's deconstruction of universalist notions of space and time enables a challenge to these mechanisms. However, our contemporary political era in the context of the war between terrorisms is marked by an implosion of the Enlightenment concept of universal space and time and the attempt to negate multiple spacetimes. In this sense, Derrida's concept of autoimmunity appears to be a necessary theoretical tool in reading our political future in relation to wars between state and other terrorisms.
This paper looks beyond "identity politics" through the figure of the fag hag. In the "identity politics" of the 1980s and 1990s, a person's politics were based solidly in what one identified as: straight woman, gay man, Asian American, and so on. Who one identified with, it was presumed, was--or should be--identical to what one identified as. This kind of identity politics, which was very productive in effecting important social change, has now reached an impasse. Groups of people identifying differently cannot seem to find common ground on which to work together collectively, leaving the political left divided, unable to collect into a mass force. There is now a felt need for a new kind of identity politics that moves beyond this impasse.Meanwhile, the fag hag has been gaining visibility, popularity, and even respectability. What defines the fag hag is not--or not only--what she identifies as (usually, straight woman), but more importantly who she identifies with (gay men). Further, she embodies the possibility and pleasures of a radical disjunction between identifying as and identifying with. A new identity politics that can get beyond the impasse of "positivist" identity politics will follow the fag hag's lead in validating an identifying with distinct from an identifying as--and indeed, in relishing the dialectic between identifying as and identifying with.
This paper deals with the ways in which young Israeli lesbians use their bodies in order to detach themselves from both straight women and the older generation of lesbians. They make use of bodily cultural codes borrowed from the mainstream youth culture, yet modified in articulation with the lesbian subculture. The manipulation of codes brings forward the complexity of their age/gender/sexual identity as dictated by the postmodern era. The study is based on in-depth interviews with lesbians who live in an urban environment. Results indicate that young lesbians use two complementary codes. On the one hand they apply bodily codes in accordance with youth culture. Simultaneously, they assign different meanings to items culturally associated with traditional heterosexual women's sexuality. They claim the older generation to neglect physical attractiveness, out of feminist ideology; they insist that nowadays a woman can be both sexy and lesbian. Thus, mingling with heterosexual youngsters is made possible while claiming their sex-appeal is not meant to attract men.
The intention in this article is to explore, explicate, and, ultimately, critique Jurgen Habermas' communication theory. Drawing on the pragmatics of Deleuze and Guattari we will propose that Habermas' defence of the importance and priority of communicative action is problematic to the extent that it implicitly involves the issuing of an imperative order that cannot be accounted for within the normative framework that he envisages. In other words, we will be suggesting--with the help of Deleuze and Guattari--that Habermas, undoubtedly against his best intentions, precipitates, what we will call, a strategic levelling of communicative action.
The textual analysis in this paper examines an interview with Vice-President Dick Cheney by Gloria Borger on CNBC's 2004 Capital Report. The interview took place on 17 June 2004, the day after the 9/11 Commission released Staff Statement No. 15, a twelve page preliminary report that concluded no "collaborative relationship" existed between Iraq and al-Qaeda. The aim of the analysis is to show how the struggle over "truth" unfolds in micro-level discursive interaction and to underscore the way this process is embedded within and contributes to the circulation of truth claims associated with the macro-level War on Terror Discourse (WoTD).
This paper presents a comparative analysis of text and images in Japanese and English software manuals, recipes and other procedures. The Japanese procedures are found to be more elaborate in the extent to which they engage the reader/viewer, in the degree of detail with which they represent the portrayed action, and in the explicitness of marking the procedures' stages. An attempt is made to account for these differences by reference to differences in the socio-cultural context between the two countries.
This paper contributes to the debate among theorists of performativity as to whether this concept is founded in an ethical relation. I argue that recent theorisations of the performative, which ground the development of the performative subject within sociality, necessarily make ethics intrinsic to any understanding of performativity. Using the case of serial killer Karla Homolka, I explore four aspects of ethical relations—identity, otherness, responsibility and response—demonstrating that at each moment, performative theory encompasses, and indeed relies upon, an ethical foundation. I contend that this is particularly evident when we consider the role of narrative in exploring each of these aspects. The paper explores four different narratives of Karla Homolka's experience, developed in Lynn Crosbie's book on Karla Homolka's murderous partnership with Paul Bernardo, Paul's Case . Each “story” presents a performative relation, which clearly relies upon intersubjectivity, and thus upon an ethical relation to others. This narrative performativity allows for social contextualisation and an addressee/addresser relation that exceeds the individual self, while preserving the fragmented and contingent nature of the subject, which is the hallmark of performative theory of subjectivity.
The papers in this issue were first presented at a meeting of critical discourse analysts, held at the University of Birmingham in April 1999. Critical discourse analysts are interested in the processes and products of discourse and their impact on social practices. Although its theoretical framework is eclectic and interdisciplinary, critical discourse analysis has for the most part focused on language and ignored other semiotic modes. The Birmingham meeting sought to remedy this by instigating a discussion about the interface between social semiotics and critical discourse analysis, putting multimodality on the agenda as essential to the practices of discourse analysts and social theorists, and examining the ways in which our 'professional vision' has been affected by the advances of postmodernity.For us, 'semiotics' indicates in the first place an interest in modes of communication other than language. This does not of course exclude language. We are also, and especially, interested in how language and other modes of communication combine in multimodal texts and communicative events.The 'social' in 'critical social semiotics' indicates that we are not interested in semiotics for its own sake. We relate semiotic theory to key sociological themes (see article by R. Scollon) and apply semiotic analysis to areas such as education (article by L. M. T. Menezes de Souza), cross-cultural communication (see the articles by S. Scollon and R. Martinec) and popular culture (see article by Caldas-Coulthard and Van Leeuwen).The 'critical' in 'critical social semiotics' finally indicates that social semiotics takes part in the enterprise of critical discourse analysis. It does not stop at description, but analyses multimodal texts as playing a vital role in the production, reproduction and transformation of the social practices that constitute the society in which we live.Although the approaches of some schools of semiotics derive principally from philosophy and cultural studies, others have a firm basis in linguistics. The contributors to this special issue are linguists and educators who apply linguistic and social theories and methods to their work. For them, therefore, 'critical social semiotics' explores differences among current relations and meanings, historicises and contextualises them, and finally has the main objective of acting on and altering political forces.
Brand generative trajectory of signification model. 
The famous dictum by the marketing pioneer J. Wannamaker «I know half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, but I do not know which half» has been haunting marketing effectiveness ever since the late 19th C. The problem is that the prospect of providing actionable answers to such a tantalizing question does not rest solely with the media-mix of a brand campaign, which has been the focal area of concern among attempts at rationalizing the inherent complexity of efficient and effective budget allocation. As will be argued in this paper, even more foundationally than budget allocation, that is decision-making about the optimal split among media vehicles, lie issues about the semiotic structure of an intended brand positioning. By drawing on structuralist semiotics and particularly by focusing on the operations of structuration, homologation, isotopy, reduction, redundancy, recurrence, it will be demonstrated that what is dominantly conceived as "waste" does not merely concern media integration, but equally importantly message integration. Furthermore, communicative waste as aberrant positioning, is not only the outcome of aberrant decoding, but also aberrant destructuration, both posing considerable threats to brand coherence and communicative consistency.
This paper examines the relationship between hacking and democracy. It suggests that hacking, as a culturally formed and informed practice, is involved in struggles over the signification and significance of democracy. In particular, hacking is associated with an ethics and practice of active access to information. However, after tracing historical and cultural shifts in practices, discourses and representations of hacking, the paper also suggests that hacking is becoming increasingly dissociated from its founding cultures and their ethics, as computer technology and technological skill sets become more widely available, networked and encoded. As such, hackers' overall relationship to the active access of information, and therefore to democracy, remains ambivalent and uncertain.
This article is based on a semiotic interpretation of advertisements marketing surveillance equipment, collected from companies in Helsinki, Finland in 1998 and 2010. By applying “profane semiotics”, the social, political and cultural meanings of these advertisements are opened up in the light of the contemporary security governance. The article concludes that within these 12 years, the emphasis of advertising had changed significantly. The politics of information had changed, descriptions of technological details being replaced by service ensembles, trustful expertise and interaction. Instead of the late 1990s futuristic connotations, the 2010 advertisements highlighted the everydayness of surveillance. Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks were in the middle of the period, a surprising finding was that the emphasis in advertising has changed from presenting threats towards presenting human emotions and agency. In marketing rhetoric, politics of fear were replaced by politics of care.
As a consequence of pharmaceutical advancements, HIV is no longer described in terms of the absence of health or presence of illness, and advertisements promoting anti-AIDS medications commercialize idealized and desirable bodies. The present study discusses representations of HIV/AIDS in commercial advertising and their change over time. The article traces the shift in AIDS/HIV representations in commercial advertising from the early 1990s, when images of decay and disease represented AIDS, to nowadays, when the wider availability of antiretroviral medications and their ability to prolong life produced new representations of HIV-afflicted bodies. Claiming that HIV individuals can lead a normal life where everything is possible, advertising has re-established the definition of a sick body. On the other hand, this marketing approach has important social implications because such representations minimize the seriousness of HIV infection and fail to take into account the real dangers of contracting HIV and to accurately represent the life with HIV and AIDS.
We present a semiotic model of gun possession in America based upon the social contract theories put forward by Locke, Rousseau, and Rawls. Our central focus is upon the rights of self-preservation and the protection of property. The model proposes that American political history has cycled between two sets of symbolic threats to the social contract: tyranny imposed by a despotic central government and chaos represented by outsiders designated as savages. We propose that the two central semiotic images presented in the origin myth of the USA – that of pioneers living on a savage frontier and citizens rebelling against tyrannical government – endorse the individual possession of firearms. The specific models of guns chosen by private citizens are found to be closely intertwined with military patterns of usage; thus, the US military seems to serve as a rhetorical vessel from which cultural ideals of appropriate weaponry are derived. Examples of American autobiographical writings, contemporary gun advertising, and popular culture fictional narratives are presented to ground the arguments. We conclude that individual access to the use of deadly force for self-defense and the defense of property is the semiological basis of the American social contract and that US government efforts to reduce civilian possession of firearms are unlikely to succeed.
The purpose of this paper is threefold. First, we propose a systemic view of communication based in autopoiesis, the theory of living systems formulated by Maturana & Varela (1980, 1987). Second, we show the links between the underpinning assumptions of autopoiesis and the sociolinguistic approaches of Halliday (1978), Fairclough (1989, 1992, 1995) and Lemke (1995, 1994). Third, we propose a theoretical and analytical synthesis of autopoiesis and sociolinguistics for the study of organisational communication. In proposing a systemic theory for organisational communication, we argue that traditional approaches to communication, information, and the role of language in human organisations have, to date, been placed in teleological constraints because of an inverted focus on organisational purpose-the generally perceived role of an organisation within society-that obscure, rather than clarify, the role of language within human organisations. We argue that human social systems are, according to the criteria defined by Maturana and Varela, third-order, non-organismic living systems constituted in language. We further propose that sociolinguistics provides an appropriate analytical tool which is both compatible and penetrating in synthesis with the systemic framework provided by an autopoietic understanding of social organisation
Gunther von Hagens' Body Worlds exhibition contextualises its display of plastinated bodies within the Renaissance tradition of écorché (or flayed body) art-surrounding its figures with screen-prints of early modern anatomical illustrations, labels bearing explanatory medical information, and quotations about the body and mortality from religious and philosophical sources. This paper argues that the early modern écorché figure informs not only the iconography, but also the kind of anatomical knowledge-the anatomised vision of the body that Body Worlds reproduces. While images of early modern anatomical art serve to foreground the declared educational aim of the show, primarily by contextualising it within a long history of public anatomy, they also reveal that for von Hagens, as for the Renaissance anatomists before him, the anatomical significance of the body is to be found by removing its skin and exposing its interior. Such images do not simply reveal the inside of the body, this article demonstrates, but rather represent the invention of a specifically modern concept of bodily interiority, one intricately connected to a wider reconceptualisation of the body as individual and self-contained.
In this paper, I analyse the rehearsals of a choir and focus on sequences during which participants correct and practise the pronunciation of an item. In order to sing in a choir, singers orient both to musical relevancies (such as melody, pitch and rhythm) and to the linguistic features of the words they sing (such as articulation of consonants or vowels, cutting of the syllables, accent): these features are fundamental to singing and can be the object of correction. I hereby take into consideration “second language” singing and show that, during this activity, the correction of a word pronunciation can be initiated and realised either by the director or by the singers themselves. I analyse the structure of these sequences and show their implication for the organisation of the activity and for the participatory dynamics of the rehearsals. Based on the video-recordings of the rehearsals of the choir of a music school, my analyses take into account both the audible and visible resources participants orient to; they thus contribute to a conversation analytical and multimodal perspective on the interactional and institutional activity of music rehearsals.
Using a longitudinal ethnographic study of the linguistic landscape (LL) in Observatory's business corridor of Lower Main Road, the paper explores changes brought about by the influx of immigrant Africans, their artefacts and language practices. The paper uses the changes in the LL over time and the development of an “African Corner” within Lower Main Road, to illustrate the appropriation of space and the unpredictability, which comes along with highly mobile, technological and multicultural citizens. It is argued that changes in the LL are part of the act of claiming and appropriating space wherein space becomes summarily recontexualized and hence reinvented and “owned” by new actors. It is also argued that space ownership can be concealed through what we have called “brand anonymity” strategies in which the identity of the owner is deliberately concealed behind global brands. We conclude that space is pliable and mobile, and that, it is the people within space who carve out new social practices in their appropriated space.
Jazz has been described as a music in which the “oral” element plays a crucial role, in opposition to Western “classical” music, seen as a chiefly “written” tradition. Although such an image is frequently advocated by critics and musicians themselves, it is also true that it can generate ambivalence and negative outputs, such as the persistent myth of “primitivism” and “naivety,” often associated with jazz music. Building on Social Semiotics and Critical Discourse Analysis, this study aims at analyzing how the representations of “orality” and “literacy,” that emerge in some autobiographical narratives by Louis Armstrong, are generated, and how they can work as semiotic and discursive resources. It argues that the different depictions of musicians, and the attitude displayed toward musical literacy, are sensitive to the historical, societal, and political context in which texts have been produced and published, as well as to the narrator's willingness and ability to resist or subvert dominant discourses. Moreover, the characterization of a musician (or a category of musicians) as able or unable to access musical literacy can also serve local purposes, such as expressing the narrator's stance toward narrative characters.
This article suggests a logico-semantic analysis of Keith Arnatt's Trouser-Word Piece and Victor Burgin's Room, based on Ludwig Wittgenstein's examination of the logical relationship between propositions and the world and M.A.K. Halliday's discussion of social semiotics. It reconsiders the use of language in conceptual art practices from a wider sociological and interdisciplinary perspective, and aims to show how their juxtaposition of different voices within a public context negotiates the space of art as a social space. Focusing on how artworks communicate in context, the following discussion presents the historical as well as the discursive environment in which Arnatt's and Burgin's works are situated and received; moreover, it examines how these works critically manipulate viewing and reading regimes, frameworks of evaluation and patterns of communication in order to create a situation of particular tension between perceptual and conceptual apprehension. In wider terms, this article demonstrates how critically engaged artworks manipulate the conditions of communication by utilizing loan rhetoric (a rhetoric external to the art context) and displace associate meaning in order to challenge the institutionalization of art's production and function. In doing so, they critically stage and contest the power structures that support corresponding hierarchies across producer, audience and mediator, and bring art's social modality into focus. Investigating the manipulation of language in conceptual art, this article proposes a method of analysis that becomes fundamental in studying contemporary multi-modal art production, and in understanding the dialectics of art'But the difficulty is to remove the prejudices communication and critical potential.
This article addresses the emerging world of modern subjectivities represented by the artwork of 12 renowned contemporary Chinese artists, including CAO Fei, SONG Tao, WANG Qingsong and ZHANG Dali, amongst others. Following the January 2008 discussion by media activist Brian Holmes of the role of art in China's new economy, the author argues that Chinese artists are adopting diversified media forms and artistic/design characteristics as timeless fantasies within the context of crude economic expansionism, urban transformation and censorship politics. Particularly in the light of China's opening-up policy following its accession to the World Trade Organization early this century, the author finds it meaningful to investigate how these artists take up or resist the lure of Western or other foreign art trends, and to examine how the new Asian economy is kindling artistic vibrancy and expressionism. The engendered chaos and restlessness are taken by the author as a realisation of the Chinese glocalisation dream.
The paper explores the production of ideal political life within modernity and offers a critique of the modern security state which transforms antinational individuals to the condition of bare life. Since the nation-state is believed to be a modern formation, the unification of political rationality and the national subject is seen as a necessary project of the nation-state to create patriotic citizens out of individuals. It is for this reason that the dissociation of rationality from the political subject becomes an imperative for the individual to be hailed as terrorist. If body can be constituted meaningful in the political space of modernity through reason, it has to be subjected to an exercise of un-moderning once it becomes useless for the state. This process of corporealization is made possible through torture which contributes to the state of exception. However, the paper questions the idea of national rationality and makes a case for de-linking statist reason from human life.
This article explores issues that arise out of the confluence of homosexual rights as human rights in the context of the Southeast Asian city‐state of Singapore. The refusal of the Government of Singapore in 1997 to register the nascent, indigenous, gay, lesbian and bisexual group ‘People Like Us’, underscores the position Singapore has taken in relation to the wider public discourse about the difference between Singaporean (Asian) values and those held by the West. The battle of values as explicated by the Peoples Action Party, has relied heavily on a reverse ‘orientalism’, indeed an ‘occidentalism’, which, laden with references to the colonialism, perceived relative economic and moral decline and imperialism of the West in contrast to the majestic rise of the material success of post‐colonial Singapore, has deployed the issue of homosexuality as a defining aspect of Western culture and society, thereby sustaining an imagined state where the purity of family life is entrenched and safe. Homosexual activity, although not persecuted endemically, and despite its social and cultural presence, is illegal in Singapore, carefully monitored and contained. Homosexual identity, particularly in terms of the gay or lesbian identified person, is also perceived to be a Western construct and import, and is officially demonized to assist in the formation of a barrier between the so‐called East and West. In this sense, homosexuality is part of an imagined border where cultural and social mores are specifically defined and positioned in terms of difference.
The medical clown's multimodal performance in the hospital takes place within its rigid space. A clown in a hospital is a paradox. “Medical clowning” is a metaphor taken from two seemingly unrelated fields of meaning, juxtaposing what is medical, scientific, serious and logical with clowning, emotions, carnival spirit and humour. The clown addresses barriers erected by illness, pain, alienation and distress with a continuous flexible performance of humour and fantasy tailored to changing conditions and circumstances. A clown, by definition, threatens the public order and seemingly has no place in the hospital paradigm. The current article compares medical clowns to carnival clowns, examines the medical clown's flexible performance, illustrates it with case studies, presents a semiotic analysis of the clown's journey through the hospital and examines the significance of the performance on the ideological level.
This article draws from anthropology, conversation analysis, ethnomusicology, semiotics, and phenomenology, using the concept of intersubjectivity to model how the micro-organization of musical communication can be integral in social processes of support, identity maintenance, and activism amid structural inequality. This is based on ethnographic fieldwork in Durban, South Africa, with a Zulu gospel choir that functioned as a support group, activist organization, and performance troupe. Three distinct aspects (or levels) of intersubjectivity are discussed. The organization of these levels in music making is outlined through fine-grained discussion of how people with HIV coordinate bodies and voices in space as they make music together for each other and for international audiences. This article contributes to the further development of a musical semiotics, discussing how overlapping conceptualizations of intersubjectivity in multiple disciplines may be synthesized to analyze the performance of coordinated sonic action.
The now well-established fan tradition of “slash fiction” locates homoerotic undercurrents beneath the surface of popular films, television serials, and books, from Star Trek to Pride and Prejudice. The encoding/decoding model of media production and reception has recently been used to explain how enthusiasts of slash fiction are able to discern subtexts invisible to the majority of readers and viewers, with those enthusiasts’ discussions of texts being cited as evidence; here, it is argued that this mis-characterises complex rhetorical manoeuvres as transparent reports on private comprehension processes. A sample of online fan discourse regarding one particular homoerotic pairing is analysed, it being proposed that reception study as a whole must re-conceptualise the data upon which it most heavily relies; namely, spoken or written reports of encounters with texts. This forms part of an ongoing project employing discursive psychology and the study of argumentation to investigate reading and textual culture.
This study investigates the shifting terrain of pride, profit and power relations in minority language communities under contemporary globalisation. While “pride” associates linguistic-cultural heritage with identity and preservation, “profit” views these as sources of economic gain. In contemporary late capitalism, “pride” seems to be increasingly giving way to “profit”. Arguing that this transformation needs to be interrogated in terms of complexity and that a detailed, multilayered semiotic analysis can open a privileged window for such an inquiry, this study combines critical multimodal discourse analysis and an ethnographic approach to analyse processes of semiotic commodification in handicraft production in the indigenous minority language community of the Sámi in northern Lapland. The investigation focuses on the activities of an innovative Sámi artist and entrepreneur, and within these a range of paper notebooks, which are, although designed by the Sámi artist and sold in her handicraft shop in Lapland, produced by women living at the border of Thailand and Laos. The investigation illuminates two critical shifts: how the move towards profit can open up space to contest the ownership of pride within an ethnic community. Second, how this move makes way for new, globalised modes of production of ‘indigenous handicrafts’ and creates global vectors of power, engaged in both empowerment and exploitation, in the production of both pride and profit. The study thereby contributes to the understanding of the increasingly complex power relations and the ambivalence and multiple effects of practices constituting the apparent shift from “pride” to “profit”.
Gendered magazines are a major contemporary form of mediation, (re)production and organization of (hetero)sexuality. They illustrate how sexual activity and performance become the concern and responsibility of individuals who are able to invest time and resources in the construction of a sexually-skilled self. Drawing on contemporary research, the article seeks to promote a dialogue between media and communications research, analysing French media narratives on sexuality through the reading of a selection of articles from the best-selling summer magazines aimed at 18- to 25-year-old readers. The article uses a semiodiscursive analysis to understand how didactic models are made to (re)produce specific knowledge on sexuality and to ascertain that this knowledge is coded in an expertise discourse. Through the hypothesis of a didactic ambition, three didactic models are identified, and attention is here focused on the short-coming/reparative model, that simultaneously creates a dysfunction and a fix. The analysis eventually reveals that didactic models are made to organize social life by strictly dividing sexual and therefore social roles between “men” and “women”. The moral criteria called upon regulate the ideal treatment of those didactic modalities and the discourse in magazines ends up shaping sexuality as a contemporary moral economy, a problem that should be pragmatically treated through the use of a certain type of knowledge.
This study examines Twitter's hashtag trend topic functionality in America and explores social dialects within popular trending topics, specifically categories relating to the social constructions of gender and race where the majority of users employ Black avatars. The methodology applies a content analysis of words within a specific 24-hour trending hashtag (#becauseofhoes), followed by a critical discourse analysis, informed by feminist thought and critical race theory, of the emergent semantic fields. While previous research examines the “social relevance” of Twitter hashtags, this study's results and discussion explore the semiosis, or analysis of cultural communication, of gender and race constructions within trending topics popular with what appear to be predominately Black participants.
Constructionism and realism are dominantly regarded as incompatible meta-theories. In this article, I argue rather that a realist epistemology offers some premises that can usefully ground discourse analysis in social scientific research. This has implications for the latter ' s modes of theorising and its potential for social criticism. The argument is in two moves. First, I discuss how the concept of discourse figures in three major critical traditions of social theoretical, sociological and political theoretical thinking. I argue that, for different reasons each, these traditions offer a less than satisfactory answer to the ontological question of how discourse figures in the social and/or to the epistemological question of how discourse is operationalised in theory and research. Second, I turn to a discussion of critical realist meta-theory. I critically discuss Bhaskar ' s ontology of the real and suggest that realist epistemology should be combined with a constructionist ontology, along the lines of feminist theorising. This is useful in providing discourse theory and analysis with more effective accounts on the nature of the social and on the modes of social inquiry. In so doing, I sketch a view of discourse informed by critical realist elements and point to its conceptual and analytical advantages.
This article analyses the media's coverage of Slobodan Milošević's death with an aim to uncover how media further use and incorporate social events into nationalistic discourses and, in that, reconstruct the myth of a legendary leader. The critical discoursive analysis shows that one of the most popular Serbian newspapers Veccaronernje novosti recontextualized Milošević's death in accordance with the nationalistic media discourse that dominated his regime (1987-2000) and in that further reproduced the Serbian myth of Milošević as a legendary leader.
A grainy series of surveillance photographs was tendered into evidence at the trial of a young Aboriginal man accused of robbing a bank. Two police officers testified that they recognised him from the photographs. On appeal to the High Court of Australia, the judges thought that the hooded bandit in the image looked like the spectre from Hamlet. This article uses the discourse of ''spectrality'' to explore the consequences for law and ethics when haunted by the transgressive image. It examines the confrontation between the foundational illegality of the Australian nation, and the indigenous man who is accused of a crime against property.
This article is not available through ChesterRep. This paper uses the example of 'slash fiction' (fan fiction which appropriates media heroes to form homoerotic pairings) to offer an investigation which broadens the concept of decoding. Slash fiction provides a particularly suitable starting point for considering the decoding process, as it is one of the few cases in which we have the evidence of decoding readily available for analysis in the form of fanzines. Many academics have considered Kirk and Spock's relationship as it was represented in Star Trek and the homoerotic 'K/S' fiction which it inspired, however no one has effectively considered the interpretive processes which connect them. The author questions the implicit belief that K/S fiction is an 'oppositional' decoding of Star Trek and demonstrate its more negotiated nature through a detailed consideration of the decoding process. To this end the author borrows an idea of David Morley's who has suggested that 'Hall's original model [of decoding] tends to blur together questions of recognition, comprehension, interpretation and response' (Morley 1994, 21). This paper will take up Morley's four process model of decoding and answer Jenkins' call for a closer analysis of the links between audience reception and texts (Jenkins 1996, 275).
This article shows that templates are not only crucial for the ways in which journalists construct or structure the media discourse but also for how they perceive themselves and others in the process of journalistic practice. A Critical Discourse Analysis of interviews with Polish journalists on their practices related to reporting migration – a topic largely discarded and ignored by the Polish media – shows that the construction of practice in the journalistic field constantly negotiates the contradiction between “knowing-it-all”, a key element of the template of journalistic habitus/identity, and the frequent lack of experience or limited knowledge of practice and of journalistic work. The analysis reveals that, while often using a discursive strategy of pre-legitimation, journalists enact templates that blur the boundaries between discourses about experiences of journalistic work and imaginaries or scenarios of actions they would only potentially undertake. Journalistic discourses of practice thereby become increasingly displaced, that is, they run along similar templates of discourse of/about quasi-universalised ethics and values of journalism almost irrespective of media organisations of the informants. By the same token, it is emphasised that, rather than being limited by the ideologies and powers of media organisations, agency seems to be often self-constrained by journalists in their self-entrapment in values, templates and imaginaries of journalism.
Sex trafficking has become a high-profile, celebrity endorsed issue, attracting much international attention. Accompanying this has been a proliferation of films, including full-length feature films, which address the topic and have done much to influence public perception of the issue. This paper analyses two of these films which were made for the mainstream US market: Trade and Taken. Both films present a conservative and heteronormative perspective revolving around middle-aged North American law enforcement officers rescuing innocent young girls. Hence, these films participate in the general securitisation of trafficking discourse in which the US has been a leader. In spite of their ostensible concern about the exploitation of women, these films present trafficking mostly as an occasion for the redemption and rehabilitation of the beleaguered white American male, appropriating the problem of trafficking in the service of a US-led neo-imperialism bolstered by masculinism and xenophobia, and implicitly problematising women's independence and justifying the control of their movements and sexuality.
This discussion paper aims at critically discussing some of the issues covered in the papers collected in the present special issue. It deals with four major points: the main differences between everyday interaction and interaction in musical settings, and the implications for music, seen as a locus for social semiosis; the “sharing” function of music, particularly with regards to its intersubjective nature; the relevance of multimodality in musical interaction; and the way music may achieve authority construction and negotiation. Finally, the paper highlights the most promising pathways for future research traced by the special issue.
Foucault’s ideas surrounding the notion of governmentality are built upon the intersection of multiple discourses and discursive practices – a ‘complex topography of rule’ (Dean 2007). The notion of disciplinarity is well accepted in the literature, however, there are few attempts to conceive how practices, from a range of discourses, relate to each other. Everyday observations indicate that not all learned practices are equally important to a given subject. To say that all these practices are inculcated in order for the subject to be able to conduct themselves appropriately does not provide insight into the relative importance of particular practices to a specific subject’s constitution.The central contribution of this article is that the sum of practices acquired by a subject may be conceived of as a network; more specifically, as a “scale free network”. The adoption of this perspective adds texture to the Foucaultian tradition in a way that emphasizes the connections between acquired practices – the perspective facilitates the conceptualization of the sum of practices in terms of a topography of practices. This approach is explored through an examination of the background, training and work of patent examiners. Examiners make a useful example as they operate within both the scientific and legal discourses and, therefore, learn and express practices associated with both discourses. This network-based approach offers a new perspective for understanding practices that occur in multiple disciplines – that is, it offers a useful conceptualization of the processes by which discursive practices are ordered (thereby facilitating acquisition).
This article examines the linguistic manifestations of the tension between notions of a healthy national drinking culture and the increasing homogenisation of problematic drinking practices in an era of globalised marketing and media influence. Taking the proliferation of English in France when it comes not only to alcohol advertising, but also public health discourses and mass media commentary as its object, this paper discerns patterns of and motivations for English language borrowings in French when discussing alcohol and immoderate drinking practices. Findings point to a double indexicality in these borrowings. On the one hand, the widespread use of English in alcohol advertising draws on and creates positive associations between English and Anglo-American culture and, on the other, the public health community's use of English terms like binge drinking designates problematic drinking behaviours as foreign and anathema to traditional modes of French alcohol consumption, and by extension to French cultural identity.
This special issue aims at analyzing music as a site of social semiosis, i.e., at investigating the manifold ways in which music is constituted as a socially shared event. The papers collected here follow three main threads, considered as central aspects of music making: studying the kind of coordination and participation required to make music together; looking at the semiotic resources employed by musicians to construct their roles in interaction; examining the relationship between language and music. A variety of perspectives is adopted, ranging from social semiotics to conversation analysis, anthropology, multimodal analysis, and critical discourse analysis. Such a variety is also reflected in the musical traditions – Western art music, jazz, gospel, church hymns, pop music – and in the settings under examination, which comprise instructional activities like musical classes and rehearsals, as well as ordinary conversations and written accounts of musicians' biographies. Issues of epistemicity and authority, intersubjectivity, correction of musical action, solidarity, and ideology are thereby addressed. The issue thus aims at exploring the richness and complexity of music making as a social practice, and documents how the integration of different disciplinary perspectives can offer fruitful insights on music as a domain of sociality which lies at the intersection of aurality and writing, norm and creativity, individuality and collectiveness.
The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, the World Intellectual Property Organization negotiations in 1997 and, currently, the Multilateral Agreement on Investment are the legal instruments for the globalization and deregulation of international trade. My paper focuses on some of their implications for the free circulation of knowledge. For, if the rhetoric of globalization is all about the freeing-up of access to and the removal of regulatory controls from formerly restrictive and protected industries, one of the effects of these new legal regimes has, nevertheless, been to institute increasingly severe restrictions on cultural flows. Common to all of them is the fact that they define knowledge as property, and then seek to map out an appropriate regime of property rights. The restriction of illegal copying of software and of audio- and video-recordings, and the enforcement of patents on biological, agro-chemical and pharmaceutical patents are the leading edge of this new wave of incursions into the public domain that is supposedly protected by intellectual property law; with the extension of patent law to previously exempt areas, with strong moves towards the protection of facts in databases, and with the erosion of fair use exemptions, the very notion of a public domain of knowledge from which writers, artists, scientists and scholars can draw is seriously threatened.
In music masterclasses instruction is delivered in response to successive learners' performances, with masters having no recourse to lesson plans or other prepared materials. As a result, topics emerge discursively and spontaneously through interaction. In this paper we describe four ways in which masters develop matters for improvement (learnables). Masters may present learnables as being based on master expertise; on masters' direct displayed experience of the student's performance; on the elicited direct experience of the student-performer; or on the elicited direct experience of the audience. By using a conversation analytic approach, we detail the emergence of learnables in five recorded instances.
An interactional participant's epistemic status relies on their access to “epistemic domains” which exist beyond the unfolding interaction in which they are expressed. Heritage argues that comparative access and epistemic status can be described along an “epistemic gradient” and that it is the expression of this status which, in the interaction, exists as the taking, aligning to, and challenging of epistemic stance. This paper describes some of the resources musicians use in interaction to encode the epistemic domains from which knowledge comes during orchestral rehearsal. As “sound-hearing” and “instrument-playing” are central to the work of musicians, the discussion will focus on how perceptions of auditory and corporeal experience are deployed as part of musicians' epistemic stance taking. I will argue that these epistemic stances, as expressions of graded and differential access to epistemic domains, form part of the construction of authority in orchestral rehearsal.
Innovations in information and communication technologies have allowed people to actively author multimodal content and engage in new meaning-making practices. New Literacies research has gone some way to understanding new meaning-making behaviours. However, this research often derives its understandings from studies undertaken with students enrolled in formal educational settings. Mobile technologies are increasingly situated outside such domains; the informal use of these devices by adults remains on the periphery of scholarly focus. mStories is a creative participatory digital mobile storytelling project. Taking a multidimensional perspective, this article presents the in-depth case analysis of one participant and their mStory. A semiotic analysis found that the user-generated content demonstrated complex and sophisticated multimodal sense relations. However, control over the textual or compositional meta-function of the text was determined largely by the computer interface, with users habituated to relinquishing authorial control over this element. Within this study, mobile literacy praxis was characteristically ad hoc and contextually embedded, and though mobile technology invites such practices, users were neither determined nor limited by this, and happily turned to other devices where necessary.
This article will examine two recent and contrasting British television documentaries about particular stars/celebrities from the world of popular music - Geri (Channel 4, 1999) and Living with Michael Jackson (ITV, 2003). Geri comes from the British documentary film-maker/auteur Molly Dineen's journey with Geri Halliwell shortly after she had left the group The Spice Girls , and Living with Michael Jackson features the journalist/reporter Martin Bashir's encounter with the former member of the Jackson Five. These documentary encounters can be contrasted in terms of their form and institutional context of production and through the similarity to and difference from reality television formats. Dineen and Bashir share a fascination with trying to make sense of the process of fame and celebrity through the privileged private access they are given to the high-profile individuals who have agreed to be their subjects. In each case what is revealed is as much a reflection of the disposition of the filmmaker reporter/mediator towards celebrity and fame as it is a revelation on the process of fame and celebrity. What emerges from each of the interactions is a struggle between Dineen and Bashir and their subjects. The stars are both concerned with the process of negotiating change and adversity in the overlap between their private lives and the public image they endeavour to manage and project. These two documentaries represent two editions of the outcome of this meeting. Together they illustrate, rather than offer an understanding of, how television feeds on the public fascination with celebrity and the destructive and even murderous nature of our relation to celebrity suggested by Jacqueline Rose in the wake of the death of Diana.
Peter Jackson's decision to make the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films in his native New Zealand has given the country a major boost in tourism, but this has also become the paradigm of a new imaginative transformation of landscapes. The zeal with which many tourists visit these sites has similarities to the religious pilgrimage, not only in terms of the degree of enthusiasm invoked, but also in rituals of knowledge, ardour and “spiritual” envisioning. The global fantasy industry thus fosters alternative and dualistic engagements with the land that have come to contest the cultural and physical engagement with and even access to the land, as well as exacerbating the existing racial politics, particularly in smaller and more vulnerable nations such as New Zealand. What might be called the “(ir)realist” semiotics of fantasy – with its own cultural hegemony disguised as playful dualism – becomes a notable form of global remapping, often with positive benefits, but also with dangers to local cultures and identities.
Top-cited authors
Elizabeth Wissinger
  • CUNY Graduate Center, CUNY/BMCC
Gina Neff
  • University of Cambridge
Samantha Murray
  • University of Hertfordshire
Jo Littler
  • City, University of London
Yu Liu
  • Sichuan International Studies University