Ever since Ferdinand de Saussure saw linguistics as a part of semiotics, an analysis of verbal texts is no longer the only pursuit of anyone interested in language. We feel the need of a better understanding of all the things that go with the verbal, for example, facial expressions, gestures, social contexts, etc. In particular, images are increasingly taking over from language as a vital means of communication in this digital age. To this end, this course brings out the disparities as well as the commonalities between language and image as two major semiotic resources for representation and communication. A wide variety of texts including photographs, adverts, magazine pages, artworks, CD-ROMS, websites and web-based images will be used to explain how meaning is created through complex semiotic principles of colour, perspective, framing and composition.
Like linguistic structures, visual structures of representation can either be narrative, presenting unfolding actions and events, process of change, transitory spatial arrangements, or conceptual, representing participants in terms of their generalised, stable and timeless essence, or in terms of class, or structure or meaning. The interactive meanings of images are also very important in visual analysis; any image must either be a ‘demand’ or an ‘offer’. Image-makers can select a certain size of frame for indexing social distance and select a certain angle and perspective for indicating certain attitudes. The concept of modality in linguistics is equally essential in accounts of visual communication. Visuals can represent people, places and things as though they are real, as though they actually exist in this way, or as though they do not – as though they are imaginings, fantasies, caricatures, etc. Also, the concept of information value in linguistics can be realised by varying visual configurations. It is important to stress that although this course largely focusses on the theoretical background of visual design, its aims are not just theoretical. They are also descriptive and practical. The course seeks to develop a descriptive framework that can be used as a tool for visual analysis. Such a tool will have its potential use for practical as well as analytical and critical purposes in cultural studies.
- Visual resources for the representation of interactions and conceptual relations between the people, places and things depicted in images;
- The interaction between the producer and the viewer of the image;
- Visual modality;
- The realisations of information value, salience and framing in images;
- Colour as a semiotic mode and the communicative functions of colour;
- A social-semiotic theory of multimodality
- Making signs: semiotic modes, meaning potential and materiality
- Doing multimodal discourse analysis
- Articulate ideas in individual presentations in tutorials about the structures of visual design, the interactive relationship between image-producers and viewers and how producers’ messages and attitudes are expressed in their design;
- Identify the ways in which images communicate contrasts in meaning and present a synthetic analysis coherently in an academic essay;
- Apply the concepts of semiotics and multimodality and evaluate the extent to which these concepts are realised in visual structures and how social and communicative functions can be mediated through linguistic and visual semiotic resources in peer reviews of group project presentations;
- Explore, interpret, and critically analyse ideological underpinnings; of visual communication in a wide variety of texts including adverts, magazine layouts, websites, etc., and present these in a group presentation with visuals (e.g. illustrations/diagrams) and a group research paper.
The course has three timetabled hours per week. The first two hours will involve formal lecturing. The third timetabled hour will be used for tutorial presentations and discussions on alternate weeks.
Assessment is by 100% coursework, consisting of:
- Class participation, discussion and presentation (20%)
- Short essay (30%)
- Group project (50%) – research paper (30%); oral presentation (10%); peer review (10%)
A list of required and recommended readings will be provided.