The Semiotics of Love…and Other Investigations Applied Semiotic Analysis Arthur Asa Berger Professor Emeritus Broadcast and Electronic Communication Arts San Francisco State University Students at a lecture If you shot off a gun at sporadic intervals and asked students what they were thinking when the gun went off you’d find: 20% pursuing erotic thoughts 7% described mood as “love.” 20 % reminiscing about something 20% paying attention 12% actively listening Rest of students: worrying, daydreaming, thinking about lunch or religion 20% 12% 68% said they were happy said they were sad were neutral Investigations into: Semiotics of “Frenchness” The meaning of facial expressions Objects as a reflection of our personalities Signs and symbols in a perfume advertisement Love as a game (play song) Conclusions: cartoons I’ve drawn Saussure’s Theory • • • • Signs are sound/objects + concepts Sound/object is Signifier Concept is Signified Relation between signifier/signified is arbitrary, based on convention • Concepts are relational Semiotics: Science of Signs Signs: Signifiers and Signifieds, icons, indexes, symbols. Signs: Anything that can stand for something else. Signs: Can lie or mislead. We are always sending messages (signs) about ourselves and interpreting signs others send about themselves. We “read” everyone we see in mediated texts…but do we read them correctly? Peirce on Signs Kind of Sign Way Works Icons Resemblance Photographs, Statues Index Cause and Effect Smoke and Fire Symbol Must be Learned Flags, Sacred Objects Signifier/Signified Game Secret Agent (Signified) Frenchness (Signified) Signifiers: Dark Glasses Revolver with silencer Trench Coat Sports Car Slouch hat Beautiful Women Etc. Signifiers: Facial Expressions Shown Seven Universal Emotions (Paul Ekman) Determination Pouting (show displeasure, disappointment) Fear Neutral (no emotion) Sadness Anger Surprise Disgust (repugnant) Facial Expressions 1 2 4 6 3 5 7 8 Paul Ekman on Facial Expressions 1. Neutral 4. Fear 6. Anger 2. Disgust 3. Sadness 5. Pouting 7. Surprise 8. Determination Reading People in Mediated Texts Applied Semiotic Analysis Hair Color Hair Style Eye Color Eye Pupils Facial Structure Body Type Age Gender Race Facial Expressions Body Language Makeup worn Clothes worn Eyeglasses/sunglasses Jewelry Setting Occupations of People (guessed?) Activities Suggested Language Used, Dialogue Music, Sound Effects, etc. Interpreting Signs: A Class Exercise in a Semiotics Seminar Students brought object in brown paper bag. Nobody knew who brought which object. Qualities of person as reflected in sea shell found by students in seminar: Sterile Empty Dead Lifeless Interpreting Signs What Student Who Submitted Sign Wrote: Delicate, Beautiful, Natural, Lovely. MORAL: Signs you are sending about yourself may be misinterpreted. Fidji Perfume Advertisement • • • • • • • • • • Snake is a phallic symbol (Freud) Flowers are sexual organs of plants Myth of passion in Polynesian islands (Gauguin) Adam & Eve (and snake) Dark hair and ideas about sexuality Perfume as magic (and like venom?) Fidji and sophistication: cost and advertisements Design of ad: leads eyes to perfume Fingers grasping perfume in strange way Sex found hidden in images Power of Metaphors in Music “All in the wonderful game called love...” Love is a Game Love is Like a Game Metaphor Simile Analogy is basic to metaphor, similes Implications of “Love is a Game” 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. Love is a Game…. Games have winners and losers Games have rules People cheat at games Trickery and deceit in games Games end eventually People aren’t serious about games Games take place in certain spaces Summary Semiotics is one of the most important ways to analyze texts and culture Cultures can be read as texts Semiotics sees itself as the master science With some basic semiotic concepts one can analyze just about everything “The world is perfused with signs if not made up entirely of them.” C.S. Peirce.