11th October 2017 – Semiotics

Semiology – study of signs

Context changes meaning

Floriography – meaning / symbology of flowers

Semiotics / Semiology proposed as analytical framework by Ferdinand de Saussure (a linguist). His framework shifted the study of language from how they developed over time to focus on them as a system of meaning at any given time -> a structuralist approach.

Structuralism – an approach to understanding the world in terms of structures. e.g. Natural forms (body), social systems (the state), physical entities (fashion), cultural forms (art, fashion, literature).

Saussure argued language was arbitary, conventional and differential:

  • Arbitary: Nothing intrinsic fixing a word to what it represents (e.g. there is nothing “doggish” about the word “dog”.
  • Conventional: We understand words to mean things (e.g. Dog), because it’s a social convention we are used to.
  • Differential / different to other words in structure of relations: Using words in relation to each other to make distinctions between things (e.g. big day).

Sign = signifier / signified = word, sound, object, image / concept, idea, vision.

Signifier = plane of denotation. Signified = plane of signified.


Reading Task 2 – The Rebel Sell

Image result

Quotes from Reading Task “The Rebel Sell” by Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter:

  • Capitalism requires conformity to function correctly.
  • The system is based upon a generalized system of repression. Individuals who resist the pressure to conform therefore subvert the system and aid in its overthrow.
  • Consumption is not about conformity, it’s about distinction. People consume in order to set themselves apart from others.
  • Once too many people get on the bandwagon, it forces the early adopters to get off, in order to preserve their distinction. This is what generates the cycles of obsolescence and waste that we condemn as “consumerism”
  • We are often forced into competitive consumption, just to defend ourselves against the nuisances generated by other people’s consumption…in many parts of North America, the number of big SUVs on the road has reached the point where people are forced to think twice before buying a small car. The SUVs make the roads so dangerous for other drivers that everyone has to consider buying a larger car just to protect themselves.


(Image sourced from: https://books.google.co.uk/books/about/Rebel_Sell.html?id=PSUFJ7-AecIC&source=kp_cover&redir_esc=y )

4th October 2017 – Brands and Consumer Society

No Logo Documentary – Naomi Klein

My notes from an extract of the documentary:

The term ‘brand’ comes from branding cattle, something done to make ownership clear and allow farmers to easily differentiate their own cattle from others.

Mascot images on brands were originally used as surrogates for the relationship between the consumer and shop keeper / farmer / supplier. After the invention of mass production, products were made far away rather than, as previously, by a local, known source (e.g. farmer). The mascots were created to replace the relationships, acting as a sort of friend in order to restore trust in products.

Adverts generally aim to sell an idea rather than a product.

Nike wanted their brand to be about sport rather than fashion and used adverts to encourage this idea in consumers in order to get the brand image they wanted.

Starbucks advertises a community, giving a 3rd place, that is neither home nor work, for people to meet and socialise.


Task 1 – Images: Context & Meaning

Task: To find examples of images / objects that relate to the chosen terms, with a short description of the image and how they relate to the given word.



Rolls of artificial grass

The term ‘artificial’ refers to things made or produced by humans rather than occuring naturally, generally copies of natural things.

Artifiial Grass is an example of this. Originally it was created for the purpose of useage in sports grounds as it requires less maintenance, is more hard-wearing and rain doesn’t give the issue of mud. It’s since become more popular for usage in personal gardens, especially for those unable to take care of a real grass lawn. Artificial Grass is made to serve the same purpose as grass but modified to be more hard-wearing and easier to maintain.

(Image source: http://www.advancedgrass.com/artificial-grass-suppliers/ )



Image result for crowd of people

The term ‘unique’ refers to something that is the only one of it’s kind / unlike anything else.

The image depicts a crowd of people, this is a good illustration of the word ‘unique’ as every person in the image is unique, each coming from different backgrounds, families, personal lives, each having different appearances and different personalities, making every single person unique.

(Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jamescridland/613445810 )



The term ‘hand-crafted’ refers to something made by hand with skill rather than made by a machine.

The example image I have used is a hand-crafted birthday card. These are popular as they are both a hobby enjoyed by many, and well received as they are more personal to the sender and recipient than a typical shop brought card would be.

(Image sorce: http://acraftycat.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/Wetlands )




Image result for birthday card racks

The term ‘manufactured’ refers to items made through manual labor or with machinery, typically on a large scale.

The image shows a collection of greetings cards in a shop, all of which are manufactured. The cards need to be distributed from the supplier to the recipient (shops in this case) with both speed and quantity which means methods which create on a large scale are the most appropriate, as is the case with most large businesses, whereas smaller, personal business’s are more likely to be selling hand-crafted items.

(Image source: http://theagingofaquarius.com/ag_blog/kid-walks-into-a-greeting-card-store/ )

Physical Appearance and Identity

People express their identity in many ways. One of the biggest ways is through their physical appearance.

There are many ways in which ones physical appearance can be altered, some of the most common include: make-up, tattoos, accessories, clothing, hairstyles and piercings.

There are also more extreme methods of modifying appearance to reflect identity, such as surgery, including plastic and transition surgery.

In addition to changes to appearance brought about by choice, there are those that occur in other ways, such as scars, disabilities or weight change.

There are many reasons people may change their physical appearance. These include; cultural (for example, neck rings); fashion reasons which may also be due to wanting to fit in with the crowd, opposing this the changes may take place due to a want to be seen as individual, or even simply because someone is unhappy with part of or all of their appearance.

As our physical appearance is what people see and use to judge us, our identities are shown through what we wear and how we choose to alter our appearance to best represent how we see ourselves in terms of identity and how we wish to be seen.

identity mind map.jpg

A Monster Calls – Film Review


(WARNING: This post contains spoilers for the film A Monster Calls)

Firstly, if you haven’t already seen this film, be warned, it is very emotional! The acting is amazing and you feel as though you are in the film yourself, living the hard times right alongside Conor and feeling all the up and down emotions with him.

The film uses a lot of close-ups in contrast with exposition shots which are effective in showing the important emotional side to the film. Conor, throughout the course of the film, feels a mix of emotions. sorrow, grief, anger, hatred, and joy at brief points as he goes through his Mother’s sickness and death whilst dealing with his own troubles with family and school along the way, all the time trying to keep a brave face on for the sake of his Mother and secretly being weighed down by the guilt of his wish for it all to be over.

The only flaws I found with the film were that some relationships were not explored in as much depth as they should, or could have been. In particular his relationship with his Father was not shown enough in my opinion, though this may have been to highlight the growing relationship with his grandmother who, initially, he was opposed to. Also, I had expected a friendship or truce of a sort to emerge between Conor and the boy who bullied him towards the end of the film though this, again, did not happen.

The story was one that’s not normally explored. When a film or story is about someone working their way through the grief at a 2413close death, often it starts as the person dies or very close to that point, mostly focusing on their recovery. Whereas A Monster Calls was all about Conor’s journey during his mothers illness as he was forced to accept the reality and face the truth and reveal his secrets in order to find his own peace with the situation.

One of the things about the film that most appealed to me was the inclusion of art. When Conor finds out his Mum wanted to go to art college he is clearly surprised and, after her death finds another connection to her through her artwork which lives on, surprised to find they had even drawn similar things – discovering his Mum had also met the monster during her own childhood. His mum tells him, on an old home movie, that “the life is in the eyes”, encouraging him to bring his art to life and add emotion and depth to it, teaching him that art is a medium to express yourself rather than just to be creative.

Overall, the film was excellent, really connecting with you and drawing you into their world.

Images were found from: http://www.rendyreviews.com/movies//a-monster-calls-review , https://showfilmfirstblog.com/2016/09/12/felicity-jones-admits-she-had-to-avoid-hitting-the-bottle-during-filming-of-a-monster-calls/ )

Timeline – How the War Affected Manga

11th Century – Toba Sojo, a painter-priest who created animal scroll paintings which, though without word balloons or sound effects, showed a progression of events. Scroll was unrolled right to left and tradition of reading manga right to left has continued.

18th Century – “yellow cover books” (aka Kibyoshi) satirized Japanese political figures and were popular when not banned.

1853 – Commodore Perry opened up Japan to the West in 1853. An influx of foreigners followed along with introduction of European and American-style comics.

1857 – Charles Wirgman, British Journalist, published “The Japan Punch”, a magazine designed to be similar to a popular British humour publication.

Both magazines were intended for non-Japanese people living in Japan, but the humour and art in the magazines caught attention of native Japanese readers and artists. The style (known as Ponchi-e / punch-style pictures) began appearing in Japanese work as they were inspired by the Western-style comics. Evolution began towards the modern manga style that is a mix of east-west.

1887 – George Bigot, a french art teacher, started a magazine called Toba-e.

19th Century – Katsushika Hokusai, artist and printmaker. Made iconic woodblock prints. Also first artist to use the term “manga” which, along with “playful sketches” is how he described his humorous artwork. The humorous sketches he made were initially intended for his students to copy but instead ended up distrubuted through Japan, known as the Hokusai Manga.

20th Century – Rakuten Kitazawa embraced East-West style and created popular comics, including Tagosaku to Mokube no Tokyo Kenbutsu (Tagosaku and Mokube’s sightseeing in Tokyo), inspired by The Yellow Kid (Richard Felton Outcault) and The Katzenjammer Kids (Rudolph Dirks)

1905 – Rakuten Kitazawa founded magazine that showcased Japanese cartoonists (Tokyo Puck).

Kitazawa is considered the founding father of modern manga. Another early pioneer is Ippei Okamoto (creator of Hito no Issho / A life of a man). He was also the founder of Nippon Mangakai, which was the first Japanese cartoonist society. These artists and many others in this period used the excitement and anxiety the Japanese people felt as their nation left behind feudal days to become a modern industrial society in their artwork.

1915 – Shonen Club magazine for boys inspired by Western comics.

1923 – Shojo Club magazine for girls inspired by Western comics.

1930’s – Before 1930’s these magazines included illustrated stories, photo features and light-hearted fun intended for young readers. By 1930’s, reflecting the coming war, the same magazines promoted heroic tales of Japanese soldiers, showing it’s characters holding guns and getting ready for battle. Popular manga characters, e.g. Suiho Tagawa’s Norakuro / Black Stray (a dog) was also seen taking arms in order to instill value of sacrifice on home front and valor on the battlefield to very young readers. The term “Ganbatte” translating to “do your best” was considered a ‘rallying cry’ for manga created during the period to reflect the people of Japan preparing for the war ahead.

1937 – Cartoonists were required to join a government-supported trade organisation “Shin Nippon Mangaka Kyokai” / “The New Cartoonists Association of Japan” in order to be published in Manga Magazine—the only comics magazine to continue regular publication despite wartime paper shortages. Mangaka not fighting, working or banned from creating their manga, drew art that followed governmental guidelines. During this time the manga was focused on propaganda, making light of the situation and demonizing the enemy / glorifying bravery on the battlefield. Manga, with the ability to transcend language / cultural barriers was considered a perfect medium for propaganda. One artist, Ryuichi Yokoyama, creator of Fuku-Chan / Little Fuku, was sent to war zone specifically to create comics in the service of the Japanese military.

Manga also featured in the war, partially due to Taro Yashima, an artist who left Japan to resettle in America, creating the comic Unganaizo / The Unlucky Soldier which was a story about a peasent soldier who died in the service of corrupt leaders. The comic could often be found on the corpses of Japanese soldiers in the battlefield which seemed to show how the book could affect the spirit of those that read it.

Post 1945 – After the war most restrictions on art were lifted, freeing manga artists to tell a variety of stories rather than just propaganda based. During this time a pioneering female mangaka, Machiko Hasegawa, made her appearance in a male-dominated field with the creation of Sazae-San, a humorous four-panel comic strip about family life. Shortages / economic trouble after the war meant toys / comics became a luxury many children could not afford. Manga remained affordable and accessible due to Kami-Shibai / Paper plays, which were a portable picture theatre brought by travelling storytellers who’d bring traditional sweets to sell and narrate stories based on images they drew on cardboard. Many big manga artists made their debut as Kami-Shibai illustrators. This came to an end with the introduction of television in the 1950’s.

1948 – 1950 – With prices rising hardback manga became too expensive for most readers. Due to this came the invention of a low-cost alternative called Akabon / Red Books. These used red ink to add tone to black and white printing, were cheap to print and pocket sized, costing 10-50 yen, sold in lots of places / small shops which made them easily accessible. They also gave several struggling artists an opportunity, one of whom was Osamu Tezuka, a big figure in the manga world.