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.