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Semiotic 1. Describe (abstractly) 2. Look for possible: * oppositions * denotations * connotations 3. Reference to the code / shared knowledge 4. Conclusions

Media: from Medium= Middle
Media: open windows to the world or tools which construct meanings and suggest interpretations?
Semiotics: from σημεῖον (semeion) > sign = the study of signs
Structuralism: the world is structured and can be interpreted/understood according to and within the structure
What is a sign? * Something that stands for something else * Anything that can be used to tell a lie * Combination between a Signifier and a Signified

Different kinds of signs (according to Peirce) * Iconic (analogy, similarity) * Indexical (physical relationship) * Arbitrary or Symbolic (stylised)
Code
Signs are related to a system of meaning. Code as a bunch of rules and the knowledge about the world (i.e. encyclopedia) that allow us to associate a signifier to the relevant signified.
Polysemy: more than one meaning
Anchoring: (semiotics) process that selects the legitimate meaning
Jolly Roger: Flag (Pirates), Label (High Voltage), Bottle (poison, chemical staff)
Narratives
Media inform us about events. Events become stories
With narratives we mean the art, the techniques and the process of making stories.
In Morphology of the Folk Tale (1928) V. Propp (structuralism) analysed hundreds of stories and found out that all of them present a common structure. The structure consists of 8 characters (or spheres of action) and 31 functions. * Hero: protagonist (motivation, lack of something) * Villain: antagonist (in opposition to the hero) * Dispatcher: who sends the hero on his way * Helper: who helps the hero * Donor: who provides the hero with a magic object * False hero: who pretends to be the hero * Princess: reward (contended with the villain) * Father: who rewards the hero

Todorov introduced the idea of “equilibrium”, i.e. a balance in the beginning. Suddenly something happens, the balance is broken and the story starts
Example: “Workers today decided to reject a cut in pension funds”.What about the counterpart? What was the trade-off? How was the negotiation?
The way this story started perhaps suggests who the hero is (and who is to blame for the missing agreement)
Scripts: “[S]hared expectations about what will happen in certain contexts, and what is desirable and undesirable in terms of outcome”.(Kevin Durkin)

Lévi-Strauss is interested in the binary opposition between two qualities or terms that appear in the text. The opposition can be either Syntagmatic (between two occurrences) or Paradigmatic (between an occurrence and any potential substitute).

Story vs. Plot
Story: all the events in a narrative both explicitly presented and inferred. Chronological order of the facts.
Plot: selected parts of the story. The sequence of the events is arranged in a different way in order to create suspense, involve the reader, provoke effects (flashback, flash-forward).
Genre
Genre is a French word that means “type” or “kind”. Every media product can be classified according to some genres.
Movies: Action, Comedy, Thriller, Horror, Drama, etc.
Music: Pop, Rock, Metal, etc.
TV: Reality, Talk Show, News, Documentary, entertainment, etc.
Radio: Radio Comedy, News, Current Affairs, etc
Some media products classified as Hybrid/Cross generic/Mashed
Who is responsible for the genres?
Every media product is classified by different people and each classification can vary from the others.
Maker: who creates a (tv/radio) program, a movie, a website, a magazine
Marketers, Reviewers, Censors: those people who are interested in selling the product or are entitled to make a judgement.
Consumers: in other words, the audience.

What is the purpose of a classification into genres?
For the audience: expectations, sense of belonging, play with the plot
For censors and marketeers: identify the appropriate audience
For a producer: to minimise the risks → to satisfies the expectations of a group (action movie fans, for example). If a media product is atypical, it is difficult to predict the reaction of the audience and it might be a waste of money. In order to avoid this, the media require some standardisation of production.
Within the same genre, some elements are repeated and standardised. Those “repeated elements” are better known as repertoires of elements.

Stereotypes are widely circulated ideas or assumptions about particular groups. 1. Stereotypes somehow categorise and evaluate the group. 2. They emphasise some features of the group which are responsible for the position of the group 3. Most of the time, the evaluation of the group is negative. 4. Rather than a spectrum differences, they set boundaries

Burden of representation: a group which was relatively absent from the media images and is now demanding an adequate/positive representation in the media.
Ideology is a set of ideas/values that describes the social world in a partial, selective manner.
Ideology is a set of ideas that describes how the power is distributed socially.
According to Marx, the social structure and the distribution of the power is determined by the economy.
There are capitalists, who own means of production, factories, country estates, and there are proletarians, who work for the capitalists. Capitalist are rich, workers are poor.
Capitalist are the ruling class (social group) and exert their power on the proletariat making the workers believe that this unfair situation is “natural”.
According to Marx, every society has its dominant ideas that justify and secure the dominance of the ruling class.
The concept of hegemony (Gramsci) is applicable to the modern society and the modern democracy, where, instead of the dominance of the capitalists, there are some groups who are able to control the consensus.

According to Kitzinger, audiences can be grouped into four areas (for empirical/academic research purposes): 1. Market driven 2. Concerns about morality 3. Technological developments 4. Culture, politics, identity
The oldest approaches to understand, study and talk about the audience are the effects model and the uses and gratifications model.

The effect model is also known as the hypodermic model.
The messages are injected, the media are powerful and the audience absorbs passively.
This model is interested in the way media influence their audience.
The audience is treated as an unshaped mass without any distinction among people and groups.
The critical theory developed by the Frankfurt School stresses on the power of capitalism that controls the media and creates a “mass culture Conformity rather than originality No cultural life Creativity is not encouraged .Marxist influence
The cognitive psychology recognises an active reaction of the children (and, more generally, the audience), that interpret the messages broadcasted by the media according to their previous knowledge and experience
The hypodermic model approach focuses on the effects, on what media do to the audience (mass). In the uses and gratifications model, instead, the audience is made of free individuals that “play”, interact with media meanings.

According to the “uses and gratifications” model, media are useful to: * Learn * Relax * Satisfy emotions * Improve social / personal issues

In the ‘70s, the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies (Birmingham University) elaborated a new model based on semiotic, structuralist and sociological approaches.
Effect model <-Cultural studies (encoding/decoding) -> Uses and gratifications model
Stuart Hall’s ideas and three types of audience
The audience is neither passive nor autonomous. Media content is decoded according the shared values and knowledge.The audience can show one of the following positions while interpreting a message: 1. Dominant (hegemonic) 2. Oppositional (rejected for cultural or ideological reasons) 3. Negotiated Most companies have interest in more than one traditional industry.
From our point of view it is interesting to analyse the pattern of ownership of a media company. Integration: when a media organization buys or controls another organization. An Integration can be horizontal or vertical :
Vertical integration: a media company controls other organizations that belong to its production chain.
Horizontal integration: a media company controls the competitors and similar organisations.

What are the possible consequences of a horizontal integration? * Monopoly * Oligopoly * Imperfect * competition * Unwritten agreements between the oligopolists, with serious implications

Advertising: create, or connect with, the market of a product
Marketing, Public Relations (PR), Branding * To position a certain product in its particular market * Other activities that promote a product through different channels: clubs, happenings, events reported by the media * Buy spaces in the media
All these activities can be carried out by advertising/marketing agencies
Branding: to associate some (positive) meanings with a product – to find a competitive distinction * Reputation * Quality * Awareness
Country of Origin Effect: the consumer buys or boycotts a brand because of external reasons related to the place of the owner/manufacturer
Unique Selling Proposition (USP) the particular quality of a product (linked to the reputation and/or image of the company) which advertisers try to communicate to potential buyers – AWARENESS
Synergy
Combined marketing of products across different media and other products (games, toys, internet, television programmes) which are often owned by the same corporation.

Globalisation
There is no distance for communication and media: messages are exchanged instantaneously (technology) There is one economic system: global market, i.e. the “free market” on a worldwide scale
Global Village - There is no distance for communication and media: messages are exchanged instantaneously (technology) There is one economic system: global market, i.e. the “free market” on a worldwide scale .
The globalisation today a) The activities take place in a global arena b) The activities are organised in a global arena c) There is some interdependency between activities happening in different part of the world d) Media and technologies, which enable instantaneous communications, are often involved
Is globalisation positive?
Public Sphere (Ingrid Volkmer): satellite channels enlarge the capacities of nation-state media
Is globalisation negative?
Cultural imperialism (Herbert Schiller): local cultures are destroyed
Expensive model of media production driven by advertisement and branding.High technical quality at a low price: US products are exported easily .
Consumerism: US style is appealing to societies which cannot afford it
It promotes overconsumption and destroys local cultures
Objections to Schiller’s ideas?
US are less powerful (Schillers ideas date back to the late 60s) .Foreign companies have bought US media. Sony (Japan) bought Columbia Pictures (1986) ;Murdoch (Australia) bought 20th Century Fox (1989)

Objections to Schiller’s ideas?
Before the “American imperialism”, local cultures were already affected by other cultures (e.g. European colonialism) It is impossible to totally substitute one culture with another one: we experience hybrid texts.
Globalisation and homogenisation?
According to Herbert Schiller the idea of the cultural imperialism of US should be replaced with “Transnational Corporate Cultural Domination”
Some argued that the production flow crosses countries and cultures: the idea of cultural domination is not accepted because the flow is complex (not only one direction)
Western countries Rest of the world
Media and rules * What must media do (or do not) according to the society? * Who is entitled to decide about that issue? * What kind of control could be exerted?
Social activity
Inform, entertain, educate, control the other powers – government
Cultural activity
Contribute to the cultural heritage of a community; enable people to explore new ideas – the media themselves.
Economic activity
Provide employment, create wealth for individuals, companies, regions/nations- the market and its rules
End of 19th beginning of 20th century: in Europe the media were controlled by governments, mainly for political reasons (propaganda, regime) , while in US they were seen as capitalist enterprises and the role of the state was of little importance.
Public service broadcasting was also a phenomenon existing in the developed countries (BBC, ABC, CBC…)
Other media such as cinema, advertising industry and press, looked at the self-regulation way. Self-regulation means that the media institutions appoint their own committees in order to develop a code of behaviour.
1912: certification of the films in UK
1930: Production Code in Hollywood
Press and advertising developed codes to avoid critics
Until the1980s the governments supported directly the economy controlling inflation and unemployment (Keynesian policies = from the British economist Keynes) by funding the public sector. In the 1980s the governments supported the idea of more free markets
Privatisation: state-controlled enterprises are sold to private companies
The television in Europe is no longer seen as a “public good” but rather as a private good like magazines.
Consequences
New licenses for broadcasting are easily given Rules on “Cross-media ownership” are revised and less strict - that allows horizontal integrations and the concentration of media empires in the hands of a few people The market changes rapidly and moves into a phase also known as “deregulation and liberalisation”
The regulatory environment today * The market and its rules * Audience pressure * The media themselves * Legal framework * Governments * Organizations…...

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