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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

My Semiotic Proposal

Construction of South Canara in the Cyberspace: A Semiotic Analysis

A land gets constructed in numerous ways in the public domain. It can be a drawing on a map, a geographical location described with reference to other landmasses or water bodies or in terms of cultural practices. This however gets represented in different media with each medium constructing it within its possibilities. These media could be folk narratives, gossips, TV, cinema, theatre, newspapers, literature, Radio or internet. The construction of land in each of these medium is contingent on the limitation of each of these medium and the ownership of the medium at the level of the sender.

South Canara has been constructed differently in terms of history, mythology, cultural artefacts, landscape, demography, and social relationships in different media down the centuries. One of the relatively new medium in which it is being constructed is the internet though websites. The place is described in websites of the State, NGOs, educational institutions, tourism firms, print and online media, and web pages of individuals.

This paper tries to analyze the way the internet, where possibilities of many other media converge, constructs the place. It will analyse the myths, metaphors, social meanings, discourses, mediations, stereotypes, ideologies, power, hegemony, representations that are present or surface in the different visual, textual, colour, sound symbols, and codes that the portals employ in the construction of the place.

Select Bibliography

Barthes, Roland. Mythologies. Trs. Annette Lavers. London: Vintage, 1993.

Thwaites, Tony et al. Introducing Cultural and Media Studies. London: Palgrave, 2002.

Watson, James. Media Communication: An Introduction to Theory and Process. 2 ed. London: Palgrave, 2003.





Shikha said...

Advertisements, when broken down to their elements, offer various patterns of study. Often the not-so-obvious elements have more to say than meets the eye. This paper will focus on one such aspect of advertising, namely the use of popular songs in television advertorials.
In contrast to jingles, use of already famous songs in adverts seems to serve many purposes. Over the course of the analysis, I would like to be able to establish the following:
• The relationship between the original artist of the song and the product. On a slightly deeper level, did the artist project the same values the product stands for or did the artist exude an “image” the brand identifies with or the brand would like to be identified with. Generally the artists whose songs are used were iconic figures and it seems as if the brands are drawing on the persona of the icons that they were to make a certain claim and substantiate it.
• The significance of the lyrics with respect to a particular advert as well as the brand image. Quite often the songs chosen are anthem songs. Do they therefore go on to symbolise a larger belief system?
• The storyboard of the advertisement. In most such adverts it is found that the song became a substitute for words (the absent signifier). In the absence of spoken word, does the song itself convey the primary message? When is the conscious decision taken to avoid use of spoken word and why? However, does the significance vary with the product itself? That is to say, if Apple iPod uses a song by popular bands/artists like that of Gorillaz or U2, it seems almost necessary or at least extremely appropriate. Whereas Audi’s using Jimi Hendrix probably serves a different purpose altogether.
• The mood the songs set. What does the song, the tone in which it has been presented, signify? Is it in keeping with the locations, the actors, the age of the actors, and the dress code of the actors?
• How does the song connect with various other symbols incorporated in the advertisement?
• Does the song become the primary signifier or does the artist (even when not seen) become the primary signifier?
• Do they play on a certain cultural stereotype? For example, will the same advertisement be equally effective in different cultures or are they specifically culturally rooted? Substitution of certain present signifiers and the transposition thereof can be used to analyse this.
• Does the time frame in which the advertisement occurs become important?
• The target audience. Who is addressing whom? What is the age of the target audience, what is their cultural background, what are the values they hold good that the advertiser is trying to touch upon?

At this level I have identified some adverts which may serve the purpose. They are:
1. Apple iPod: Series of adverts use popular songs. Two such adverts chosen for this paper are one featuring the song “Feel’s Good Inc.” by the Gorillaz and the other featuring “Vertigo” by U2.
2. Dr. Pepper: Song used “Mahna Mahna” covered by Cake.
3. Mitsubishi Lancer: Song used “One Week” by the Barenaked Ladies.
4. Levis Jeans: An entire campaign using classic song “Walk the Line” by Johnny Cash.
5. Nokia: Song used “Underneath your Clothes” by Shakira
6. Sony PSP: Song used “Take it Out” by Franz Ferdinand
7. Volkswagen: Song used “Mr. Robotto” by The Styx
8. Windows XP: Song used “Ray of Light” by Madonna.

In addition to this, some adverts had songs composed especially for them and had popular artists sing them. One such advertisement was by Adidas. Lyrics were composed by Squeak E. Clean (Sam Spiegel) and the song was sung by Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Audi had Jimi Hendrix in one of their advertisements, the tag line of which read “Designed Under the Influence of Jimi Hendrix”.
Such and many more advertisements have a lot of scope for analysis under the above mentioned criteria which the research paper will cover.

Medha said...

Here's my proposal:

TV news channels in India: How their presentation (sounds, images, colours used, anchors) and style of news dissemination point towards a globalising trend.

* Recently, one has witnessed a boom in news channels on TV in India. Today we have NDTV, Times Now, CNN-IBN, Headlines Today, Star News, and Aaj Tak (to name a few) to choose from for our daily need for news.
All of them are seemingly assembly-line products.
-style of music; setting: similar
-dressing of anchors, their soft skills: similar
-style of presentation (debates, opinion-seeking, interviews, polls): similar
This symbolises a homogenization in TV news and presentation.
* They are definitely TRP-driven due to the intense competition. All such channels are part of the same paradigm set. The viewers are in control of substitution.
There is a lack of transposition.
News has a standardized feel to it.
* Aping of Western models in look and style – BBC, CNN.
* They subtly and overtly attempt to create public opinion, rather force it.
-They give viewers a feeling of involvement through ‘citizen reporters’, sms polls, and open debates. The effectiveness of these varies, and is, debatable to an extent.
I feel, this scenario clearly points towards a trend of globalisation.

Pointers to globalization:-
a)Western role models.
b)Homogeneity among channels
c)Branding: news is about branding now; immense commercial value being attached to news.
d)Dressing styles
e)Previously in India, news was also a government product (Doordarshan). Now private ownership ensures reduced government control. There is more liberty in asking questions, raising issues against the system, bringing up controversial issues.
(i) These channels feed off such liberty; it is their sustaining power.
(ii) In a way, an asserting of freedom that is already legally and constitutionally enshrined. The very fact that there are so many such channels is an indexical sign of freedom of expression, public importance, and democracy.

This globalising trend is the ‘signified’.

* Also these channels in their existing forms are symbolic representations of urban Indian social reality:-
a)Considerable globalization in various components of society and living.
b)A fusion of different preferences (features and special shows on different topics)
c)Trend towards westernisation.
e)Politicisation of most things. (These channels engage in it, hence also reflect it.) The opinions of politicians and their activities shape news.
f)The news they present would indeed be very alien to a rural Indian audience. Again, Branding and the target consumer have been closely kept in mind. Their primary target is the westernising urban Indian, having global preferences, a demand for international news, a taste for various types of news that is reported (entertainment, health, lifestyle, etc), who looks up to new role models, has a new social consciousness, a desire to be able to do something (a response sms is a case in point. It’s a sign that the individual cares and believes he can do something, although it is actually quite inconsequential).
g)This consumer/viewer is not just targeted, but also shaped and created (at some stage). Since they’re all similar, TV channels are compelling us to reconcile all our requirements and meet them in ways that they offer. They are creating more such homogenized viewers, making us believe (through branding and adverts) that what they provide is what we want.
-So in that way they are fuelling urban India’s globalization and westernization.
-They aren’t actually encouraging public opinion, but often, and in the larger picture, forcing it and forcing a new public consciousness.


This research paper would attempt to take up all these points closely and study how these news channels signify globalization. It would also analyse how these channels symbolically represent current realities with the aforesaid points in mind.

For this analysis, the approach used would be in the region of the following:

1.Analysis of the colours used, layout and setting, theme music, images.
2.The Paradigm set and substitution possibilities.
3.Consumer psychology: ‘aspiration’, ‘identifying’ with something.
4.Draw from Indian social, economic, political facts and reality.