Signs and Meanings

June 3, 2009

Schirato, T. and Yell,S., :”Signs and Meaning.” Communication and Cultural Literacy: An Introduction. Sydney: Allen and Unwin, 2000, 18-33.

It’s quite interesting to think about how languages are formed and meanings are delivered through a complex system of signs arranged and used by our society. In a sense, language is a tool developed and used by humans in order to communicate or ‘share’ their interpersonal views or experiences of the world. In our current context, learning to use language or this system of signs seems quite inescapable in order to engage and survive in our social dynamics.

This week’s reading focused on how meanings are formed and signs are used to denote or connote values and meanings in our use of language. Schirato and Yell base their exploration on Ferdinand de Saussure’s work on linguistic semiotics examining how meaning is created and transferred through three aspects of sign deliverance; the signifier, the signified and the sign. From examining how system of signs are arranged and meanings are associated, we become aware that language is profoundly propelled by the social politics. In another sense, I believe language is not only a mere tool we use to communicate but it binds us as a nation and as a community. It is a system constructed by social agreement and as we use this system of signs we are in a sense acknowledging the system of rules set by us. As Schirato and Yell highlight that the association between a sign and what is signified is arbitrary, and it is legitimized through pure social agreement. Through this arbitrarily agreed relation, meanings are formed and transferred among us in order to assist us to understand and act upon the world we are exposed to.

Another profound aspect to take account in meaning deliverance that Schirato and Yell explores in their writing is the ‘richness’ of signs accumulated through its history, tradition and its use in different context and settings. As we progress through time, we embrace both continuity and change according to our environment and same with language, it seems to intensify and reform with time. For instance, now ‘a sign’ embodies various sets of meanings comprised of various denotations and connotations which dynamically shift according to its use by different classes of people and context. It holds immense possibilities and it is there for us to unpack and create appropriate meanings out of it according to different context, different groups of people and also autonomous individuals.

Debating Identity- ‘Unities of Differences’

May 29, 2009

During, S. “Debating Identity” In Cultural Studies: A Critical introduction, Routledge: London, 2005, 194-210

‘Identity’ or ‘Identities’ that each of us construct seem like a rather complex system we engage in in our social settings in order to establish our sense of belonging and place within the collective regimes of identities. Despite the fact that some of our identities are innate qualities that are given to us without choice; such as our physical identities that differentiate us into different race, gender, ethnicity, customs and colour. However, in our current society, the practices of identifying ourselves revolve more around social concerns and judgement as our society constantly classify us, judge us and place us socially in measure of others.

In another words, as we engage or participate in different practices, groups, ideas,values and institutions we are also engaging dynamically with the world and the society we live in. It seems quite inevitable to escape this system of identification or classification in our society as through identification and classification, our social status, values, individualism and our sense of place and belonging are established.

When we think about it, our everyday practices we commit in our everyday life contribute to our collective identity. Our identities are  constructed through these practices of embracing and negating ideas and values and we do this also being aware of others interpersonally judging us.

Simon During, in his writing claims that identities reduce our individuality by lumping us into collective groups. However, in this aspect, sense of belonging to various communities is also established as we agree (or accept) to be part of particular groups. Simultaneously, in this practice we are also able to express our  resistance of values that we are not or that we do not agree with.

‘Children Overboard’

May 27, 2009

A Telling Symbiosis in the Discourse of Hatred: Multimodal News Texts about the ‘Children Overboard’ Affair“– Mary Macken-Horaik

I found this article great in a way that it clearly showed how stories are shaped and constructed in journalism in order to disclose events in a certain way. It was interesting to see how ‘values’ and ‘negative/positive positions’ can be easily shifted in the course of writing a factual report via using different role allocations, categorization and collective/specific presentation to illustrate the event.

Mary Macken-Horaik deconstructs this particular article ‘Children Overboard’ in these categories and shows how these techniques are applied to subliminally imbue what should be considered important in this event.

Firstly in Genericisation-specification, she talks about how we can endow more values and importance according to how we represent the people being involved in specific or generic way.  For example, the articles tend to give more importance to a particular personels by specifically denoting them with their name and status (eg, Prime Minister John Howard) while the group of people who are considered not that important in the story are denoted in a generic group.(the boat people, the government, etc) It was also interesting to see how this technique could also be applied in images as well; as Mary Macken-Horaik mentions the image of the group of children assumed to be thrown overboard is captured as a group with blurred faces which instantly makes them very generic and place them in a group.

The second tool Mary Macken-Horaik talks about in her writing is categorization. Here she extrapolates how different groups of people involved are categorized in different relations depending on what their enactions are in the story and how this practice of categorization identify their status, positions and importance in the story. For example, in this article that Mary Macken-Horaik deconstructs, the asylum seekers are identified by their gender, provenance, appearance and their relation (eg. their children). On the other hand, the Australian rescuers and accusers are classified by their social status such as occupation and often their full names. In result, their role in the story becomes inevitably more legitimate.

The last tool is how we allocate roles to the people in the story. By allocating different roles to particular parties they seems to get organized into different categories and the values that comes with those categories. For example, the Navy plays more active primary role in the story which instantly gives them positive aura. They are denoted as the ones who are ‘helping’ and ‘rescuing’ the asylum seekers who were illegally ‘heading towards australian territory’. On the other hand, the asylum seekers are portrayed in more negative view as they are committing aberrant activities such as ‘throwing children overboard’ in order to be taken ashore.

Media Audience and Audience Studies

May 8, 2009

Coulrdy, Nick.  “The Extended Audience”.  From Gillespie, M. (Ed).  Media Audiences, Opend Uni Press, 2005, 184 – 196 and 210 – 220

 ‘Mass media’ and ‘media journalism’ has often been associated with power in society. It has power to influence, manipulate how we think and also holds credibility for reliable information distribution in society. It seems to me that often our focus is on the media itself and how it can be treated to give adequate information or stimulus. However, when we think about it, media only holds power because there are audiences. Credibility and power only comes from social agreement and celebration. The celebration of media from the mass as a whole endows power on media.

 In this sense, media requires to understand audiences and audience activity in order to engage them in our constant shift in audience behaviour. With technological shifts and different practices and engagements that comes along with new media we realize our behaviour and uses of different mediums also actively change.

 In the age of mass reproduction and mass media, audiences were thought as simple recievers of  information. However, in our current society, examining audience is more complex than it was ever before with the rise of the internet and the concept of ‘user’ given to the public in a global scale. Nick Couldry illustrates this contemporary phenomenon by giving us two main terminologies to the new audience studies; ‘diffused’ and ‘extended’ audiences.

 The term ‘diffused’ audiences basically refers to how our media consumption and usuage has become ubiquous in enacting our everyday life and how it affect us in a pervasive way. It also notes on our spatial/mobile shift in media usuage and how this reforms our way of life and the society as a whole. It was interesting to see how ‘exercise of power’ is questioned in this process of medial shifts. It seems as users of the internet we now stand in a equal platform along with other more professional media corps and in this repect we are given more control in what we can broadcast to the public. We have power to consume what we want and the traditional mass media such as public broadcasting and newspapers does not have power over us as they used to. Distribution of information is also another prominent shift. Our echelon of social structure used to be organized according to classes with more knowledge and information, however, such importance of information seems to diminish with the new mass information distribution enacted by the global network and the formation of ‘informed audiences’.

 Also the ‘diffused audience’ as active users and producers of media no longer fulfills their position as ‘audiences’. Their role as users and also as audiences constantly oscillate between these two very different domains and in this sense thier role as audience has ‘extended’. With the rise of ‘informed audiences’ by networked society, we now define ourselves as active participants of media rather than audiences of various of media forms.

Networked Society & the shift in our social infrastructure

May 1, 2009

Castells, M. Excerpts from “Informationalism, Networks, and the Network Society: A theoretical Blueprint” From The Network Society: A Cross-Cultural Perspective. Cheltenham, UK, Edward Elgar, pgs 3-7 & 36-45

In this text, Castelles explores the concept of ‘networks’ in our social context; as a crucial system that regulates us in our heavily networked society. He examines how humans as social networking animals has embraced practices of networking over significant period of time and how our practices and ways of networking has evolved and intensified with introduction of new technologies. In this respect, he pays high deference to networking as  “fundamental pattern of life” especially in the means of anthropologic discourse.

He begins his extrapolation by illuminating some historical practices of networking prior to Ethernet technology and shows how this globally enacted technology has reconstructed our way of acting and understanding the world we engage in.

When I was reading his text, I could not help but agree with how our society is constantly challenged and reformed in various levels in the event of new technological shift. With the celebration of internet as a global apparatus that defines our way of communication, socialization and information distribution; we are now placed in a complex infrastructure of networks where our sense of time and space has annihilated. This new technology, where it challenges our tradional sequence of time and place, our preconception of these concepts has in a sense insidiously altered as we immerse/connect/navigate in these temporal, virtual spaces provided by the internet. Now as a heavy networkers, it is almost obligatory for us to stay connected. The various tools for networking such as computers and mobile phones now become so attached to us that we feel that they are extention of ourselves. We now make sense of the world by networking and in this process of accepting/ negating/ producing information in response to the world approached to us through this networked medium we construct our identity and individualism. It is also important to note the notion of ‘choice’ that comes along with ‘internet’ and networks. We are now given more choice and control in what we choose to view  power to actively participate and contribute to the dynamic pool of information.

Castelles also notes on distribution of ‘power’ in this technological shift. Now as a powerful tool, networking devices used pervasively in our society places us in a equal platform where everyone is treated equally. The immense distribution of information and knowledge shared through networking seems to have a dramatic impact on our values of information and knowledge and therefore it seems to change our previous perception of power where our social status was organized based on knowledgeous cultural capital individuals build to be socially more credible in our echelon of society. Also as producers, within the internet networks, we are able to broadcast our views along with other major mass media corps.

Convergnece: Internetization and mediatization

April 23, 2009

There were quite a few key definitions outlined in Nightengale’s reading, “New Media Worlds? Challenges for Convergence” that seemed to help summarize the whole conception of convergence eventuating in our contemporary media world.

I found these key terms really helpful in consolidating what concept of convergence embody in media theories so I thought I will share this! 🙂

Firstly the definitions of Reach and Richness refer to the distribution of media and how accurately, securely and broadly it could be conveyed. This concept may seem very basic but by outlining the importance of media deliverance really helped in understanding what the key values are when we engage in any media and also from media markets or producer’s point of view.

Secondly, the reading briefly identifies deconstruction and deintermediation. Deconstruction simply mean reformulation of traditional business structure and deintermediation could indicate to two events; one is when competitor company challenges another company by entering the market place with lower cost but often with less richness while the other event could be associated with technology, how with introduction of new technology entering the market place could provide both ‘reach and richness’.

When we observe these terms we can clearly see that this is exactly what is happening in our current media age where older traditional mediums such as ‘public broadcasting’ and ‘mass media’ namely Newspapers and Television are faced with new technological shift; digitization and internet. The internet is now a immensely celebrated form of media and the digital quality and experience that is embodied with this new(?) technology approach the audience in different means of scale, time and space.

In this sense, I really liked how Fortunati(2005) described this convergence phenomenon as a process of ‘internetisation’ and ‘meditization’ as I strongly believe that this is precisely what is taking place in our digital age. Our traditional media forms are digitizing; converging with internet and vice versa, where internet is becoming more and more mediatized. Now it becomes quite common and natural to gain what we used to transact from traditional medias from their digitized versions through the internet. There is also a profound shift in practices from analog and digital and it seems that this shift in technology is also influencing how we implement our daily routines and practices.

Nightengale, Virginia. “New Media Worlds? Challenges for Convergence” Pgs 130-147

Doubling of Space?

April 16, 2009

Doubling of Space?


 ‘Doubling of Space’ basically portrays our common phenomenon of how now we can co-exist in two places at the same time through our engagememt with various media. Shaun Moores extends this notion illustrated by Scannell to examine various mediums people intensely engage in our everyday life. 

 In our current age where everything seems to converge, especially in technological aspect, we see an entropy caused by overload of information/ideas/cultural exchange and every matter in the world that travel and influence us through various media forms. For example, our engagment level with media is no longer simple nor one way as mass broadcasting or mass publications, ie watching public broadcast television and reading daily newspapers. In our current time, media convergence seems neverending. With the rise of the internet and introduction of new media practices ( how we engage with internet is very different to watching TV or reading newspapers) we are given more control in what we could engage or expose ourselves to regardless of time, physical space or activities.  For example, now we can access internet and be connected globally anywhere we go through various mediums, let it be your laptop, you mobile phone, ipod or you personal electronic gadget. Then again, you maybe talking/communicating  to someone online, ‘cherry picking’ on your online TV, downloading files and also have multiple windows open which are ready to immerse you into different landscapes and information. There’s no longer ‘doubling of space’ but ‘multiplying of space’.

 The terminology of ‘Space’ used here is also very interesting. With emergence of media studies and our everchanging practices/engagments with  media, the terminology ‘space’ now embodies more abstract value. Our constant shift into different media forms such as films, TV shows, news, websites, podcasts and etc  does not exist in the same physical space as we are when we are engaging with them but transport us or trenscend us subconciously into another space that exsists virtually or in different geographical landscape. In this sense, we probably can say that media spaces exist in many dimensions and us as a media user, we engage/ tune in/tune out into various spaces simultaneously acknowledging both our physical space as well as our spaces we choose to immerse into through media.

 Also while we are contantly transported into different media scapes, I think it’s important to note that our physical space hold us in place in our physical world of identity. It is the space where we actively construct our identity and self being as we engage in different media and stimulus of the world. I guess in a sense we could also say that it is our ‘root’ where we extend to make sense of the world and engage with the world.


Moores, Shaun. “The Doubling of Place: Electronic Media, Time-Space Arrangements and Social Relationships”. In Couldry, N. and McCarthy, A, Eds. MediaSpace: Place, Scale and Culture in a Media Age. Routledge, London, 2004, 21-37.

Mobile Phones and Japanese Youth

April 10, 2009

Ito, Mizuko.”Mobile Phones, Japanese Youth, and the Replacement of Social Contact.” In Ling, Rich and Pederson, Per, Eds. Mobile Communications: Renegotiation of the Social Sphere. London: Springer 0 Verlag, 2005, 131-148.

As Mizuko Ito describes mobile technology as time-space compression which enable us to be connected in most places and situations, our discursive use of mobile phones provides us with a virtual space where our privacy is acknowledged. Reading this research paper assembled by Ito, it was fascinating to see how mobile technology introduced to youth does not only provide an alternative method of communication but how it has empowered their inferior social status by providing them a private space for social youth engagement in their otherwise heavily monitored lifestyle by their parents and adulthood.

In this engagement of youth communication there’s a sense of release, escape and freedom where what was considered inappropriate or restricted by adults now could be discretely conducted among youth where the previous control of their parents and teachers are somewhat disintegrated.

However, with the rise with this new cultural form of engagement among youth, it seems to reiterate or reform the whole youth culture in the means of their vernacular, practices and social engagement. For example, Ito explains how the feature of mobile emailing has enabled youth to communicate freely in public spaces without intervening other people’s private spaces. While making a voice call seems to be a faster and easier option to contact others, mobile emailing provides different values to Japanese youth. For example, from mobile emailing, they are able to express their status through emoticons and abbreviated phrases celebrated in this mobile emailing culture. This special form of expression made up by youth in a sense seems to intensify and celebrate their ‘youth’ identity which also seems to associate with the concept of ‘cool’ within their collective group.

Overall, by examining how mobile communications are used in different spaces, Mizuko Ito is able to delineate how the concept of being constantly connected with others through mobile phones in youth culture intensifies their experiences of being ‘youth’ or being part of that identity.


April 2, 2009

Time, Space and Media Immersion

After reading about Scannell’s proposal of ‘doubling of space’ it made me wonder what is now could be defined as ‘being-in-the-world’. As we are now living in a generation where we are constantly immersed in various media, can we really assert that we only exist in a space where we physically belong? Even though our consciousness could have shifted to somewhere else by our immersion in media?

This really interested me.

Before the rise of ‘users’ of the internet, development in technologies and convergence of different media forms which now provides us with more choice, critical mass were exposed to ‘mass media’, namely the national broadcast on Television, Radio and Newspapers. The public’s daily engagement with the mass media could be seen as a ‘national ritual’ and maybe also as a ‘national clock’ or ‘time structure’ as they proliferated into their everyday daily routines.

For example, we can use Couldry’s analogy of ‘media rituals’ here- when we think about it, reading daily newspapers or watching the news or a popular TV show on a certain time, we are engaging in these practices with our individual will but at the same time we are aware that such practices are also being conducted by the mass. Through their engagement with the mass media, they made sense of the world, sorting through information, ideas and concepts projected before them. Most importantly, mass broadcasting provided point of engagement and socializing among society; in another word, it created a sense of ‘national identity’, ‘community’ which brought people together.

Scannell also talks about how the Television programs are structured also affected how the mass organized their time. So for example conforming our time to watch 7oclock news and reorganizing dinner times for their favourite TV shows, we could see how media became a dominant part of peoples everyday routines and how their care structure revolved around public broadcast.

However, with the rise of the internet and new technologies, we now have more control in what we expose ourselves to. Such new media forms as podcast, internet television and online news, we can now choose to watch and listen to different productions/programs in our own choice of time, space and state. Such as TV series that we usually only could watch at certain times on certain days of the week is now available online and one can watch the whole series in few days if they choose to. Also we can now record and download certain radio segments or TV shows to catch up later. This on one hand gives us the power to control what we could not before with the mass broadcasting. We now have a choice in what we choose to watch when and where. However, on the other hand, I feel this annihilates some of the values we had with the traditional media. Firstly, its our sense of community or national ritual we had when we knew that everyone else was watching 7oclock news when I was watching. The practice of socially engaging with others about the same soap we watch at the same time and also while waiting for the next episode. The sense of immediacy we had when we were all watching Live television and Live radio.

I wonder would it really be the same listening to a downladed radio segment that has been broadcasted live few hours ago?

From Scannell, P. ‘Radio, Television and Modern Life’ Blackwell, 144-178