Semiotics and Structuralism

Semiotics is the study of various different ‘signs’ or media and how they communicate. Semiotics is really useful in helping us understand that what we call reality it just a system of signs and the analysis of these signs are done by structuralism.

The world is full of signs or media and is trying to communicate to the world and structure a meaning or message, to be in control of these signs and changing the way the world portrays that symbol is extremely empowering. The world creates a meaning through words, colours, gestures, pictures, etc… and these are all signs. For example you could be shown a picture of a rabbit, an illustration of a rabbit, a toy rabbit but our brain deciphers this information to mean rabbit. Imagine you weren’t from this planet, would you still think rabbit?

Another example is Rene Magritte painted the below from his collection called “La trahison des images” which translated from French to English is ‘The Treachery of Images’. “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” from the painting is translated into “This is not a pipe”.

This is in fact a paradox because above is not a pipe it is a picture of a pipe. Signs will often have signifiers, so like above the picture of the pipe of a signifier which leads to the concept or thought of a pipe, this is classed as signified. However, both the signifier and signified refer to referent, the actual pipe. There can be so many different types of signsnot just Iconic Signs as above :

  • Arbitrary Signs: Language
  • Iconic Signs: Drawings, pictures, photographs, etc…
  • Indexical Signs: Evidence of a sign for example smoke from a fire
  • Symbolic Signs: Signs that are given a language meaning, such as crown means royalty, or various flags.

These signs are thought to divide the world into imaginative categories, so the more variations of the signs you have the more imaginative that category is. However, often media will divide the world due to the differences in imaginative categories and cause binary opposition. Binary opposition which is for example: Good/Evil, Man/Woman, Black/White.

Structuralism is an analytical method and if often linked with the anaylsis of semiotics. Structuralism in its early form was trying to analyse linguistics which is an arbitrary sign, so we could categorise the linguistic meanings into reflection (fact or unbiased) or intention (biased or expressions), unfortunately in current culture it is not so easy to label everything as most linguistics normally are intentional. Now Structuralism tries to suggest that the human behaviour is seen in extremes or its differences.