Sign Symbol

Sign Symbol A sign system is representation through communication which in turn leads to a shared meaning or understanding. We hold mental representations that classify and organise the world (whether fact or fiction), people, objects and events into meaningful categories so that we can meaningfully comprehend the world. The media use sign systems through newspapers, magazines, television,internet, and the radio etc. The conceptual map of meaning and language are the basis of representation. The conceptual map of meaning, are concepts organised, arranged and classified into complex relations to one another. The conceptual map of meaning although allows you to distinguish your own individual interpretation of the world, at the same time as holding similar views to that of other people in your culture.

As the meaning is produced and constructed and in turn learned by a particular group of people. Therefore sharing conventions and codes of their language and culture. Signs can only convey meaning if we possess codes which allow us to translate our concepts into language. These codes are the result of social conventions which lead to the shared maps of meaning. These shared meanings are learnt unconsciously as we become members of a culture.If we have a concept of something in our minds we can say we know the meaning of this concept. However we cannot express or communicate this meaning without the second system of representation, language.

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Language is the only way in which meanings can be effectively exchanged between people, as people within the same culture are able to interpret the sign of language in the same manner. As the meanings become natural through the conditioning of culture. For example the word white in Australia represents a colour of purity, however in China it is the colour of death. Demonstrating that different cultures have not only have different meanings in their shared conceptual maps, but a different language to express it. As meanings change rapidly throughout cultures to really understand another culture you must live there and speak the language for some time.

Cultural, social, political, and linguistic conventions are learned over time. The three theories of representation, reflective, intentional and constructionist approaches explain how representations through language work. The reflective approach is where language functions as a mirror of the particular elements perceived meaning. The intentional approach, is where the authors individual views of the world are expressed. Whereas the constructionist approach is where we the audience construct the meaning through our shared conceptual maps and language. The media use these sign symbols so that an association can be made to the object, person, event, or idea etc.

With this information of representation and language the media can familiarise people with many things, such as cultural knowledge. As advertising surrounds consumers, concern is often expressed over the impact on society, particularly on values and lifestyle. While a number of factors influence the cultural values, lifestyles, and behaviour of a society, the overwhelming amount of advertising and its prevalence in the mass media suggests that advertising plays a major role in influencing and transmitting social values. In his book Advertising and Social Change, Ronald Berman says; The Institution of the family, religion and education have grown noticeably weaker over each of the past three generations. The world itself seems to have grown more complex.

In the absence of traditional authority, advertising has become a kind of social guide. It depicts us in all the myriad situations possible to a life of free choice. It provides ideas about style, morality, and behaviour. While there is general agreement that advertising is an important social influence agent, opinions as to the value of its contribution are often negative. Advertising is criticised for encouraging materialism, manipulating consumers to buy things they do not really need, perpetuating stereotyping, and controlling the media.

The media must consider the cultural variables of each country, such as the complexity of learned meanings, norms, language, customs, tastes, attitudes, religion, traditions, education, lifestyle, values, and the ethical/moral standards shared by members of each society. These variables must be learnt by the media as not to offend the group they are portraying. Cultural norms and values offer direction and guidance to members of a society in all aspects of there lives. Every country exhibits cultural traits that influence not just the needs and wants of consumers but how they go about satisfying them. The media must be aware of the connotations of words and symbols used in their messages and understand how advertising copy and slogans are translated.

Advertisers can also encounter problems with the connotative meaning of signs and symbols used in their messages. However within a given culture there are found smaller groups or segments, whose variables (as listed above) set them apart from the larger cultural mainstream. Known as subcultures the media must also learn about their variables as they are just as important due to their size, growth and purchasing power. Such as the Asian or Italian communities in Australia. The study of culture has led to generalisations that may apply to all cultures.

Such characteristics are known as cultural universals, which are manifestations of the total way of life of any group of people. These include such elements such as bodily adornments, court-ship, etiquette, family gestures, joking, food, mealtimes, music, personal names, status differentiation and trade. These activities occur across cultures, but their manifestations may be unique in a particular society, bringing about cultural diversity. Common denominators can be found, but how they are accomplished may vary dramatically. These elements are both material and abstract. Primarily through the media these images are where we find references to conjure images of other countries representations.

These signs are made common to the masses through the media, which in turn through repetition reinforces the image as common. The media use repetition and consistency of a few stereotypical elements to reinforce the central role of the image, linking it to a specific culture. These stereotypes produce otherness from the dominant culture, by focusing on a few different attributes of another culture. This often gets reduced to easy to digest differences such as food, clothes, appearance and music. Which suggests that culture is based on material things around us, a culture of possessions. However these representations avoid important issues that could be very different between cultures.

Advertising perpetuates some of the myths associated with certain cultural groups such as, African American men are good at sports, The French are arrogant and Australians are lazy. As Chiara Giaccardi said in TV Advertising and Social Reality;Advertisements tend to capitalise upon recurrent images and forms of presentation; in so doing they reinforce them, not so much through the individual texts as through the accumulation and repetition of ritualised representation during the entire advertising flow. Advertisements refer not only to things and situations but also a way of seeing and interpreting them. Advertisements constitute a repotoire that viewers can draw upon both for representing and understanding themselves and for making sense of their external reality. Advertising shapes reality to serve capitalism and the post mode …


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