[Bibliography] [Relevant Link] [Other Theories][Cultural Studies]
Cultural Studies: Representation and Identity

Cultural Semiotics and
the Process of Encoding, Decoding

Starting Questions:
  1. What is representation?     Cannot meaning happen in reality but not in signs or representation?
  2. What is Cultural semiotics?  How do we do a semiotic study of cultural representation?
  3. In discussiong the encoding/decoding process, how does Hall look at semiotics differently from Danesi & Perron?  Hall uses television as an example.  Will the paradigm be different if we discuss the encoding/decoding process in literature?
  4. What are the codes used in literary realism or news broadcast?
  5. What are the possible viewing positions given by Roland Barthes or Stuart Hall?
I. Cultural Semiotics: Language,  Body and Space as examples

1. What is culture?  And Cultural Semiotics  -- p. 23
semiosis and representation pp. 68-69
p. 68
The primary objective of semiotics is to understand both the brain's capacity to make and understand signs, and the knowledge-making activity this capacity allows all human beings to carry out.  The capacity is known as semiosis, the activity as representation.  Semiosis is the neurobiological capacity itself that underlies the production and comprehension of signs, from simple physiological signals to those that reveal highly complex symbolism; representation is a deliberate use of signs to probe, classify, and hence know the world.

2. method p. 105

3. Body --

4. Language --

II. the Process of Encoding, Decoding

1. process of communication: Hall suggests a four-stage theory of communication: production, circulation, use (which here he calls distribution or consumption), and reproduction. 
2. the relationship between the stages of communication: For him each stage is 'relatively autonomous' from the others.  This means that the coding of a message does control its reception but not transparently--each stage has its own determining limits and possibilities. 
3. polysemy but not pluralism:The concept of relative autonomy allows him to argue that polysemy is not the same as pluralism: messages are not open to any interpretation or use whatsoever--just because each stage in the circuit limits possibilities in the next. 
4. complex structure of dominiance--1) at each stage [messages] are 'imprinted' by institutional power relations.  2) power relations at the point of production . . . will loosely fit those at the point of consumption. --> a message can only be received at a particular stage if it is recognizable or appropriate. 
1. Process of communication:
Circulation of product in a discursive form
The apparatuses, relations and practices of production --> discursive form or
"message form" -->
social practices --> articulation of meaning, taking of meaning

A. Production

  1. A 'raw' historical event cannot, in that form, be transmitted by, say, a television newscast.  Events can only be significed within the aural-visual forms of the televisual discourse.  pp. 91-92
  2. Not in a closed system: "[The production structures] draw topics, treatments, agendas, events, personanel, images of the audience, 'definitions of the situation' from other sources and other discurvsive formations within the wider socio-cultural and political structure of which they are a differentiated part."  The audience is another source of the television message.
  • B. Reception
    1. Communication as a highly structured, asymmetrical and non-equivalent process.
      programme as 
      meaningful discourse
      meaning sturctures 1
      meaning structure 2
      frameworks of 
      frameworks of 
      relations of production
      relations of production
      technical infrastructure
      technical infrastructure
    2. '"meaning structure 1" and "meaning structure 2" may not be the same.  ...The codes of encoding and deconding may not be perfectly the symmetrical.  The degrees of symmetry--that is, the degrees of 'understanding' and 'misunderstanding' in the communicative exchange--depend on the degrees of symmetry/asymmetry established  between the positions of the ...encoder-producer and decoder-receiver.'
    3. against behaviorism in audience studies.
    4. against selective perception--never selective, random, or privatized as the concept suggest.
    5. misunderstanding p. 99  --1. failure to use the operate within the 'dominant' or 'preferred' code.
    C. Televisiual code --against realism or the natural
    1. denotation and connotation defined pp. 95- 98 (using Roland Barthes): At the level of connotation, situation ideologies alter and transform signification.
    2. dominant meaning structure p. 98

    D. Three hypothetical position of decoding:
    1. the dominant-hegemonic position
    2. negotiated code or position
    3. decoding the message in a globally contrary way.  He/she detotalizes the message in the preferred code in order to retotalize the message within some alternative framework of reference.

    4. Sources:
    Danesi, Marcel & Paul Perron.  Analyzing Cultures: An Introduction and Handbook.   Indiana UP, 1999.
    Hall, Stuart.  "Encoding, Decoding."   The Cultural Studies Reader.  Ed. During, Simon.   NY: Routledge, 1993: 90-103.