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Lecture 13 - Visual Communication - Notes

Visual Communication:

'The Rhetoric of the Image'

Dr Jill Fernie Clarke

Popular Culture - things we come across every day.

The Only Way Is Essex

Roland Barthes / Semiotics 

exploring different layers of meaning and how they relate to images and the way the culture we live in effects our perception.

A photograph of young men and women smiling, enjoying themselves, sat on a chez long.

Our ideas change when we look at it in the context that it was published - Telegraph Online.

The connotations come with our understanding about the program. The cultural connotations can expand depending on your cultural capital and context.

Denotation - is the level of meaning which describes something. The simple meaning of a sign.

Panzani Pasta

Semioticians are people who are involved in semiotics. The study of signs. They try to unpack and explain the meaning behind images.

The sign is the image. The signifier is what you can see. The signified is what is actually conveyed by looking at the image. It could be happiness

Match Magazine

A uniformed boy saluting we see but on other levels it is conveying ideas of patriotism and Frances position within the world. Imperialism.


Barack Obama

A man dressed smartly infront of a building, blue sky. It connotes power, confidence.

Classical building is symbolic - Symbolises that Country should be run by a government. comes from the ancient rome ideas. The reason for the style of building is because it connotes these ideologies. The dome of the building is something the romans brought to europe which then went to america. Using domes in political buildings has meaning. The romans had power and structure.

Dome structure, fed by natural light. It is referenced throughout the world. Including in Leeds. Buildings reference Rome and Ancient greece.

Richestag, Germany - Built as an expression of power. Holds Nazi Connotations.

Visual practitioners interveen to change the symbolism of a building. Christo - wraps the building fully in silk. It no longer held the Nazi Connotations, it became the building that a well known artist had 'wrapped'.  This gave it new meaning, and a new future for Germany.

Rudolf Wittkower. Allegory and the Migration of Symbols. 

Look at in different times and places we use the same symbols to identify things.

World Of Warcraft - we recognise the images and text and we might decode the image. Thinking back to Lord of the Rings and Aragon which is very similar connotations. We look at the red mist to remind us of hell and fire.

Cultural Context

He looked at people who had privileged lifestyles could access high culture art and he drew conclusions about how our culture is stratifies in terms of our education and how people are equipped to understand the meaning of images.

Welsh Flag - Dragon is used in a different context and conveys a different meaning. 

a Saint slays a dragon. we recognise the Saint because of the stained glass. The dragon is used as a symbol of evil and the devil. Saint is fighting a good fight. Angels are included at the top and other symbols of Christianity. 

'How does meaning get into the image? Where does it end? And if it ends, what is there beyond?'
Roland Barthes 

Barthes tries to argue that the culture in which you are situated gives the image meaning. To that extent the image can be used in different contexts and cultures which will give the image different meanings. 

Jagermeister Logo

We know what it is but someone who doesn't might mistake it with spiritual meaning. 

'Another difficulty in analysing connotation is that there is no particular analytical language corresponding to the particularity of its signified - how are the signifieds of connotation to be named?'
Roland Barthes

Can we look at this image without realising what it symbolises. The Nazi's. How do we unpack all these different connotations. 

we recognise the women are painting and sculping. The roman laurel wreaths that was given to champions. 


This video isn't really relevant but i found it really interesting and well made. It's interesting to see how Pop Culture has changed over the years. 

Contemporary and historic footage - teenagers, fads and fashions throughout the decades, dating and romance, political demonstrations, cars, surfing, skateboarding, drugs, nightlife, dancing and more.

Another interesting video. Stephen Sewell talking about how popular culture is turning us into slaves. I like how he is really strong in what he believes in but I don't really agree with him. He raises some interesting points however.

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