CATS Reflection on Semiotics – 15/10/15

Semiotics, the study of signs, was founded by Ferdinand De Saussure. The study of signs is very important to me, as a journalist, because it helps me get a clearer understanding of what readers would get from my work.

Saussure came up with the theory that there is a signifier, signified and a sign. A signifier is any material thing, which would be what my readers literally see (image, facial expression etc.). The signified is a concept that a signifier refers to, and then when the signifier and signified are both together it makes up the sign. To me, signs are very important because they are the communications between people. Bignell (1997) once stated that “news is not just facts, but representations produced in language and other signs like photographs”.

Another concept from semiotics is connotation and denotation. This is the most simple theory to me and it really helps with visualisations that I create. Denotation is the actual thing that you can see, for example a red love heart. This red love heart would then have connotations of love, romance and valentines day. By taking this into mind when I create things like infographics, I will hopefully be able to send the right message across to my audiences.

There are also communication theories that I have researched, that help explain how we pass messages on. The main theorists are Shannon and Weaver (1949) and Lasswell (1948). Shannon and Weaver’s theory suggests that there is a source, which then goes to a sender, which then goes to a message, and then goes to a receiver, which then goes to a destination. During this communication process, Shannon and Weaver came up with the idea that there may be noise that would interrupt the messages. Lasswell’s theory is very similar to Shannon and Weaver’s, but it suggests that every form of communication is an act of persuasion and it presumes every message has an effect. Laswell’s formula asks ‘who?’, which then goes to ‘says what?’, which then asks ‘in which channels?’, which then asks ‘to whom?’ and then it asks ‘with what effect?’. Personally, I prefer Shannon and Weaver’s theory because to me it’s a more realistic process of communication.


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