Media Language

Year 12 & 13 – Key Theories and academic ideas – Media Language

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Barthes – Semiotics

From the spec…

Semiology is the study of signs. Signs consist of a signifier (a word, an image, a sound, and so on) and its meaning – the signified.

The denotation of a sign is its literal meaning (e.g. the word ‘dog’ denotes a mammal that barks).

Denotations signify connotations – the associations of the  denotation (e.g. ‘dogness’ – the thoughts and feelings associated with dogs).

Denotations and connotations are organised into myths – the ideological meaning. These make ideology seem natural. For example, a Bulldog might activate a myth of Britishness.

Todorov – Narratology

From the spec:

Narratology is the study of narrative; in this case, of narrative structure – how the parts fit together to make a whole.

All narratives can be seen as a move from one state of equilibrium (where nothing need occur) to another, new equilibrium. The disruption to the equilibrium is what drives the narrative towards a new equilibrium.

The movement from the initial equilibrium to the new equilibrium entails a transformation (e.g. the hero expresses their heroism and defeats the villain) – this transformation expresses what the narrative values.

Genre Theory – Neale

From the spec:

Genre theory is about what genres are, and about how and why they are created, change endure or decline.

Neale argues that genre is a process by which generic codes and  conventions are shared by producers and audiences through repetition in media products.

This means that genes are not fixed, but constantly evolve with each new addition to the generic corpus (the body of products in a genre), often playing with genre codes and conventions or  becoming hybrids with other genres.

Generic codes and conventions are not just established in media products but in products that refer to these products such as critical writings or advertising and marketing material, what Neale referred to as ‘the intertextual relay’.

Structuralism – Levi Strauss

From the spec:

Structuralism is the study of the hidden rules that govern a structure.

Levi-Strauss thought that the human mind could be investigated by studying the fundamental structure underlying myths and fables from around the world (which he saw as one unitary system). He developed the idea of the ‘binary opposition’ – that the system of myths and fables was ruled by a structure of opposing terms, e.g. hot-cold, male-female, culture-nature, raw-cooked.

Many writers have analysed media products using the idea of the  binary opposition, but seeing the overall system as ‘ideology’ rather than ‘human consciousness’.

Postmodernism – Baudrillard

From the spec:

Postmodernism is the idea that society has moved beyond modernism – either modernism in art and culture (early 20th century) or modernism in the sense of a belief in progress, which  dates back much further.

Baudrillard argued that, as modern societies were organised around production of goods, postmodern society is organised around ‘simulation’ – the play of images and signs.

Previously important social distinctions suffer ‘implosion’ as differences of gender, class, politics and culture dissolve in a world of simulation in which individuals construct their identities.

The new world of ‘hyperreality’ – media simulations, for example, Disneyland and amusement parks, malls and consumer fantasy lands – is more real than the ‘real’, and controls how we think and behave.



Year 12 – NEA Music Video – Universal artists 6: Insomniac records

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Insomniac Records: