This is the home of the socialsemiotics
(Created by email@example.com 17012011) space.
403665, Social Semiotics (TSE140Ab), 3-5 op
Jakso perehdyttää semiotiikan alueeseen, jossa tutkitaan yhteisöllisissä ja kulttuurisissa tilanteissa muodostuvia merkityskäytäntöjä. Fokus on merkityksen sosiaalisissa ulottuvuuksissa varsinkin kuluttajatutkimuksen näkökulmasta. Jakson aikana keskustellaan myös merkityksen muodostumisen mahdollisuudesta sosiaaliseksi toiminnaksi ja keskustellaan yksilön ja yhteisön muistin muodostumisesta ja nykyisen kulutusyhteiskunnan vaikutuksista identiteetin muodostumiseen. Kurssin aikana annetaan konkreettisia esimerkejä läpikäydyistä asioista.
Within the course, the basic sociosemiotic notions are introduced to understand how the communal and cultural signifying practices in different situations and contexts emerge. The dialectics between collective and personal memory as well as the complex set of features for the identity forming provided by the contemporary consumer culture is pondered on. Throughout the course, concrete approaches to examples are presented.
The course is in English and Finnish. Some of the potential topics are (the underlined are most interesting at least from my perspective):
How to execute the course:
You can gain 3 or 5 credit points
2. You can gain 5 Credit points if you keep a diary/blog related to your topic of interest, e.g. select a book or books and journals that you describe and ponder in your blog and write an essay 10 pages.
In the calendar below are some dead lines that shoud help you to keep up with the writing.
Basic materials to get started:
STUDENTS WHO HAVE TOPIC AND BLOGGING IDEAS:
Social representations - Social order Theoretical model
Blogging/diary ideas: Greimas - actantial model and N. Fairclough
Shari's blog posts here: http://firstname.lastname@example.org/Home
Geographical area - historical aspect is important in the "analysis"
3. Kare's ideas
3. CANCELLED Adam
Identity building - how people relate different identies in internet ...Jaan Valsiner
Advertisement between routine and innovation
After reading more of Kilpinen my idea so far is that advertisement benefits both from the more traditional definition of habitual behaviour as routine and from Peirce's conception of habit as allowing change and as logic interpretant of signs. In my opinion it could be claimed that advertisement aims on one level at a basic need and everyday consumption behaviour but on the other hand it tries to trigger an individualistic and idealistic wish in the consumer. Peirce's idea of habit and action enable the customer to react in a more, shall we say, educated way to ads and gives us an amount of reflectiveness toward commercial influence. On the other hand, the impact of the social environment needs to be taken into consideration as well. My idea here is that as well as social class - depending on where one lives - and the closer social environment will have the biggest impact. They, together with education, should at least influence the choice one makes for one's whole life (see Kilpinen p. 74 Lebensführung), but here I see some problems with the time in life when a person is able to decide her conduct of life and whether it is at all subject to change. I assume that major inferences may lead to change. This is perhaps something I will not ponder upon in my essay though even though advertisement strategists would certainly spend some thought on long-term development of a brand and its commercial exploitation.
To come back to my wish to analyze animals in ads I would suggest at this point that they do not belong to the realm of rational action but rather to habit as generalization out of which actions are born. To make it hopefully more clear we could say that before a person could react to an animal at all she must have a concept of animal in general, which derives from experience, education and reflection. I will come back to this later. Also the to Peirce important aesthetics will play a part here.
I'm afraid of going to a level a bit too high for everyday life exposure to commercials but I believe the idea of the processual formation of habits and reasoning is valuable as is the notion of corporeal action and the instinctive level.
MB: This starts to sound good. I feel you are going into right direction and I am looking forward what will come.
Erkki Kilpinen (2000): The Enormous Fly-wheel of Society
Kilpinen discusses the influence of pragmatism in social theory. Habit is seen differently in pragmatism and sociology. I am interested in analysing whether routine or relective behaviour would be favoured in advertisement. In addition it is interesting to investigate how the pragmatistic concept of habitualisation of action would show in consumerist behaviour, i.e. in consumption of commodities, and how it is addressed in advertisement. Toward the end I hope to be able to fit the animals into the picture. At a the first thought it would seem that repeated actions would lead to conservative behaviour that is not easy to change. Charles Peirce though believed, as Kilpinen points out, that learning influences the change of habit once a disturbance occurs. Learning help forming new intellectual habits instead of just supporting routines. Peirce and also Dewey had a reflective concept of action shown in Peirce's words "... every man exercises more or less control over himself by means of modifying his own habits" and not by blindly following what he once learned. Pragmatists criticise utilitarianism and do not believe in a model of action based on rational choice only. Rationality is not the single driving force in action or as Kilpinen quotes "rationality without habituality is empty – habituality without rationality is blind" (p. 27). Whether too much emphasis has been put on the importance of individual choice (see p. 23) has been a question for me when studying phenomena such as advertisement, media, etc. Both the influence of social order and consciousness should be taken into consideration when analysing habit in modern capitalistic society. At this point I am undecided as to what degree society influences the individual in her or his action, ans I assume the influence depends much on the circumstances and kind of action. The terms 'conduct of life' (p. 27) and 'lifestyle' may need some further investigation at a later stage.
Human activity is for Peirce and other pragmatists "an ongoing cyclical process which oscillates between doubt- and belief-_situations" (p. 24) which is connected to learning as mentioned above. Pragmatists emphasises the "constitutive role of _creativity in human action" (p. 29) and puts abduction, i.e. generating new conditions, over production. Creativity is an 'anthropological universal' (Kilpinen after Joas p. 30/31) showing in human action in certain situations. Peirce uses the term 'abduction' that needs both logic and intuition in order to work and brings new elements into the process of reasoning as well as deal with unforeseen situations. This assumption is more reasonable than mere utilitarianism would allow to deal with action and would give me a better base to understand the processes involved in advertisement and consumption. Dewey's quote "Creativity is our great need, but criticism, self-criticism is the way to its release." (p. 29) is a very stimulating point of departure to study pragmatism's conception of rationality that is, as Kilpinen underlines, "closely geared to the (reflexively interpreted) concept of habit (p. 30). According to Joas the outlets of creativity are wit their origins in brackets expression (idealism of German Enlightenment), production (Marx), revolution (Marx), life (philosophy of life), intelligence and reconstruction (classical pragmatism). Kilpinen relates those to the pragmatists' terms 'workmanship' and 'craftsmanship' to put Joas' categories into one, workmanship, therewith providing a connection allowing the notion of "open-ended and self-purposive element in human activity" (Schiller's Spieltrieb) into the term.
Actions are intentional Kilpinen agrees with Joas but do not necessarily require consciousness or certain purpose. However, Kilpinen points out that Peirce already used the term semeiosis as both conscious and non-conscious sign interpreting activity. To illustrate the activity further Kilpinen quotes T.L. Short: (...) "Consciousness and intentionality are not essential to the existence, replication, or interpretation of signs. What is a purpose or goal (...) that is shared." (p. 32). In this processes there are both mechanisms as a vital part of human activity that does not exclude habit as described above, but has a habit of routine or "efficient instrumentality" (Dewey).
Semeiosis, or semiosis, as well as habit and action will be investigated further.
Now it's going to be a bit confusing with my postings - I have lost my blog on Danesi's Brands (was travelling and either did not save it or saved somewhere really odd) and will post this a little later, tomorrow the latest. After that there will be a blog on Habits based on Kilpinen. I got the book last week and must read it now immediately because I will have to return it again after four weeks. Afterwards I'll return to Barthes. First of all though here an outline of the structure of my essay:
Animals in Advertisement
- Why animals in advertisement and why are they interesting?
I Advertising brands
- The process of semiosis with brands
- Why brands work
II The application of animal myths
- Animals as signs: icon, index, symbol
Names/Brands: Mustang, Lambi, Erdal Rex, John Deer
Underlying myths of consumer cultures
Wine is a traditionally French drink, comparable to tea in Britain or beer in Germany. Consuming wine is not only normal, it is socially presumed. Barthes remarks a French, who does not drink wine, will have to explain why and will face problems of integration. Wine exhibits French lifestyle, it brings with it a whole culture of growing, making, selling, buying and finally drinking wine. Drinking wine is sign of cultural awareness, style, etiquette, and a logo for the French countryside. On the other hand, as Barthes points out, the production of wine is not entirely unproblematic.
What is wine for France is beer for Germany (even though wine is popular in Germany too and there is a long wine cultivating and drinking tradition thanks to the Romans). Beer is present everywhere and especially in advertisement. There is no commercial break on television without beer ads and they can be found everywhere where space for ads is available. Interesting is the connection of beer and sports. Breweries are main sponsors of sporting events and teams. Drinking beer is German, socially accepted and the norm. As a myth it promises sociability, friendship, esprit, good luck or compensation, and even good weather.
If I compare the marketing of wine and beer in Finland it becomes clear that Finland does obviously not have a wine culture because it cannot grow wine. Beer instead is common and widely available. So are its commercials. Other popular drinks such as ciders are also advertised extensively but I would argue beer commercials are still the most widespread. In Finland beer belongs to male culture, outdoor activities, sauna, and having a good time. This is at least the picture advertisements provide us with. Women are rarely featured in beer ads and such ads are not found in for example magazines targeted at women. Whether women drink equal amounts of beer compared to men is a different issue and it is well possible that the drinking behaviour of women in general is much more diversified. Brands like Karjala, Karhu, Lapin Kulta, and Koff are advertised as Finish beer even though the breweries belong to multinational corporate power. The same is often true for French wines and German beer as well. The socio-national myth is obsolete but advertisers are not keen on giving them up yet. Additionally to the worldwide market forced Finnish alcohol politics cast a shadow on marketing. Still, Finnish beer brands have a strong presence in advertisement space.
The ambiguity of our daily life, as Barthes writes, can be detected in such mythologies as the ones of wine and beer. In other essays he keenly works out how novelties are introduced in advertisement or media in strong connection to them not being a threat to the establishment. Basically this is evident nowadays as well even though some commercials have statements along the line of “forget the old” but the replacement very seldom wipes out what has been available before. What is advertised and acquired as new has usually only a new name and look. The structures of consumption and consumer society are based on mythology according to Barthes – his example of the monarchy was striking in this respect - but the rule of the market to sell more and ceaselessly meet the tradition by creating new brands instead of new products.
Barthes’ essay “Toys” left me thinking for quite a while. He wrote that French toys are not toys made for children to play with but small models of items adults use for a purpose in everyday life. Additionally they are made of inferior materials. I could not help but agree. I had to rake my mind to find real toys for game-playing’s sake and came up with puzzles and various games additionally to Barthes’ example of the wooden blocks. Of course, games and puzzles are used by adults as well but do not belong to a strict function if entertainment and education are excluded from such. Toys as well as the above mentioned drinks, which are in this case only alcoholic but there are other examples also, promote the society as it is and despite advertising their novelty will not disturb the status quo.
To make a brand is basically to give a product and/or its producer a name. To process was started at the end of the 19th century and still goes on even though critical thinking should be evoked by the sheer number of advertisements an average person encounters today. Giving a name to a product no longer suffices to make it stand out from the mass of advertised commodities and services. The band needs an image and a logo in order to make an impression on the customer and stick in her memory. In connection with this threefold product advertising I am interested in how society's self-image and identity is reflected in the mental construct of a product. What pictures, ideas and values are embedded in this construction?
In order to have very concrete examples and approach the problem from an everyday perspective I am going to focus on brands working with animal images. These include cars (from Peugeot to Lamborghini) as well as household commodities (in Finland for example toilet paper). I am open to suggestions also from your home countries and would be happy if you'd provide me with pictures, web pages, etc.
The role of animals in Western societies, which are the only ones I dare to look at due to my own background, differ nowadays from what they used to be. There are pets, but working animals are rather rare. Animals are manifold in food production but farms are replaced by food factories removed from people's life. Wildlife is available in zoos and television or other media. Nevertheless, animals are deeply routed in cultural traditions via mythology and folk lore. Animal imagery should not be underestimated in the creation of meaning, story and image. It is not without reason that we find animals in advertisement as they additionally to spontaneous evocation of adoration or ridicule also have the potential to penetrate into hidden layers of social history.
On a side line: four years ago an new born polar bear cub was cast out by its mother and raised by hand by a man. Knut soon became a local hero at the zoo in Berlin and national subject of both adoration and dispute. Knut died of a brain disease on the 19th of this month. Ever since there is a strong public debate whether it is acceptable to keep a wild animals of the size and characteristics of a polar bear in captivity. This example helps to illustrate that animals may indeed have an impact on modern societies. Even though polar bears are rather remote from Germany, the city of Berlin features a bear in its cote-of-arms and a bear is its official mascot.