[RhetoricNewMedia] Semiotic Diagrams

by Thom Kiraly

As part of our course Rhetoric and New Media we have been assigned to change some semiotic diagrams to better connect them to digital and “new” media… so that’s what I did. Click images for full size.
Diagram 01Diagram 01

Diagram 01 is a look at so called online flame wars, wherein users leave inflammatory comments on websites often followed by other comments commenting on the first rude comment. I use icons (in this case, “icon” is not used in its strictly semiotic sense) from social networking sites (WordPress and YouTube) to replace “image/sound/text” and “meaning”. The “image/sound/text” is replaced by the icons for adding and adjusting various types of content to a wordpress blog post. They refer to the material properties of the signs (comments). The “thumbs down” icon from YouTube replaces “meaning” and is meant to be read as what is being conveyed through the comments: a general disapproval.
From the term “flame war” I extract the homophones signi-fire (for signifier) and signi-fight (signified). Both terms point to the inflammatory and hostile nature of flame wars.
The final replacement is the changing of the letter n in “sign” to an h, creating the word “sigh”. In the original diagram, the sign is the signifier and the signified put together and the same goes for the “sigh” in my diagram.

Diagram 05 shows the sign as part of a larger process of semiosis. The round shape of the circle got me thinking of an eye and the ways in which we spectate and, through our spectatorship, change the behavior of others online. The example I use in my diagram is Facebook. The replacements are not meant to be read as having a 1:1 relationship to the original words. Rather, they are meant to show what makes up a smile on a photo and what the result might be. The teeth is the first part and these are the teeth of the smiler. The eyes are those of the people at the event, but also, through the background with the eye/objective, the eyes of the person holding the camera and those viewing the photo online. The like is both something signaled by the act of smiling and common feature on Facebook. Together these make up a smile as it can be understood in a context wherein Facebook plays a big part and this smile is, in turn, part of and dependent on the symbiosis between signs and the people using them.

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