Media & Culture - Sign Symbol


A sign system is representation through communication which in turn leads to a shared meaning or understanding. We hold mental representations that classify and organise the world (whether fact or fiction), people, objects and events into meaningful categories so that we can meaningfully comprehend the world. The media use sign systems through newspapers, magazines, television,internet, and the radio etc.
The conceptual map of meaning and language are the basis of representation. The conceptual map of meaning, are concepts organised, arranged and classified into complex relations to one another. The conceptual map of meaning although allows you to distinguish your own individual interpretation of the world, at the same time as holding similar views to that of other people in your culture. As the meaning is produced and constructed and in turn learned by a particular group of people. Therefore sharing conventions and codes of their language and culture. Signs can only convey meaning if we possess codes which allow us to translate our concepts into language. These codes are the result of social conventions which lead to the shared maps of meaning. These shared meanings are learnt unconsciously as we become members of a culture.If we have a concept of something in our minds we can say we know the meaning of this concept.
However we cannot express or communicate this meaning without the second system of representation, language. Language is the only way in which meanings can be effectively exchanged between people, as people within the same culture are able to interpret the sign of language in the same manner. As the meanings become natural through the conditioning of culture. For example the word white in Australia represents a colour of purity, however in China it is the colour of death. Demonstrating that different cultures have not only have different meanings in their shared conceptual maps, but a different language to express it. As meanings change rapidly throughout cultures to really understand another culture you must live there and speak the language for some time. Cultural, social, political, and linguistic conventions are learned over time.
The three theories of representation, reflective, intentional and constructionist approaches explain how representations through language work. The reflective approach is where language functions as a ÔmirrorÕ of the particular elements perceived meaning. The intentional approach, is where the authors individual views of the world are expressed. Whereas the constructionist approach is where we the audience construct the meaning through our shared conceptual maps and language.
The media use these sign symbols so that an association can be made to the object, person, event, or idea etc. With this information of representation and language the media can familiarise people with many things, such as cultural knowledge. As advertising surrounds consumers, concern is often expressed over the impact on society, particularly on values and lifestyle. While a number of factors influence the cultural values, lifestyles, and behaviour of a society, the overwhelming amount of advertising and its prevalence in the mass media suggests that advertising plays a major role in influencing and transmitting social values. In his book Advertising and Social Change, Ronald Berman says;
The Institution of the family, religion and education have grown noticeably weaker over each of the past three generations. The world itself seems to have grown more complex. In the absence of traditional authority, advertising has become a kind of social guide. It depicts us in all the myriad situations possible to a life of free choice. It provides ideas about style, morality, and behaviour.
While there is general agreement that advertising is an important social influence agent, opinions as to the value of its contribution are often negative. Advertising is criticised for encouraging materialism, manipulating consumers to buy things they do not really need, perpetuating stereotyping, and controlling the media.
The media must consider the cultural variables of each country, such as the complexity of learned meanings, norms, language, customs, tastes, attitudes, religion, traditions, education, lifestyle, values, and the ethical/moral standards shared by members of each society. These variables must be learnt by the media as not to offend the group they are portraying. Cultural norms and values offer direction and guidance to members of a society in all aspects of there lives. Every country exhibits cultural traits that influence not just