SIGN SYSTEMS OF MEDIACULTURE AS REALITY CODIFIERS
Prof. Dr., Ural Federal University named after the First President of Russia B.N. Yeltsin, Russia, firstname.lastname@example.org
The relevance of this research is rooted in the fact that mediaculture, as a late XXth – early XXIst century phenomenon, is a sum total of various communication media, and a culture of production, transmission and consumption of information. Of particular interest are sign systems of mass media and their dynamical development. The author’s goal in this paper is to explore sign systems of screen media that dominate contemporary media space (cinema, photography, computer technologies, Internet) by analysing characteristic features of different media languages.
Those who contributed to the research into the language of mediaculture comprise a long list of foreign and Russian researchers: A. Bazin, R. Barthes, M. Bakhtin, B. Bibler, J. Baudrillard, N. Boltz, L. Delluc, L. Vygotsky, M. McLuhan, J. Derrida, Yu. Lotman, N. Luhmann, K. Razlogov, U. Eco, R. Jakobson, M. Yampolsky and others. Their methodological approaches are still relevant and applicable in modern humanities including cultural studies, linguistics, sociology, philosophy.
Information and semiotic approach desribes mediaculture in its main aspects: as a system of artefacts (Lat. arte, “artificial” and factus, “made”), and as a system of symbols and signs. Utilizing linguistic approaches to explore the language of art, Yuri Lotman demonstrated that all cultural phenomena should be perceived as texts that contain information and meaning. Since Lotman’s concept of “text” is multilayered, for the purpose of explaining the language of mediaculture it should include not only verbal written messages (books, newspaper or magazine articles) but all types of media. The examples are: a movie, a TV program, a video, a web-site, etc.
Like the entire system of mass communications, media text has been evolving for a long time. Canadian sociologist Herbert Marshall McLuhan determined the existence of the following stages in human civilization and in the history of mediaculture: 1) oral pre-literate era; 2) a thousand years of phonetic writing; 3) the “Gutenberg Galaxy” comprising the five centuries of print culture; 4) the “Marconi Galaxy”, i.e. the electronic civilization. Modern American explorer Manuel Castells described the features of the new information civilization – the “Internet Galaxy”.
The language of mediaculture comprises signs and sign aggregates (“texts”) that “encode” certain information – that is, their content and meaning. Therefore, to understand any mediacultural phenomenon we need to grasp its idea, since only a text made comprehensible becomes a part of culture.
The works on semantic analysis of Julia Kristeva, who had developed M.Bachtin’s concepts of “dialogue” and “polyphony”, proved influential in postmodern linguistics. She established a concept of “cultural polylogue” and introduced in semiotics the notions of “hypertext”, “intertext”, “genotext” and “phenotext”.
The differences between written, aural and visual media are widely discussed. The fundamental principle here is a letter, a system for recording signs (letters) of natural language, oral speech. The invention of sign recording systems is one of the great achievements of human thought. In the works of Jacques Derrida "Letter and Difference", "Positions" and others, it is noted that the letter is perceived by Western philosophy as body and matter in relation to spirit and logos. Aural systems, whose history includes radio, gramophone, tape recorder, CD-ROM etc., prioritize in their structure sound, speech, music, vocalization: here time is an important factor that includes two dimensions – the sequential and the simultaneous. The structuring of visual systems is space-determined. In traditional visual arts (painting, drawing, poster) iconic sign systems dominate.
Audiovisual mediaculture that reproduces reality employs “photogéni” (Louis Delluc) – an aesthetic of frame. This characteristic belongs not only to photography, but also to the most immersive screen-based communications media, including cinema, television, animation, computer screen, web-site. These media share the same “screen language” and the same symbolic and semiotic potential, despite considerable differences. This shared characteristic if frame.
The language of digital screen, which is based on digital encoding, not only communicates something to us using frames or visual images, not just transmits a “picture”, a speech or a piece of music – it communicates with us. Interactivity allows us to make contact – that is, to acquire a communication partner. At the same time, a myriad of texts, static and moving images circulate within the global information network, forming the sphere of audiovisual technologies and new media strategies that confirm the universality and interactivity of contemporary screen language, its ability to foster cultural dialogue and polylogue.
Conclusions. Analysis confirms the relevance of theoretical research of mediaculture’s sign systems that serve as reality codifiers, and the need of vigorous research into such systems and their use in theory and practice of cultural, social and leisure studies, as well as in media education.
Keywords: mediaculture, sign systems, reality codifiers.
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