Exercise 2 Join the Navy

Denotation
The poster calling for  men to join the navy by Richard Babcock shows a young man in sailor uniform astride a torpedo in the sea, the waves either side indicating some speed. The bold typeface in red is a strong call to join the navy. Beneath that the bold blue typography is in two sizes emphasizing that the navy is for “fighting men” .
Connotation
Given that this was created in 1917 it is unlikely that the artist intended the torpedo to appear as such an obvious phallic symbol. The way the sailor is holding on to it and the posture of one arm raised suggests that he is riding a bucking bronco. I imagine this was the artist’s intention and would appeal to a young man’s fantasy of being tough and masculine in 1917 – a fighting man. The obvious excitement and pleasure in the sailor’s face would offer the idea that being in the navy would be exhilarating.

Further exploration

pepsi ad pepsi mirrorLooking at these two adverts for Pepsi, I find them really amusing and therefore eye catching.

In the first image the sense is of a feminine scene with the soft pink background. On the lower right side of the image there are three small stylised butterflies, one white and two pink. This contributes to the fresh and light mood and suggests flowers.

 

My interpretation is that the woman is getting ready to go out and is spraying a mist of perfume onto her neck, Except that it isn’t perfume it is Pepsi.  I really like the idea of this very light and cool spray.  The typography is elegant with the word “NEW”  in white so that it stands out. Bizarrely, underneath the text that tells us what the product is, there is more text saying the it is a  “sexy drink” . Where I was amused by this advert, when I asked a friend to comment he said he thought it was stupid and asked what the connection could possibly be between a soft drink and perfume. I originally saw this advert on the internet and wonder if it is for a different cultural audience, perhaps.

The clean bathroom image, shiny bin, tidy towel and  with the impossibly narrow   mirror signifies a clean, healthy thin person looking in the mirror. The connotation is that if you drink Pepsi Light you will lose so much weight that you will only need this very narrow mirror. There is no text in this advert, just a can of Pepsi on a white background, bottom right of the image. The brand itself is already so well known that the advert is merely reinforcing. In reality soft drinks do not make anyone lose weight, but the connotation is very powerful. I like the creativity in both of these adverts and the simplicity and freshness appeal to me, possibly reflecting my own values.   I am attracted to connotations that are not overtly sexual and are possibly   ” stupid” in someone else’s eyes!

Reflecting on all three of these adverts, it seems that connotations are something of a conspiracy into which the target audience willingly enters. We know that it will be hard work and extremely dangerous to be in the navy in 1917. Young men at that time will have known that war was a great risk to their lives, and yet the advert will have appealed to their masculinity and pride,  In a similar way the Pepsi adverts are appealing to the myth that some things will make you slim and that other people will see that you are looking after your figure and therefore admire you.

Here are a couple of  powerful  archetypes –  the strong fearless man going to war, and the always clean and fresh and sweet smelling woman at home, watching her waistline in order to remain attractive to the man of her dreams.

Visual communications : research point communication theory (Conundrum)

Reading the article by Whitney Davis called Communication Theory I was surprised and curious about the difference between information and communication and that something or some object could be information bearing and not necessarily transmitting (accurate) communication. The example given of the hat, if taken further, I can see that somebody wearing the green, gold, red and black colours on a Rastafarian hat ( called a tam or rastacap) would need to be seen by a person who knew what the colours represented before they could identify the wearer as possibly a Rastafarian.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rasta_Man_Barbados.jpg

 

Even then some social circles would have limited understanding of the Rastafarian tradition and might associate it solely with cannabis use . Then again, the wearer of the hat might not be a Rastafarian but a worker who wanted to keep long hair or dreadlocks out of the way and under a hat. It could also be worn by someone who simply enjoyed the colours and the hat could be perceived both by the wearer and by a viewer as a colourful piece of headgear in its own right . As the article says, the context and communication has to be established in each case.
This is a reminder of subjectivity on the part of the creator of art as well as the one who exhibits or shows it in some way, and then the subjectivity of those viewing . Each may have an unconscious as well as conscious agenda and carry different cultural , educational and social conditioning.

 

In Jakobson’s analysis the interdependence of the six functions : addresser, addressee, message , code, context and contact is a helpful way of looking at communication and particularly looking at codes . If a code is culturally and socially understood it is likely to communicate clearly , particularly if other factors are in place . Jakobson does indicate that the variables are huge, given the different emphasis in each situation.

 

Brice says that meaningful communication depends on the background of mutual common knowledge and on abiding by various maxims of clarity, propriety and relevance . This is clear when I consider that the thumbs up gesture in Britain is taken to mean a sign of approval but in places such as Latin America , West Africa and Iran, it is an offensive gesture meaning something quite different.

It seems that communication requires many factors to be in place before an accurate and smooth message can be conveyed . Thinking of the statement that the media is the message I wonder how accurate that is. The subtleties seem to rest on so many individual factors.
For me, this is part of the excitement of art. That a piece of art could represent many different things, and that each person relates to it slightly differently , or hugely differently, feels more interesting than a narrow channel of expected response. However, in terms of the need for more accurate communication using mass media, I can see that another more targeted approach would be needed.

Project 1 Exercise 1

What happens to a story when you take it from its source ,  make it permanent in print and disseminate to a wide audience?

  • Taking a story which has perhaps only been heard previously, via oral tradition, and printing it for it to be read means that the expression of the story would change. hearing the inflexions and tones of the voice telling the story would be lost. In some cultures stories were chanted or sung.  It has been interesting for me to attend readings by authors whose books I have read. hearing them read their own work often makes the story more immediate and alive.
  • The printed story becomes fixed, loses the possibility of subtle changes that might occur with oral story-telling.
  • The story exists beyond the time when there is nobody who remembers it orally.
  • The story also becomes public, loses privacy and the details are available indefinitely.
  • And…individuals can read the story in private, there is more privacy in reading print.
  • The story can spread the word in a positive sense too, sharing about cultural histories and mythology.
  • The story may be about a skill and printing it would offer other people that information and give them access to that skill. More broadly printing would be a way of exchanging ideas, knowledge and research.
  • Stories could be read aloud to a group of people by someone unfamiliar with the oral tradition.

Implications from the printing press.

  • Initially the church had control of what was handwritten and shared. This meant they could censor or limit information. With printing the church lost this power.
  • Is there some hierarchical control over the content of what is printed now and how do we know it to be true ? This is a question I would ask primarily around newspaper and magazine journalism and is probably more about the writer than the printing. However, social and political opinion is informed by newspapers. I do see how printing may have been a powerful agent for change culturally and historically as well as scientifically.
  • As ideas became more accessible to people there would have been a creative exchange and the potential for new ideas emerge. Scientific papers would be accurate and the need to memorise would be lifted, freeing the mind to reflect on the content of the paper.
  • Speed of information and knowledge exchange.
  • Affordable compared to hand written manuscripts.
  • Consistency in spelling and grammar.

 

 

Part Two Creative Reading : Exercise

Why do people read?

  • Fiction could be for entertainment
  • Escapism
  • To enjoy one’s imagination
  • Non fiction could be to learn
  • To explore
  • To live in a story
  • To share the story with others ( eg via a book club)

Why do people write?

  • To explore a topic
  • To express themselves
  • To share the story
  • To escape into the story
  • To enjoy using their imagination
  • To learn
  • For enjoyment

Interesting to see that they are so similar. I had not thought of that before and yet it makes sense! The best writers are probably those who are avid readers.