Contextual Studies – Popular Culture

Semiotics: The science of signs
Semiotics is basically the study of meaning and what things (‘signs’ & symbols) mean to different people. This includes the study of signs and sign processes (semiosis), indication, designation, likeness, analogy,metaphor, symbolism, signification, and communication. Semiotics is closely related to the field of linguistics, which, for its part, studies the structure and meaning of language more specifically. As different from linguistics, however, semiotics also studies non-linguistic sign systems.

I believe that everything is a sign, and everything in this world holds a message and a meaning. This can be anything from hair colour, what bags people carry, cars or even indications in the atmosphere/a person’s surroundings. As human beings we are created to be able to read the signs that are prevalent all around us, they helped the early versions of ourselves do things like predict the weather, track an animal, know which areas are dangerous ect.
In modern culture signs are mostly noticed through other people without us even realising we are reading them. For example, young girls have the instinct which men look friendly and which don’t and as they grow up, this instinct turns into their way of telling who is approachable and who isn’t.

Stereotypes are very common in modern day culture – sometimes this is a sad and unnecessary thing, though some people purposely conform to fit into particular stereotypes.
I have written a list of stereotypes from when I was walking through the high street in Sheffield – I felt this was the most appropriate place to look for people who were out shopping. Here is the list I came up with:
Chavs, hipsters, hipster wannabe, bargain hunters, goth, emos, scene kids, the kawaii one, druggies, posh totties, the loved up couple, gold diggers, vogue readers, the rich one, the nerd, business men, the broke student, the flamboyant one, children, council estate shoppers, mothers, fathers, middleaged-elderly nanny and grandpa, the crazy grandma, babies and the one who doesn’t care what others think.
These were just from looking around Fargate, Division Street, West Street and The Moor. I have put people into the category I thought they best fit into (the one that came into my head first upon first glance).
This sort of stereotyping is very incorrect in some manners but at the same time it is undeniably correct for others – particular the people who are purposely placing themselves into those particular stereotypes.

An example of incorrect stereotyping is me – looking at me people tend to think I’m either a broke student or a vogue reader because of the way I dress (only because vintage clothes are in fashion thank god haha) – but people who really know me on a personal level know that I am actually into Japanese & South Korean culture and all the kawaii side of fashion.

Some of the more literal signs we see are road signs and posters who’s purpose are to give clear directions and indications to the general public. Another obvious yet illusive form of sign reading is photographs . For example if there are two shops beside each other, each displaying a photo advertisement in the window – one photo is dark and dismal with black lace and dark makeup on the model but the other is clean and minimalistic, with the model dressed in smart & preppy clothes. The audiences that are attracted to each shop will be completely different, goths might enter the dismal looking shops, while the posh totties and businesswomen (though not limited to women) might enter the clean and posher looking shop. The reason behind this is because they have subconsciously red the signs each shop is giving out from the photo and have decided which shop would best suit their tastes.

The way we categorise people by looks and where they is something that may be considered unfair, but at the same time it is essential for society otherwise we wouldn’t be able to find who we are ourselves.
The government categorise people under the age of 18 based on their parents – if your parents are wealthy and well off, then so are you as far as their concerned – if your parents are struggling for money and have 10 kids and are living off of benefits, then so will you be.
I find this extremely unfair but at the same time it is true from the perspective that people are more likely to excel then to go from the top to the bottom in society.


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