Sunday, 21 February 2010

Assignment 2, Undestanding the Rhetoric of the image...

I couldn't quite believe that these were the first three random images that came up on the randomiser on, because every project I have done so far that I've done in second year involves fish somewhere along the way or the sea..but there you go!

Polsemy - 'Having multiple meanings; the existence of several meanings for a single word or phrase'. (or image, symbols, etc)

From first read of the essay by Roland Barthes, I understood that images had different meanings, and different symbols to work out what was going on in an image, but some are picked up and some are missed depending on the individual. That advertising will also have use of text, perhaps just even one word, which the viewer will be drawn to as word comes before image..well, in history the written text came before illustrations, so even one word can trigger understanding the meaning of an image. I suppose again depending on the individual. There are three different messages we can translate from an image - the linguistic: communication by word, language, A Coded Iconic message: which having the knowledge and information to be able to read the image, and a Non-iconic message: which is the raw object.
From my three random images I got some very interesting results. I asked seven people in total to look at these images and interpret them in any which way they wanted, including a computing student, a dentistry student, a medic, an acting student, two dancers, and an ex-army cadet. All very different people from different backgrounds, however all around the same age, 18-20.
I found that in a relaxed atmosphere, for example, talking to one of my flatmates (20, male, computing student) I got a short and sweet, playful story.
Not going into too much detail, but a basic story linking the three images.
When I asked my dentistry and medic friends I was in Tower building and we talking after a DARE society meeting. I felt like they thought much more about how they were going to answer my question. Perhaps because their work involves so much in-depth reading and interaction this was the result? However I thought maybe because there were no linguistic messages on the images as of yet, I got two very different stories, and if there had been some text I may have got much the same from both of them...

"Once upon a time in Tayside and Fife, there was a beautiful family of shiny shiny fish, they found themselves on an adventure one calm Monday afternoon. The sun was setting that Monday afternoon and a beautiful sky it was, the sky was red, the water was black, the fish soldiered on. For they were on a mission; to pass the pier and find out what was on the other side.
What they found there was no normal thing. It was an underwater fruit and vegetable market, run by a corporation of entrepreneurial mermaids." 19, male dentistry student.

This story doesn't make too much sense, but it's imaginative with plenty of detail which is great, as I got a very realistic story from my medic friend:

"You take a boat trip to an island, a romantic early morning boat trip, go to a market where you get some fresh fish, and vegetables. At night you head back to the boat and sit out as someone cooks for you." 20 female, medicine student.

I actually found that the courses and hobbies my story tellers did such as acting, dancing, were so much more emotional than the medics and dentists, a more in-depth story with a tragedy planted somewhere within their story too! I guess I did expect this a little, but I didn't expect to get such creative stories just from 3 images I found on the internet. One in particular (a very long story) had characters and plot lines!

For the second part of this experiment of adding another image, I chose the Dentistry students story mainly because he added another element to the story which I thought people would be drawn to; mermaids. I guess it was perhaps a bit more interesting than say adding a boat, however probably would have got similar stories. Some stories were far too long and I thought if I used them I'd never get a similar story from someone else.I 'm not sure of my logic behind it but in my head I thought people might think sea, fish, market, mermaids....ah! Underwater market! As most of the things I read are quite fictional but probably should have gone with something a bit more realistic as not everyone thinks like me! ....Anyway, here's the image I added:
The results I got from this were quite similar, but with some variations. One began quite realistic, very similar to the medic's story and then ended with 'and you saw some strange things'. So the person did take into account that the mermaid was fantasy but only mentioned briefly so as not to make the story 'fictional'.
I then added some text to see if I could take this story further, I knew now I wasn't going to get exact stories but I wondered how much more detail I could get by adding 'Underwater'.

Here is one of the most interesting I think :

"One day at the beach the small sardine-like fish were bored with their average everyday fishy lives swimming in the sea. They decided they were going to evolve, a very strange decision to make on a whim. They managed to do it in about half an hour, which they were really chuffed with and they kind of looked like mermaids. They achieved their evolution and it turned out they had evolved into humans. So they went to market, 'cause they always thought it looked fun." 18, female, sales assistant/musical person.

I'm not too sure if adding the text Underwater changed too much in this or not, but I like the way this story is mixed with the real and surreal..

I think I would maybe do this experiment again choosing a more realistic story to use as my main aim, as everyone has their own thought process and imaginations, but a more 'normal' everyday story would give better results.

From this I have learned that the image creates very individual ideas, continual adding more information gradually brings together a similar interpretation of the image. I know that from advertising text sets the image, which Barthes talks about and I believe to be true from own experience. One word can explain a whole image/scene.

I found this experiment very interesting as it gave me an idea of what kind of answers I would get in which setting (relaxed/formal) and the correct predictions I got from whom I was asking, such as the more emotive stories from the dancing and acting students, the more realistic (well, occasionally) and detailed from the science students. However I'm sure there are exceptions out there somewhere!

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