The Semiotics of Love…and Other Investigations Applied Semiotic Analysis. Arthur Asa Berger Professor Emeritus Broadcast and Electronic Communication Arts San Francisco State University.
Arthur Asa Berger
Broadcast and Electronic Communication Arts
San Francisco State University
Students at a lectureIf you shot off a gun at sporadic intervals and asked students what they were thinking when the gun went off you’d find:
20% pursuing erotic thoughts
7% described mood as “love.”
20 % reminiscing about something
20% paying attention
12% actively listening
Rest of students: worrying, daydreaming, thinking about lunch or religion
20% said they were happy
12% said they were sad
68% were neutral
Semiotics of “Frenchness”
The meaning of facial expressions
Objects as a reflection of our personalities
Signs and symbols in a perfume advertisement
Love as a game (play song)
Conclusions: cartoons I’ve drawn
Signs: Signifiers and Signifieds, icons, indexes, symbols.
Signs: Anything that can stand for something else.
Signs: Can lie or mislead.
We are always sending messages (signs) about ourselves
and interpreting signs others send about themselves.
We “read” everyone we see in mediated texts…but do we
read them correctly?
Kind of Sign Way Works
Index Cause and Effect
Smoke and Fire
Symbol Must be Learned
Flags, Sacred Objects
Revolver with silencer
Pouting (show displeasure, disappointment)
Neutral (no emotion)
1 2 3
6 7 8
6. Anger 7. Surprise 8. Determination
Hair Color Body Language
Hair Style Makeup worn
Eye Color Clothes worn
Eye Pupils Eyeglasses/sunglasses
Facial Structure Jewelry
Body Type Setting
Age Occupations of People (guessed?)
Gender Activities Suggested
Race Language Used, Dialogue
Facial Expressions Music, Sound Effects, etc.
A Class Exercise in a Semiotics Seminar
Students brought object in brown paper bag.
Nobody knew who brought which object.
Qualities of person as reflected in sea shell
found by students in seminar:
What Student Who Submitted Sign Wrote:
MORAL: Signs you are sending about
yourself may be misinterpreted.
“All in the wonderful game called
Love is a Game Metaphor
Love is Like a Game Simile
Analogy is basic to metaphor, similes
Games have winners and losers
Games have rules
People cheat at games
Trickery and deceit in games
Games end eventually
People aren’t serious about games
Games take place in certain spaces
Semiotics is one of the most important ways to analyze texts and culture
Cultures can be read as texts
Semiotics sees itself as the master science
With some basic semiotic concepts one can analyze just about everything
“The world is perfused with signs if not made up entirely of them.” C.S. Peirce.