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Cultural studies and Semiotics is a branch of communication theory that investigates sign systems and the modes of representation that humans use to convey feelings, thoughts, ideas, and ideologies. Semiotic analysis is rarely considered a field of study in its own right, but is used in a broad range of disciplines, including art, literature, anthropology, sociology, and the mass media.
Semiotic analysis looks for the cultural and psychological patterns that underlie language, art and other cultural expressions. Umberto Eco jokingly suggests that semiotics is a discipline for studying everything which can be used in order to lie. Whether used as a tool for representing phenomena or for interpreting it, the value of semiotic analysis becomes most pronounced in highly mediated, postmodern environments where encounters with manufactured reality shift our grounding senses of normalcy.
HISTORY OF CULTURAL THEORY - Two Models
The first studies of culture in its widest possible sense of 'way of life' were made in the late 1950s and early 1960s by British critics and historians strongly influenced by Marxism and the U.S. anthropological school of Malinowski and others.
These 'Culturalists' included Raymond Williams (1921-88) Culture and Society (1958); The Long Revolution (1962) Richard Hoggart (born 1918) The Uses of Literacy (1957) E. P. Thompson (1924-93) The Making of the English Working Class (1963).
The culturalists' work involved a revaluation of words like 'democracy', 'art', 'culture', 'literature'. To a great extent their work was based on oppositions such as elite ('top down') and popular ('bottom-up') culture. High culture was text and performance-based; the popular was process and practice-based. Since popular culture can also have a 'top-down' element, as in tabloids run by millionaire newspaper proprietors, culturalists further divided it up into mass and vernacular, or culture for and by the people.
Stuart Hall, head of the Centre, showed how resistance to the status quo is expressed through rituals.
John Fiske maintained that popular culture is made by disempowered people out of the resources, discursive and material, provided by the social system that disempowers them (Understanding Popular Culture (1989).
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