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UNIT 2: Spinning webs of meaning, language and social reality. Critical Literacy & Interaction. University of Aruba, Faculty of Arts & Science General Education: SW&D / OGM August 26, 2010 Lecturer: Nadia Dresscher. Program:.

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Critical Literacy & Interaction


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    1. UNIT 2: Spinning webs of meaning, language and social reality Critical Literacy & Interaction University of Aruba, Faculty of Arts & Science General Education: SW&D / OGM August 26, 2010 Lecturer: Nadia Dresscher

    2. Program: • Back to unit 1: Assignment about identity and communication, some notes on the interplay between identity and communication • We will take a look on the meaning-making process and the role language plays in this process

    3. What is the relationship between communication and identity? • Please reflect on the interplay between the shaping of identities and communication. How does your own identity relate to communication? Can you describe how ‘you are’ in communication? How do you relate to others when communicating and what does this says about your identity? • ?

    4. Negotiation of identities • The ‘self’ (self-identity) is based on innumerable messages about the ‘self’ that the individual gets from the world. • Relationships and the input (messages) they give us about ourselves, helps form (shape and re-shape) our identities. • This is a continuous process • Interpersonal communication plays an important role in the negotiation of identities • But also the groups we want to belong to , we belong to or don’t belong to shapes our identities (social identity)

    5. The ‘self’ In negotiation with others

    6. Our identity… • Identity is changeable, constant in a process of shaping and re-shaping • Identities are observable; we communicate it in differ forms (our cloths, language we use, our behavior, communication is behavior • Identities are a product of their time (Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice characters vs. Facebook generation) • We look for acknowledgements (bevestiging) in our communication with others. • Our ‘self’ is reflected through the mirror that others put in front of us

    7. So far: • Communication is a dynamic process • We make sense of ourselves and the world we live in by negotiating meaning, interpretation and identities through messages • Sender and receiver interactions are based on coding and decoding of messages. Messages are composed of codes/signs • Stepping into ‘the signs’ zone… signes

    8. Mind, Language, Communication, Meaning The study of language provides a window into the workings of the mind, and bears on issues of how the mind represents meaning, how we interpret and understand the world Mind Language Communication Meaning

    9. The Meaning of Meaning • Communication is a social process: • To capture and study the intangible process of communication [negotiation of meaning] we will start by focusing on how meaning is being created at the level of language • WhereLanguage plays a fundamental role in creating and sustaining realitie • How? • We will focus on the meaning making process through the social semiological approach

    10. Spinning, weaving, flow of meaning • Dialogue • Greek: dia and logos: • The flow of meaning • Communication is a • process, • dynamic, • symbolic, • contextual, • cultural, • omnipresent, • intentional-unintentional, • interactive-transactive.

    11. Functions of Language (Jackobson, 1960): The constant engagement with meaning relies on the assumption that people do not produce texts at random and without any purpose but have specific intentions to communicate and certain goals to achieve. Language is capable of realizing numerous functions: Referential function: conveying information Emotive function: expressing inner states Phatic function: establishing or maintaining a channel of communication (‘Ta hasicalor awe’)

    12. Functions of Language (Jackobson, 1960): Poetic function: when the choice of the form is the essence of our message Metalinguistic function: when the language talks about itself (e.g. The word ‘computer’ means…) Directive function: seeking to affect the behavior of the addressee (e.g. ‘Come back’) Contextual function: framing communication as a particular kind (e.g. ‘Let’s start our discussion by…’) In additional to these functions, there are numerous others such as: requesting, offering, apologizing, pleading, complimenting, advising, warning etc. “WE DO THINGS WITH LANGUAGE. LANGUAGE IS (SOCIAL) ACTION”

    13. The structure of Human Language (1) = a systematic set of sounds, combined with a set of rules, for the sole purpose creating meaning and communicating. These sounds are representing symbolically in the language’s alphabet, this is called phonemes. There is no natural relationship between sounds and their accompanying alphabet (e.g. there is no natural relationship between the letter ‘c’ and the sound ‘see’) When combined, phonemes become words (=morphemes). (There is also no natural relationship between the word cat and the fuzzy little animal)

    14. The structure of Human Language (2) All languages have a set of rules for combining the sounds to create meaning. This set of rules is called syntax or grammar Through syntax, sentences are generated. Through syntax, sound and meaning are connected. Okay, but let’s get to the core of the language business: it is a system of signs

    15. Signs!

    16. Meaning-making process Negogiation of meaning

    17. Meaning-making is at the core of our humanness We have to constantly negotiate what it means to be humans, to be women, men, sisters, brothers, professionals, Christians, friends, lovers

    18. Human beings communicate through the use of symbols A tribute to the legendary linguist: Ferdinand de Saussure Founding father of SEMIOLOGY = the science of signs and meanings he dedicated most of his life in discovering the underlying system upon which the process of meaning making is based Other contributers to semiology are Pierce, Levi-Strauss, Barthes and Kristeva Underlying philosophy: there is an essential difference between the psychical world and the social world. The key to approaching this difference is focus upon the human meaning -making process

    19. Introduction to semiology: the study of signs and meanings (in Saussure’s terms): • We zoom in the relationship between a sign and its meaning • We need the following components: Sign, Signifier and signified:

    20. The Sign consists of a signifier and the signified: The sign consists of : a signifier (refers to the material aspect) & a signified (the mental aspect)

    21. What is a tree? (sign) signifier signified

    22. An Aruban Tree kwihi

    23. 2 different level of meaning combined into 1 • The material level (signifier)level of denotation: literal meaning • The mental level (signified)connotation: interpretative level • The sign represents the combination of the two

    24. We can relate this to Ogdon and Richard’s Semantic Triangle: (thought) Warm, cuddly, loyal friend (symbol) word: “Dog” (thing) DOG

    25. 5 basic principles of semiology (1) • We make meaning through our shared use of symbols –including language as a symbolic sign system (conventionality) • What symbols mean is not inevitable. Rather it is based on our socio-political and cultural agreement • there is no fixed relationship between the signifier and the signified. Although they always work together (there cannot be one without the other) the actual bond between them is arbitrary* (*there is no natural relationship between them like thunder, lighting and rain)

    26. 5 basic principles of semiology (2) 3. Meaning is inseparable of context • Nueliep’s (2009) contextual model of communication can help us capture the communication process in the layers of context • :it is in the middle of these waves of contexts that we negotiate meaning • Words pass through context to context, this constantly changes their meaning • Context is key to meaning

    27. A contextual approach to communication (Neuliep,2009)

    28. 5 basic principles of semiology (3) 4. Meaning is relational we make sense of things (objects, words, actions) in relation to other things • binary opposites (opposition) • Derrida’s concept of différance (if the signifier means this, it doesn’t mean that) E.g. beautiful is not ugly, evil is the opposite of good A dog is not a cat (categorizing process)

    29. differance binary opposites

    30. 5 basic principles of semiology (3) 5. We engage in these processes largely subconsciously

    31. Social semiotics, more than just language • Semiotics, however, moves beyond language to study all the meaning systems in a society. • For instance: fashion, advertising, popular culture genres like TV and movies, music, political discourse, all forms of writing and speech. • Semiotics contributes to communication studies by providing a method for uncovering and analyzing how a whole system of signification like a movie genre, fashion images, or TV works in a culture.  • Meaning making is not purely individualistic: it is a process and product of collectives. Meanings are generated and agreed within particular social and cultural contexts

    32. Changing meanings of the concept of beauty (1975 vs. 2010):