Lecture Liveblog: 9-11-07

Course Blog – Open or Closed? Either way there will be moderation of comments from outside the course.

Perform phenomenological and structural analysis of a series of related fashion magazine ads: at least 3 consecutive photos from a single company. The reason we went with these instead of single ads is that the series helps reveal the visual language of the ads, that is, those characteristics that persist across that particular series of ads.

Phenomenological Analysis

  • Who is behind these photos (their creator)? What do we know about them?
  • What are the creators trying to say?
  • Who are these photos for? (be specific)
  • How do you differ from the “normal” audience?
  • How might Australian aboriginal villagers react to these photos?

Lifeword – sum of all experiences that a person has, sum of a person’s horizons

Horizon – a particular aspect of a lifeworld

The underlying assumption is that groups of people share lifeworlds or at least horizons in some way. We are in some way incapable of knowing things by themselves. We must access things through our senses, we can only understand what our senses tell us about an object. Our senses do not provide objective data, their are filters in place.

Example: The Gods Must Be Crazy [title?] – Film where a pilot throws a Coke bottle outside a window and it lands near an aboriginal tribe. They believe the bottle is cursed and attempt to throw it off the end of the world. The lifeworld of the pilot and that of the tribesmen are wildly different. In one, the bottle is a simple and disposable tool (pilot) and in the other the bottle represents an evil curse from the heavens (tribesmen).

How does the student analyst differ from the normal audience? A student analyst is subject to a different lifeworld with unique rewards and expectations that help draw unique meanings and expectations from the images.

Hermeneutics – The projected lifeworld of a viewer of an ad with that of an analyst combined to create meaning of that ad is an example of hermeneutics discourse.

UPDATE: I just wanted to add to this that most of these issues are in some way external to the artifact (in this case, sequence of fashion ads) itself. Meaning resides and is made in people’s heads, and we don’t learn too much about the artifact in this kind of analysis. –jb

Structuralist Analysis

Oppositions are central to a structuralist approach. What meanings develop between the opposition in the relationships?

Do structuralists find meaning through language? Language provides a means for description but only has meaning when put out into the wild in relation to one another. Definitions are created in relation and opposition to other concepts.

The pictures only have meaning through the relationships and oppositions that were constructed. These relationships themselves are constructed upon other relationships and so on and so forth. If you do not have access to a vocabulary of relationships and oppositions, then you can not see those meanings. There is no common, objective reality.

If we were to analyze thousands of fashion images over a period of months and constructed their relationships and oppositions and identified the preferred meanings, would we be able to create a language of fashion?

Synchronic – singular snapshot in time (structuralism and semiotics are synchronic)

Diachronic – develops over time (like the history of English drama)

Update: Again, let me point out how much these issues pertain directly to features/characteristics of the artifact itself. This approach is a “close reading” where you really study the specific characteristics of an artifact and ask how those characteristics, or more specifically the relationships (e.g., opposition, priviliging) among these characteristics, produce meaning. In this approach, meaning seems to inhere in objects, that is, objectively out there in reality and waiting to be discovered. This approach tells us much less about people involved with this artifact, such as their creators, consumers, and so on. –jb


  1. thismarty

    Heya, Tyler – thanks for the excellent liveblog on today’s lecture. I know I’m glad to have it – whew!

    BTW, the movie title is indeed “The Gods Must Be Crazy”.

  2. mingxian

    Thanks both of you, and I really like that old movie!

  3. Tyler Pace

    Thanks Marty!

    To everyone, please correct, update, annotate and discuss these liveblog notes. I try to grab as much information as I can but I will miss stuff. There’s so much to talk about and we move through material quickly!

  4. jeffreybardzell

    I think a Dior ad needs to be inserted somewhere appropriate into the live blog. Just kidding! I love that you all are doing this, though, even if it is partial and incomplete. Actually, I’m glad it is partial and incomplete, because you are supposed to be participating in class! 🙂

  5. Tyler Pace

    Partial, incomplete and likely inaccurate at times! It takes a community to decipher these notes.

  6. zhuofengli

    It was a great class yesterday and this can be a great review for us. Thank you!

  7. jeffreybardzell

    Hi all, note that I added a couple of updates to the original post to add some things I mentioned in class that Tyler did not transcribe here, presumably because he was surfing at tshirthell.com when I said them.

  8. Tyler Pace

    reactee.com is where all the bleeding edge interaction design types go for their shirt needs. Power to the community creating text message influencing twitter abusing t-shirts!


Leave a Reply to jeffreybardzell Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s