Semiotics comprises the study and scientific analysis of meaning-making. Late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century theoreticians proposed three elements comprising this analysis: sign, signifier, and signified. But while these three have retained for more than a century their theoretical denotations as “word”, “sound”, and “meaning” in standard studies of communication, new media pictorial symbol-dependence is provoking a re-interpretation, if not a broadening, of the sign and its two composites. Although research continues to demonstrate the value of retaining the sign-signifier-signified union, increased dependence upon Web 2.0-style twenty-first century tools for quick and simple cross-cultural interaction may be generating both a shift in significance that favors the visual and an expanded messaging process that shares features with the communication processes favored by other creatures in our biosphere. Moreover, in encouraging this new Web 2.0 dependence, educators must at once cultivate the communicative and avoid the ambiguous. To do this, we must first attend to the original, “classical” meanings of the sign-signifier-signified triad, then note what the triad has to do with twenty-first century Web 2.0 messaging, and finally discern how real or perceived shifts in the meanings of sign, signifier, and signified are to be best taken advantage of to effect or enrich learning.
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Quiet room, but discussion on linguistics and semiotics was fascinating! How do we make meanings today as members of social networks and the wider digital world? How do meanings change with each new generation, and the upcoming post-millenials?
I always thought memes were a fascinating example of this, where images gain meanings and become viral. Even something that started with one meaning can be assigned another, and the old meaning is lost. E.g. being the “most interesting man in the world” from a beer commercial, portrayed as a great person, but in memes being changed to be a dunce who not only messes up, but messes up the “best”.