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.
Katherine Watson, Coastline Community College, Fountain Valley, USA
Dr. Katherine Watson has been teaching French, English, linguistics, anthropology, English as a Second Language, and zoosemiotics for more than four decades, at first in the traditional classroom, then at a distance and online. In addition, she translates and interprets literary and technical works and has trained interpreters for the soccer World Cup and the summer Olympics. Her papers and literary translations have been presented and published in the Usa and abroad. Dr. Watson began French in Action online with the Annenberg/CPB (Corporation for Public Broadcasting) Project and conceived/developed/taught in the Coast Community College District’s first completely-online course program.