Four-stage theory of communication: production, circulation, use (distribution or consumption), reproduction.
Polysemy - capacity for a sign (such as a word, phrase, or symbol) to have multiple meanings, usually relatedly contiguity of meaning within a semantic field.
Hall argues that polysemy is not the same as pluralism, as each stage limits the next one - they are ‘relatively autonomous’.
At each stage, messages are ‘imprinted’ by institutional power relations: communication circuit is also a circuit which reproduces a pattern of domination.
Process: a ‘complex structure of dominance’, sustained through the articulation of connected practices, each of which, however, retains its distinctiveness.
Object = operation of codes within a syntagmatic chain of discourse -> creates the apparatuses, relations and practices of production. Circulation of ‘product’ takes place in this discursive form. To complete the circle, the discourse must be transformed again into social practices. If no ‘meaning’ is taken, there can be no ‘consumption’.
The event must become a ‘story’ before it can become a communicative event. And the moments of ‘encoding’ and ‘decoding’ are determinate moments.
Television message: is created in the production, which is itself a discourse, consisting of existing professional practices and relations. It is also open-ended system and draws from the wider socio-cultural and political structure (of which it is a differentiated part). Audience is both ‘source’ and ‘receiver’ (P. Elliot) - as circulation and reception are also moments of production in television message.
In order to have an ‘effect’, satisfy a ‘need’ or put to ‘use’ the message must be first appropriated as a meaningful discourse and be meaningfully decoded.
Meaning structures on the encoding stage may not be the same as on the decoding stage ( they do not constitute an ‘immediate identity’) -> this depends on the degrees of symmetry/assymetry between encoder-producer and decoder-receiver -> this depends on identity/non-identity between the codes. Misunderstandings arise from the lack of equivalence between the two sides in the communicative exchange.
Behaviorist approach is misleading. Violence on TV is ‘not violence but messages about violence’, but we’re still unable to comprehend this epistemological distinction.
TV sign = visual + aural discourses. But it cannot be referent or concept it signifies (as it is a translation of three-dimensional world into two-dimensional planes).
Discursive ‘knowledge’ is the articulation of language.
Certain widely distributed codes have been profoundly naturalised, and may appear not to be constructed. But even apparently ‘natural’ visual codes are culture-specific.
When de-coded, the codes frequently assume the status of naturalised perceptions (e.g. the icon for cow = the cow).
Eco: signs ‘look like objects in the real world because they reproduce the conditions [the codes] of perception in the viewer’.
Iconic sign is more vulnerable to being ‘read’ as natural because it has some of the properties of the thing represented (as opposed to linguistic sign, ‘cow’ which has none).
Linguistics: denotation (direct, natural) and connotation (associative meaning) - but for SH the distinction is an analytic one only, as in the actual discourse most signs will combine the two aspects. But such disctiction is still important as a means of analysis, because it is at the connotative level of the sign that situational ideologies alter and transform signification. That’s where the active interventions of ideologies are clearly seen - although that does not mean the denotation is ideology-free: it’s just the meaning that became fully ‘natural’. In this case ‘denotation’ and ‘connotation’ are not about presence or absence of ideology in language, but the different levels at which ideologies and discourses intersect.
Already coded signs intersect in the context, being positioned in a discursive field. E.g. a ’sweater’ may signify ‘cold weather’, ‘casual wear’ or ‘long autumn walk in the woods’, depending on the context. Every society/culture is classified into the ‘maps of meaning’ - ‘maps of social reality’.
Although connotations are subject to transformations, this polysemy must not be confused with pluralism. Connotative codes are not equal - every culture/society imposes their own classifications (dominant cultural order). Meanings are organised hierarchically around dominant or preferred ones. ‘Dominant’ and not ‘determined’ - because it is always possible to decode, etc. event within more than one ‘mapping’. For this reason, also, the communicative process consists of performative rules - re-enforcing one semantic domain over the other, etc. - interpretative work.
Reading (Terni) - not only the capacity to identify/decode certain signs, but also subjective capacity to creatively relate them to one another.
Misunderstanding in the televisual communication - ideal is ‘perfectly transparent communication’ - the reality is ‘systematically distorted communication’. Critique of ’selective perception’ theory (as it is never as selective, random or privatised as the concept suggests).
Three hypothetical positions from which decodings of a televisual discourse may be constructed:
1. Dominant hegemonic position. Straightforward decoding of the news program by viewers means they are operating inside the dominant code. Broadcasting professionals are able to operate in two codes, their professional code (‘relatively autonomous’) and hegemonic signification of events.
1) Defines within its terms the mental horizon, the universe of possible meanings;
2) Carries with it the stamp of legitimacy - coterminous with what is ‘natural’, ‘inevitable’ about the soil order.
2. Negotiated (corporate) code. Acknowledges the hegemonic viewpoint, but operates with exceptions to the rule. S.Hall suggests that that’s where the majority of misunderstandings come from.
3. Oppositional code. Decoding the message in a globally contrary way. Here the TV company comes to a crisis and where the ‘politics of signification’ - the struggle in discourse - is joined.