In the first four chapters of Gunther Kress’book, Multimodality: a social semiotic approach to contemporary communication, he walks us through an introduction and need for social semiotics; the social environment as pertains to power, meaning, and creation; and also ways of knowing and learning, overlapping with previous ideas of motivation and effectiveness. The initial concept of social semiotics seems a bit redundant, not unlike social linguistics, but the depth at which he looks at social for meaning-making, power, and change is quite compelling. I don’t think it’s really possible “to bring all means of making meaning together under one theoretical roof, as part of a single field in a unified account, a unifying theory,” (5) but perhaps in trying we accomplish something. One thing is for certain, that there are specific ways of knowing and expressing that have underserved power, and continuing to look at ways of knowing separately is not likely to change this.
To say social semiotics or social linguistics seems a bit ridiculous if you study either of the fields at all – when would they ever be not social. Synthetic/artificial languages, maybe (but then think about …nope). To clarify that semiotics would be social is redundant, and yet, like sociolingistics, necessary. Research from the scientific realm tends to be reductive, as I am learning more fully about in my interdisciplinary seminar. It needs to be for certain discoveries. To understand language or the way we signify things, it is necessary to reduce, look at the small parts, analyze. The trouble is, we seem to have gotten stuck in the space, unable or unwilling to take the information from analytic, reductive views, and put it together with the operating whole for real knowledge. An idea that Kress kind of agree with, as he argues the line between knowledge and information definitions is increasingly hazing.
This haze is the creation of change, a natural state that we tend to resist. Not only are signs, modes, knowledge, social made, they are socially changed. They change with utilization of new technology, with wars and new conquering ideology that say what is a isn’t okay to communication (or how). “Being social,” Kress writes, “the conditions for representation and communication change with changing social conditions; at the same time, representation and communication constantly change social conditions, though each differently so” (52). We ‘re’ present as communication ‘re’ constructs, Kress writes. And more important for trying to get at power, and real changes for better learning and communicating, these push and pull changes steeped in the social are the ideologies shaping the theoretical frame. I think Kress would argue it’s time for a new ideology in order to change the theoretical frame to better fit the world, the modes, we are actually working with.
nucleus of meaning and other self-stupefying moments (also bad signs),