Semiotics of social networking
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Social media gives humans an instant connection to communicate with others. The term "social media" is used to describe the type of media that is based on conversation and interaction between people online. This can include digital words, sounds, and pictures which are typically shared on the internet, or other means of communication. The value can be cultural, societal, or even financial. One important way to explore this form of communication, social networking, is through semiotics.
Semiotics is the meaning behind images, signs, and other things related. Semiotic structuralism looks for the signs’ meaning in a social context. Post-structuralist theories take tools from structuralist semiotics also in combination with social interaction. This is called social semiotics. Social semiotics is “a branch of the field of semiotics which investigates human signifying practices in specific social and cultural circumstances, and which tries to explain meaning-making as a social practice”. “Social semiotics also examines semiotic practices, specific to a culture and community, for the making of various kinds of texts and meanings in various situational contexts and contexts of culturally meaningful activity”.
Social networking is communication between two or more peoples in a virtual social space. Social media is a tool that gives people the opportunity to instantly connect with one another. This new medium of communication allows new insight into social semiotics. Social semiotics is concerned with studying human interactions through situations. “Millions of people now interact through blogs, collaborate through wikis, play multiplayer games, publish podcasts and video, build relationships through social network sites, and evaluate all the above forms of communication through feedback and ranking mechanisms”. Social semiotics “unlike speech, writing necessitates some sort of technology in the form of person device interaction”. Social semiotics functions through the triad of communication or Peircean semiotics in the form of sign, object, interpretant (Chart 1), and “Human, Machine, Tag (Information)” (Chart 2). In Peircean semiotics (Chart 1), "A sign…[in the form of representamen] is something which stands to somebody for something in some respect or capacity. It addresses somebody, that is, creates in the mind of that person an equivalent sign, or perhaps a more developed sign. That sign which it creates I call the interpretant of the first sign. The sign stands for an object, not in all respects, but in reference to a sort of idea which I have something called the ground of the representamen".
Social semiotics (Chart 2)
Machine–Computers are created by humans and now have social applications.
Tag– Picture/information tagging on social networks “has changed the traditional online communication process”.
This example of the triangle of Human, Machine, Tag is shown when looking at tagging photographs on Facebook (Chart 3). The Human takes the photo on a camera and puts the digital file (information) on the Machine, the Machine is then navigated to Facebook where the file is downloaded. The Human has the Machine Tag the photo with information (names, places, data) for other Humans to see. This process then can be continued (see Chart 2). “Collaborative tagging has been quickly gaining ground because of its ability to recruit the activity of web users into effectively organizing and sharing large amounts of information”.
Semiotics of social networking (Chart 3)
Sign as Human: "the form which the sign takes (not necessarily material, though usually interpreted as such". Photo of Human is the Sign/Human.
Object as Machine: "something beyond the sign to which it refers (a referent)". Computer, digital file, social media is the Object/Machine.
Interpretant as Tag: "not an interpreter but rather the sense made of the sign". Names, places, dates is the Interpretant/Tag.
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