Representation let’s go! …or stop

This weeks topic is all about representation and interpretation. How do we, as an audience interpret images? How do we make sense of images we see? I’m going to show you one example of a photo I found involving a symbol:


What do you see when looking at this image?

What I see is a green man, which means I can cross the street..But wait there is more to it than that. Actually there (to my newly found knowledge) is a whole science of signs called semiotics. We have a sign that conveys meaning, then a signifier -which is something that is used to convey that meaning e.g. images or words, and then the signified which is the mental concept -what is evoked in the mind.

I’m going to try to break this down, using this example. The message that was put together (encoded) was the symbol and the colours and we have to (decode) which pretty much means to unravel that message.

This image seems a little obvious, what is there to read out of this? We have been conditioned and have learnt to decode them the way we have. Green = go. The symbol is a representation and we interpret it the way we do.

But hold up..there has been a change in the system. Some people have had negative connotations to this image. I’ll give you an example:


Now what do we see?

A walking street sign, but looks like a traditional ‘woman’s’ symbol. This then changes meaning. What is the denotation? What then did the other sign mean?

People have obviously read the other sign in a different way to what we were supposed to. Instead of interpreting it as just a ‘walking sign’, some people have interpreted it as a MALE walking sign. A walking MAN, overpowering the woman. So they have put a sign that is mostly identified as a women’s sign on walking lights. Equal lights, equal rights?

To me I found this a really interesting example of how symbols and signs can be interpreted in different ways for different people. And even how sometimes that can lead to social and community change.

Opening up a discussion of this particular topic and image but also representation in general. What do you think?




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