Sunday, September 12, 2010

Week 6: Rhetoric and Persuasion

Images can act as a stimulus to a certain action made by people. Given the image signs that can mean protest to people can influence the people to join the fight. Given a sexual image to people makes people horny and such. This is done by persuasive effects that are shown by the image to us. And usually, what sparks our interest in getting involve is because we are shown what we can relate to thus we make a move. What I am discussing for this week’s journal is about Rhetoric and Persuasion.

Rhetoric from since antiquity has always been associated with arguments and when applying the rhetoric, usually it is done by using language or verbal. According to Blair (2004), in his book called The Rhetoric of Visual Arguments, “arguments have traditionally been thought of as verbal phenomena”. Thus, many rhetoricians protested that a visual can provide rhetoric. Which can be opposed because our perception of the truth can be influenced also by an image.

For example, the Non-smoking signs in Brunei. When the non-smoking policy was veto in Brunei, people has lessened their smoking activity in public. Of course, this is achieved by imposing the non-smoking signs. What persuades us to stop smoking in public is because we already know the consequences of smoking in public and that is, we get fined for $150 for the first strike and double for second. The threat by the government (if we get caught :p) makes us abide the law because we do not want to waste our money on the government. The sign Non-smoking, even without words, is already legit and it is stuck in our mind about all of the consequences we will get. It is done metaphorically, so to speak.

To prove how the example above can have rhetoric on the audience, let me try to explain it here. According to Blair (2004), he stated that in rhetorics there must be proposition and also an argument. Now, the proposition proposed by the Non-smoking sign is simply, no smoking! From here the argument is that we should not smoke in wherever the sign is imposed or, in Brunei, in public. There is also a deductive reasoning here which has two premises, the major premise is no smoking in public and the minor premise is you will be fined $150. The conclusion here is you will be fined smoking in public. 

In rhetoric as mentioned by Aristotle, has an enthymeme which is the unexpressed feeling or idea of the particular object or in our respect, image. Which for most of the non smoking sign in Brunei is, may I say, sponsored or marked with the Ministry of Health’s logo. Judging from the sign given with the mark of the MOH, the enthymeme here is, do not smoke otherwise you’d get sick. One way or another, with all of the distinctive features in the sign, it is still going to warn you about health. I think, perhaps, proves my point.

In this paragraph, I’m going to try to apply rhetoric on a video. But first lets see the video.

Yeah. Haha! Over dramatic, right? As you can see there were three parts of advert in the video that advertises the same thing, that is, the Cheers Beer. From what you can see (me too) its about being able to achieve something that is considerably important to us. The first video is about holiday from work. Second, is about being able to find a parking spot. And the last advert is about having the last crab. The rhetoric here are that all three of them has a kind of a wise saying always at the end of the video and that is, I quote, “to every little good thing in life”. From what I can interpret in this video is that, Cheers beer can be your friend to cherish every little thing that you have accomplished in your life. Thus, the proposition being offered here is that, drink the beer to cherish accomplishments even little ones. There is also an enthymeme in this video and that is, celebrate your moments with Cheers Beer or hence the name, we can cheer you. What makes it persuasive for me (not that I am a drinker, I am not I swear), I want to feel as good as those people in the video when I achieve something in life. Hence, I can be persuaded.

In conclusion, rhetoric is a tool of persuading people to act or motion to an event. We always are persuaded with things that we consider has some relation to us. Thus, with using the art of rhetoric or persuasion, we can be tempted to do something that has been influenced to us. The strength of rhetoric is the enthymeme or the unexpressed feeling that has been stated but left unexplained makes us confirm ourselves to act to it.


Blair, J.A. (2004). The rhetoric of visual arguments. In hill, C.A., and Helmers, M.H. (eds.). Defining visual rhetorics (pp 41-61). New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Week 5: Gestalt and Schema theory

Gestalt theory is a theory that explains how human perceive things not by recognizing first its parts but rather by looking at it as a whole. According to Paul Martin Lester (1995), in his book called, The sensual and perceptual theories of visual communication, said that “perception is a result o a combination of sensations and not of individual sensual elements”. Hence the saying, the whole is different from the sum of it parts.
What it means by that is that when we, human, perceive things we tend not to perceive parts of the object but instead we put it as a whole. This is because, according to Dr. Chris during his lecture on this topic, he said that the human brain is very lazy so it would take things that are just simple to make things easier. All of these are then combined and understood by using the five laws of gestalt which are, similarity, proximity, common fate, figure/ground (pragnanz) and closure.

The law of similarity is easily explained as same or similar. According to Armag˘an Emre akır (2009), in a journal called International Relations Perspectives, “Units that look or sound similar are perceived together.” Just like the picture on the left, we group things through what is similar to our perception.

Proximity is the law that explains about the closeness of things in front of us and thus, we would group them together and make it as a whole. As stated by Lester (1995), I quote, “law of proximity states that brain more closely associates objects close to each other that it does two objects that are far apart.” (pp.54). For example the picture below, we would not perceive that picture harmoniously when it is apart from the other two, thus, our brain helps us in order to break tension by grouping it into one.

The law of common fate is about the directional lines in an image or simply put, in an image. An easy example for this is using a fork. It has (usually) four prongs, when we look at the fork, we immediately sum it up as a fork but what if one of the fork is bended to any side? We will definitely feel or visualize it awkwardly due to the ‘no sense of direction’. Armag˘an Emre akır (2009), says that “Units that function in the same manner or move in the same direction are perceived as a group.”

The fourth law is the figure/ground or pragnantz. This law is about how we can contrast a figure in the image and the background. This is because some image can have two parts in it just like the goblet drawn by Edgar Rubin in 1915 that shows a face when you concentrate on the black area and a goblet in the white area. Because certain arrangements can be stronger than others and can show themselves thriumphantly.

The last but not least, the law of closure. According to Armag˘an Emre akır (2009), “Closure is our tendency to perceive objects as complete wholes and to fill in visual elements that are not part of the stimulus”. We do not perceive an image per one instead we look at it as a whole. It doesn’t matter if there are some mistakes was done on an image as long as we have the idea and familiarity of it, we, thus, gather the information together and group it as one. For example, some lines are missing but we still perceive these two images as a circle and a square.

Schema Theory

This theory generally explains about how we create our knowledge and used. According to Tracey and Morrow (2006), in their book called Lenses on Reading, “..people organize everything they know into schemas, or knowledge structures. People have schemas for everything in their lives including people, places, things, language, processes, and skills”(pp.51). In relation to making an image, schema is used as a tool to show people a certain objects and make them try and relate to it by using their knowledge on that particular. That also enables them to elaborate their knowledge along the way. A simple example would be, if Tiger Woods and I have to compete for getting laid then I’d lost instantly because he was married and had an affair. Means he has more experience than me. Haha!

Schema has a frame-system that can be divided in two; top level which represents what is true and visible for us and low level that is like a slot that needs to be filled or something that can change. For example, top level information for a restaurant is door, ceiling, aircond, plates and etc. Lower level then can be about the door of the restaurant is a sliding door or the aircond is centralized.

Schema also can be divided into two types. These types are incongruent schema and congruent schema. Incongruent schema is simply put as a schema that has not yet ready to be accepted. In other words, weird. For example.

Congruent schema has information that is acceptable to people due to its familiarity that sends positive impact which makes it has low level of cognitive processes.


Lester, P. M. (1995). The sensual and perceptual theories of visual communication. Visual communication: Images with Messages (pp.52-58) California: Wadsworth Publishing.

Tracey, D. H. and Morrow, L. M. (2006). Schema theory. An Introduction to Theories and Models (pp.51-54). New York: Guildford Press.

akır, A. E. (2009). International Studies Perspectives. (pp.1-5) Marmara University: Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Week 4: Syntax, Semantics and Pragmatics

In week 3, we have covered Semiotics although not entirely. As we now know, Semiotics is the study of signs and its meaning. However, that is just the general idea of it. Even if signs are being used, how come we can have the cutest idea of what a certain Visual image could mean? That’s why in this week’s journal I would like to emphasize on three aspects that would take us deep into Semiotics. Those three are Visual Syntax, Semantics and Pragmatics.

According to Paul Martin Lester (2006), in journal called Syntactic Theory of Visual Communication, “Linguistic theorists categorically assert that since pictures are presentational and not discursive, they have no formal grammar. Without grammar, images cannot be considered a language.” (pp.3). Judging from the quoted statement above, it is easily understood that a visual cannot have a Syntax, Semantics and Pragmatics. Then, how can we relate Syntax, Semantics and Pragmatics to a visual image?

Syntax is defined as the combination of signs that makes sophisticated messages according to Paul Martin Lester (2006). What is meant by ‘combination of signs’ is that, syntax arranges the signs in a text to deliver the meaning of a text accurately. It works just like a grammar in a sentence. Syntax also has certain rules to make a text readable to the audience. Those rules are rules of composition, rules of color and rules of lines. These rules are the visual language of an image that can argue with the quotations above. The applicability of these rules will be explained further later on. For now, lets talk about Semantics and also Pragmatics.

In semiotics, we learn that signs can mean something but how so? This is what Semantics is all about. Semantics deals about the study of meanings of a visual image. Not only on a text but also on the details. From background color to the image being used to the style of the image. But we must take note that, the meaning of a sign is dependant on the other sign. According to Lester (2006), “de Saussure noted that the meaning communicated by a sign depends not on actual objects but on other signs. For him, a sign by itself means nothing.”(pp.6).  Semantics then is the method of how a visual communicator can derive meaning from a text.

For pragmatics, according to Lester (2006), “is the study of the origin, common uses and communicative effects of signs.” Dr. Chris had explained to us in his slides that “Signifiers that form a sign is Syntax. Semantics are the signified and the connotation of a sign. But meaning is determined by Pragmatics such as codes, modality, sender, receiver and context”. Simply put, is that before Semantics can achieve meaning, our ‘Pragmatical’ aspects is what defines certain meanings accordingly to what or how it is used in a text because certain text is used usually culturally or how it is socially constructed. It depends also on our interpretations.

The application of these three:

In terms if Syntax, this picture has the rules fixed in it. From what I can see is that, the color of the background is in a shade which completes the rules of colors in terms of contrast. A background of an image should not compete with the ‘model’ of the image. The rules of composition are also there where the puppy is sitting on a quarter to the right of the image. The picture also seems light and balanced cause I’m sure we are not tilting our heads right now looking at this image.

Upon semantics, what I can relate to the picture is that it gives me a sense of waiting. The puppy is sitting on the right-side while looking to the left does my theory. Its like it is looking for its owner to play or come to it. Pragmatics though can decode this picture to mean something like being left alone or ‘no ones coming’ because pragmatics is used differently according to the situation (in short) thus, I’d like to believe it to mean that way.

In conclusion, a Syntax is the way that signs are situated in an image that later can create meanings and delivers it accurately. While Semantics find the meaning of the text, in this case visual text, by studying about the details of an image and Pragmatics is what determines the meaning should be in a certain image. Hence, these three aspects are the ones which enables us to study an image thoroughly.


Lester, P. M. (2006). Syntactic theory of theory of the Visual Communication. Retrieved June 17, 2010 from Communication Faculty of Fullerton Unversity. Website:

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Week 3: Semiotics

We see signs everywhere and everyday. From traffic lights, to signboards, adverts, our fridge in our house and more many places. Each and every signs we meet with our own eyes, most of them, has meaning on its own. But how are we able to derive meanings from the signs we are presented with? This is where the study of Semiotics comes in and which will be further discussed below.

Semiotics, according to Gill Branston and Roy Stafford (2006), in their book called, the Media Student’s book can be defined as “the study of signs, or of the social production of meaning by sign systems, of how things come to have a significance.” In other words, semiotics touches upon deriving meanings of signs, or in other words our interpretation, from what ever sign systems we can see.

Jane Stokes (2003), in referring to Ferdinand de Saussure’s work in his book called Course of General Linguistics, said that Saussure believed that the use of Semiotics does not only used to analyze linguistic texts, but also could be used to analyze numerous system of signs. She also added that, I quote, “and there is no reason why it could not be applied to any media or cultural form.”

Semiotics enables us to see what we cannot see in a text given to us or, in regards to our module, visual text. What enables us to successfully (or not) interpret a visual text is the characteristics of Semiotics. According to Gill Branston and Roy Stafford (2006), they mentioned about three characteristics of Semiotics. First is Signifier, which is the ‘physical’ form of a sign (traffic lights, toilet signs and etc). Secondly we have the Signified, which means the concept or ideas of the signs or simply put, a sign that refers to something other than itself. And lastly, the emphasis of Semiotics to us, which emphasizes about the words or signs we use in various social context has been constructed and shaped to us to our perception of reality. For example, this picture right here.

The signifier of the sign is the two image of a man and a woman. The signified is that, it shows the toilet. How do we know this? This is because we already know that restrooms are used by both males and females in the world. Animals? Naaadaaa. Hence, we term this image as the toilet.

The basic idea of Semiotics is that as stated by Jane Stokes (2003), “And the key to semiotics: it is about how the producer of an image makes it mean something and how we, as readers, get meaning out.”
In this paragraph, I am focusing about Codes. In any given visual texts, image or adverts, there are always “coded” meanings behind it. And what is meant by coded is that we learn to read signs to wider systems of meaning which has been institutionalized variously by people or an institution. We cannot interpret a sign on our own when a given meaning of the sign has already been produced and agreed upon by others. It just does not work that way because it may violate sets of rules given by a particular institution. Hence, we read signs by what have been constructed and shaped to us. For a good example is the green light of a traffic light.

When we see this green colour on the traffic light, we immediately know it means 'go'. But how do we know this? isn't it just another colour on a machine or something? or just a freaking light show being shown free on the traffic stop? Hi-five!

A sign never stop to produce meanings. Hence, we also study denotation and connotation in Visual Communication. Denotation literally means the literal description of a visual text.

The Denotation right here is that a black male, 6 foot 8 inches, with a white jersey that has Rockets and the number 1 written on it, using a red socks and white shoes dribbling a ball.

Different from Denotation, Connotation is the conceptualized ideas of a sign that we can link it to. As stated by Dr. Chris in his slides, it is the metaphor of something by representations in our head. Using the same picture, we connote that he is a basketball player. Or a celebrity that gets more than four zeros in his bank account a year. Or even, just Tracy McGrady. 

Signs can also be divided into three categories which are:-

Symbolic- signs that is arbitrarily link to referents. Usually coded signs.

Iconic- signs that resembles what it signifies.

                                                 Indexical- the use of signifiers that act as a kind of evidence.

To conclude, semiotics simply means the study of how signs are used and manipulate in our everyday life that enables us to extract meanings from any visual text. Since texts are usually amplified with various coded meanings. Thus, as a visual communication-ist, we should learn semiotics in detail.

Branston G. and Stafford R. (2006). The Media Students Book (pp. 11-21). Fourth Edition. Routledge.

Stokes J. (2003) How to do Media and Cultural Studies.  London GBR: Sage Production, Incorporated. p. 71

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Week 2: Seeing and Perception

.Seeing and perception has always have a mutual relationship with one another. They are inseparable because without one of these, I am sure human beings won’t be able to recognize and to see what God had given them in this blessed Earth i.e water, rock, sun and etc. Also, without perception, there won’t be any meaning to every object that is present in front of us. But also bear in mind that both are not of the same thing. Thus, it is important that we should take the subject of Seeing and Perception critically because both can be confusing.
Seeing is actually only an act of viewing or watching. Our eyes receive light from the electrical rays that is being transmitted by the object (reflected by light) that turns into an image. As stated by Harry Jamieson (2007), in his book called More Than Meets The Eye, “..light energy reaching the eye is converted into electrical discharges which are transmitted as impulses along the nervous pathways to the brain.” (Pg.15). Hence, an image is only an image.

What I meant by an ‘Image is only an image’ is that, when an object is shown in front us, our eyes catches the image of the object directly but it only stands as another image we see. There are no interpretations involve in Seeing. Thus, we are only watching the image of the object. It is Perception that plays a big part in this context. As stated by J. Berger, S. Bloomberg, C. Fox, M. Dibb and R. Hollis (1972) in their book called Ways of Seeing, “Seeing comes before words.”(Pg.7).
Perception is what creates the meaning of a certain object that is shown to us. This is very natural because we are human beings and we use our senses to define our surrounding. To make us understand what is around us and to feed our greed in terms of curiosity. With our perception then we can give meaning to the things we see with our own eyes. Hence why it is important for us to take note that Seeing and Perception is different from each other.

Furthermore, Perception is not always still. This is because it depends on how we perceive certain things individually. Considering the fact that a human being can be unpredictable at times. So what one perceives is not always what others will. This is developed through representation of images that we have or had encountered in our live, plus experiences, makes us relates one thing with another. Take Example the picture below:-

    What we can see is that it is a can of drink with the word “Coke” written on it and lets focus on the word “Coke”. After years and years of representation of the word ‘Coke’, we may interpret coke as only a can of a fizzy drink or maybe the largest manufacturer of fizzy drinks industry. Or maybe as a multi-billion dollar company that has in many years used media to advertise their product and has been successful in regards to the particular. Which I think proves my point about people have different perception.

There is a question imposed by our beloved Chris in our guide book about, how do we judge someone’s perception is more “true” or “false” than the other? It really gives me a big hit on the head and a little migraine just thinking about it. But, after a long time of consideration, I only came up with this. That is, nothing can be identified as true or false without us knowing it at first. In other words, we justify the truth by accumulating every thing that we have encountered in our entire life to what has been culturally or socially brought up to us and also has been agreed by people on that particular.

Thus, perception also needs conventions of agreements of a particular subject that as been agreed upon by others. In so doing that we can save ourselves from prostituting what we see with what we want people to know. Unless someone saw an alien from other space comes to earth and started playing football or eating ambuyat like us with McDonalds then what we have agreed upon the alien matter should be revised and be given a different meaning and truths.  Hehe. :p
Culture and society also plays part in our perception of the world around us. As stated by Marion G. Muller (2008) in his journal called Visual Competence, said that:-

Visual production, perception, interpretation and
reception competencies are connected in a cycle. The
cycle itself unfolds its dynamic not in a vacuum, but in a
social, political and cultural context that is shaped by
three factors: individual or dispositional factors,
shaping, for example, the production competencies of a
particular artist, photographer, television director;
situational factors that determine the production,
perception, interpretation and reception competencies;
and systemic factors that predispose certain production,
perception, interpretation and reception contexts.” (pg. 4)

From the quotation above, it really shows how perception can or can be affected by the cultural and social values.

In conclusion, what we see is merely of an object that is of reflection of what is in front of us but to interpret it, we use our senses and then perceive the object that is in our mind (mental image) and give it meaning. Without both of these present, we might not be able to perceive things clearly even if we have all our senses still working for us. The eyes are actually the stimuli of perceiving. And we perceive what we see every time through out live.


Berger, J., Bloomberg, S., Fox, C., Dibb, M., and Hollis, R. (1972). Ways of Seeing (pp. 7-33). London and New York: Penguin Books.

Jamieson, H. (2007). The perceptual connection. Visual communication: More than meets the eye (pp.13-27). Bristol: Intellect Books.

Muller, M. G. (2008). Visual Competence: a new paradigm for studying visuals in the social sciences? Visual Studies, Vol. 23. (pp. 4): Routledge.