BUT–this is a bunch of stuff that has been on my mind lately–hence, a paper for visual communications. i would be interested to hear what people think makes “meaning”. or, you can skip this post all together. but the paper DID get an A. hahah.
Where is Meaning?
Being a lover a language and a creative writer at my core, image and perception for me was something that always seemed to come due to and in relation to words on a page. I could always see more of a picture in my head when my parents read to me as a child versus watching cartoons or looking at picture books. Because I have been so language minded, especially in the last 10 years, reading the chapter, “The Language of Images” made me understand much more how our brain processes simple images in a much intelligible way than we can process words on a page. Although, that didn’t convince me that those simple images created more meaning.
Barry states, “verbal language is essentially a linear system imposed on a non-linear experience” (Barry 107). While I understood this in the very literal sense, I had to reconsider how I actually processed this linear system. Reading never felt like a linear experience to me, but rather a circular experience in which images were created in my mind on my own terms. However, when Barry begins to talk about early images and their universal nature, things started to make more sense. There is a point of universality that language misses; things are always lost in the translation. In contrast, simple images can be universally understood to a certain point. While we all come to any text with our own terministic screens, images “show the range of development of written language from representative pictures that abstract the invariances and affordances of common things, to linear symbols for abstract concepts whose meaning is removed from experience” (Barry 108). Therefore, it is much easier for our brain to understand the idea of a simple image, where language is an “abstract and highly stylized means of communication, which means [it] must be learned in order to be used” (Barry 109).
Meaning making seems somewhat a bit removed from this concept in my opinion. Simple images don’t necessarily ask for us to derive meaning, but rather their meaning is very straightforward. For me, it seems as though the sign and the signifier would be nearly one in the same. Barry says, “Meaning is thus derived from experiential sequence, as a thundercloud means rain, or leafbuds mean spring” (Barry 113). The meaning here seems like one which we would not have to internally convince ourselves of. Language, on the other hand, may provide us with other alternatives. For example, if I was using the term “thudercloud” in text, depending on how I use it, it could be literal, but it could also be metaphorical. Thus, forcing the reader to create a meaning that is more worthwhile and substantial. After pondering these ideas for a little while, my idea of meaning making has perhaps evolved.
When considering images, visual or otherwise, how is meaning created? Is meaning really created by something that is static? Is it created by something that looks and represents the same idea? I think that perhaps not. Meaning must be derived from one’s personal experiences and how they approach a text or image. If the image gives us nothing to consider, then where is the meaning? To extract meaning of real consequence, we must look for when “words and images become superimposed on each other” (Barry 112). For me, these simple images being more understandable didn’t make me question what was easier to understand (words or simple images), but rather which creates more meaning. Certainly, when they collide we get the richest experience, and ultimately, even language alone can do that by the creation of the images in the mind.
ALSO: for my new media class we had to do a “cut up” project: take a creative writing piece we had written as prose and cut it up to make new meaning. of course, that turned into a poem. i sort of love it. if you are interested, you can find it at Engel Poems.