Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The ice-bucket challenge: The legitimacy of the memetic mode of cultural reproduction is the message

The multimodal video meme of the ice-bucket challenge or what could be perceived as a viral gimmicky prank were it not for its embeddedness in a cause-related message structure raises a ‘bucketful’ of questions for media and cultural studies. This paper focuses narrowly on unearthing who speaks in this message and what is ultimately communicated. By unpeeling the multiple layers of message structuration with view to discerning the formal structure of the concerned multimodal message, the offered analysis proceeds with an exploration of the function of the message in the context of a cultural predicament where networking and connectivity constitute overarching cultural values. The argumentative thrust that deploys against the background of the assumption that the ice-bucket challenge constitutes a meme as minimal unit of cultural reproduction that functions on both ontic and ontological levels, is intent on demonstrating that the enunciator of this unit is the meme itself that summons hosts or enunciatees to legitimate the pre-reflexive memetic mode of cultural reproduction and propagation as overarching mode of communication.

Keywords: memetics, video meme, cultural reproduction, multimodal communication, virality, ontology.  

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Brand equity planning with structuralist rhetorical semiotics

Title: Brand Equity Planning with Structuralist Rhetorical Semiotics

ISBN: 978-3-86219-706-4 (print)
            978-3-86219-707-1 (e-book)
Author: George Rossolatos
Release date: February 2014
Pages: 895
Publisher: Kassel University Press
Available for preview and purchase @

Brand Equity Planning with Structuralist Rhetorical Semiotics furnishes an innovative conceptual model and methodology for brand equity planning, with view to addressing a crucial gap in the marketing and semiotic literatures concerning how advertising multimodal textual elements may be transformed into brand associations, with an emphasis on rhetorical relata as modes of connectivity between a brand’s surface and depth grammar.  The scope of this project is inter-disciplinary, spanning research areas such as brand equity, structuralist semiotics, textual semiotics, visual and film semiotics, multimodal rhetoric, film theory, psychoanalysis. The proposed connectionist conceptual model of the brand trajectory of signification is operationalized through a methodological framework that encompasses a structuralist semiotic interpretative approach to the textual formation of brand equity, supported by quantitative content analysis with the aid of the software Atlas.ti and the application of multivariate mapping techniques. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

Lady Gaga as (dis)simulacrum of Deleuzian monstrosity (forthcoming)

Lady Gaga’s celebrity DNA revolves around the notion of monstrosity, an extensively and multifariously researched concept in post-modern cultural studies. This study draws on biographical and archival visual data relating to the Gaga phenomenon with a focus on the relatively underexplored live-show, with view to elucidating what is really monstrous about Lady Gaga. The argumentation that is put forward by drawing largely on Deleuze & Guattari’s notion of monstrosity, as well as on their approach to the study of sign-systems that was deployed in Thousand Plateaus, is supportive of the position that monstrosity as sign seeks to appropriate the horizon of unlimited semiosis as radical alterity and openness to signifying possibilities. In this context it is argued that Gaga is a simulacrum of herself (supreme signifier) and at the same time a (dis)simulacrum or dissimulative (feigned) simulacrum. Gaga is monstrous for her community insofar as she demands of her fans to project their semiosic horizon onto her as simulacrum of infinite semiosis, albeit a simulacrum that, in (the) reality (principle), may only be evinced dissimulatively in a feigned manner as (dis)simulacrum. Pursuant to an extensive analysis of the linguistically unarticulated, yet multimodally considerably more insightful imagery from seminal live shows during 2011-2012, Gaga’s presumed monstrosity is ultimately rendered as more akin to hyperdifferentiation. 

Keywords: monstrosity, sign systems, flows of intensity, territorialization, Lady Gaga

Monday, June 9, 2014

Conducting multimodal rhetorical analysis of TV ads with Atlas.ti 7, Multimodal Communication 3(1), pp. 51-84.

This paper lays out the steps involved in the process of analyzing the rhetorical structure of TV ads with the employment of the content analytic software Atlas.ti 7. By drawing on a corpus of 87 TV commercials from brands that make up the world’s most valuable brands according to WPP’s BrandZ 2012 report and a resulting pool of 561 ad filmic segments, it will be shown (i) how TV ads may be segmented, (ii) how individual segments may be coded with one or more verbo-visual rhetorical figures in the light of three distinctive levels of analysis (on an intra-segment level, between two succeeding segments, against the background of an ad film’s “global semantic structure”) and (iii) how statistical output pertaining to the rhetorical structure of TV ads may be produced. This technically oriented analysis, which is part of ongoing research in the field of multimodal advertising rhetoric (cf. Rossolatos 2013a, 2013b, 2013c), is intended to contribute to scholarly research about the benefits that stem from combining an interpretive approach to the analysis of ads’ rhetorical configuration that is edified on film semiotics, with a quantitative approach, enabled by the employment of the content analytic software Atlas.ti 7.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Is the semiosphere post-modernist?

This paper provides arguments for and against M.Lotman’s (2002) contention that Y.Lotman’s seminal concept of semiosphere is of post-modernist (post-structuralist; Posner 2011) orientation. A comparative reading of the definitional components of the semiosphere, their hierarchical relationship and their interactions is undertaken against the two principal axes of space and subjectivity in the light of Kantian transcendental idealism, as inaugural and authoritative figure of modernity, the Foucauldian discursive turn and the Deleuzian (post) radical empiricism (sic), as representative authors of the highly versatile post-modern vernacular. This comparative reading aims at highlighting not only similarities and differences between the Lotmanian conceptualization of the semiosphere and the concerned modernist and post-modernist authors, but the construct’s operational relevance in a post-metanarratives cultural predicament that has been coupled with the so-called spatial turn in cultural studies (Hess-Luttich 2012).   

Keywords: semiosphere, space, cultural subjectivity, modernity, post-modernity.

Friday, May 9, 2014

On the pathology of the enthymeme: Accounting for hidden visual premises in advertising discourse , Signs and Society, Vol. 2, No. 1 (Spring 2014)

One of the key reasons that have been put forward for justifying the superior argumentative force of visuals over verbal arguments in advertising discourse is their immediacy. The immediate resonance of visuals and their forceful appeal bears considerable resemblance to the argumentative force of enthymemes as hidden premises in informal rhetorical argumentation. In this paper an attempt is made at bridging the logical and pathemic appeals of enthymemes under the aegis of what may be called the pathology of the enthymeme, while demonstrating that what has been pejoratively tagged since Freudian psychoanalytic discourse as ‘the psychopathology of everyday life’ in fact constitutes the very underpinning of enthymematic structures and a system of topoi of which such structures constitute an integral part. By assuming as the point of departure of this genealogicopathological tracing Heidegger’s opening up of the meaning of logos and as destination Heidegger’s ontological reading of everydayness, the enthymematic embeddedness of cultural topoi is de-pathologized, while being reinserted in its ‘proper’ pathological dimension.  The exemplification of how visual enthymemes function and may be translated as hidden premises in advertising discourse seeks to demonstrate the pathology of the enthymeme as ‘unquestionable’ major premises that underpin visual arguments.  

Thursday, March 20, 2014

For a Semiotic Model of Cultural Branding and the Dynamic Management of a Brandosphere in the Face of User-Generated Advertising. International Journal of Marketing Semiotics Vol.II, 2014, pp.23-47

The aim of this paper is twice foundational. First, it aims at providing a sketchmap for a semiotically informed model of cultural branding that is currently lacking and second to identify how this model could be fruitfully applied for managing a brand’s share of cultural representations, over and above its market share, as well as the  textual  sources  of  a  brand  language  as  (inter)textual formation. The propounded cultural branding model of the brandosphere is of inter-disciplinary orientation, spanning the relevant marketing and semiotic literatures, with an emphasis on Lotmans cultural/textual semiotics and social media, with an added focus on user-generated advertising (henceforth denoted as UGA).  The brandosphere is envisioned as a marketing semiotic contester to the almost monopolizing cultural branding model of Douglas Holt (2004) in an attempt to demonstrate that marketing semiotics may constitute a standalone discipline that is capable of addressing, both conceptually and methodologically, various marketing-related research areas, rather than an ornamental add-on to consumer research.

Keywords: brandosphere, user-generated advertising, cultural semiotics, share of cultural representations.