Kress and Semiotics

From Literacy in the New Media Age:

It is no longer responsible to let children experience school without basing schooling on an understanding of the shift from competent performance to design as the foundational fact of contemporary social and economic life.(37)

Give the governor a ‘harrumph!’ When Kress writes passages like this, my inner choir he’s preaching to stands up and cheers. He supports this statement with many of the same kinds of arguments I’ve heard elsewhere. His particular take is that the move from page to screen accompanies/affords a move from alphabetic writing (which is based on speech in its temporal glory) to design-as-writing (based on image). Of course, these are useful formulations of ideas I already like.


…[S]ings are always meaningful conjunctions of signifiers and signifieds; it means that we can look at the signifiers and make hypotheses about what they might be signifying in any one instance, because we know that the form chosen was the most apt expression of that which was to be signified. . . . It entails that all aspects of form are meaningful, and that all aspects of form must be read with equal care: nothing can be disregarded.(44)

I can see why this distinction is useful/necessary for an image-based writing system, but I get stuck making the leap (back?) to speech. Pierce’s notion that the sign is arbitrary reigns so strongly in the semiotics I’m familiar with that I can’t get my head around the notion that spoken signs are significant in their form. A colleague suggested that Kress doesn’t refer here to the sign in its inception, but its use at a given time–when I say tree, it’s the most apt way to express ‘tree’ in a given situation. That helps, but I still don’t see why “all aspects of form are meaningful” in that situation. How does the single syllable become meaningful in itself? Is there something in the combination of ‘tr’ and a long ‘e’ that embodies ‘tree-ness?’

Gave Thanks

Mmm. Fun trip home.

Most interesting food: Rum-baked yams.

Four kinds of pie: Pumpkin, Pecan, Apple, and Mexican Chocolate. My cousin’s fiancee said the pumpkin was the “best pumpkin pie she’d ever had.” It was pretty damn good.

Started Gunther Kress’ Literacy in the New Media Age. Comments on it soon.