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What is Media Language?

Language is any system for communicating meaning. Obviously, there are verbal and written languages, many of which you study in school. But music, for example, is often thought of as a language, and part of what you do in music class will be to learn to interpret that language. ('Why does the composer use a minor tonality? Why does the music become more dynamic at this point?')

Likewise in Media, we can learn to 'read' texts - images and film, for example; to understand what they mean, and then we can make them ourselves. Some elements of media language are colour, composition, editing style, narrative structure, sound design - but there are always more elements to look at and understand.

So, basically, when we study Media Language, we are learning first to interpret other people's pictures and film (or whatever); then we use this understanding to make our own pictures and film (or whatever) better.

Denotation and Connotation

Perhaps the most basic concept (and terms) to know are those of CONNOTATION and DENOTATION. Look at the example on the left. Ellen de Generes, a very famous American television personality. tweeted this image during the 2016 Olympics. 

The DENOTATION is what we can literally see. It is a full-body, neutral-angle picture of a smiling black man carrying a smiling white woman. You can go into more detail about colours and effects if you want, but basically when you explain the denotation, you are simply describing the image.

The CONNOTATION is more complex. This image caused a lot of controversy because many people saw racist undertones or CONNOTATIONS in it. The idea that a white woman thought it was funny to suggest using a black man as a form of transport caused many people to suggest that the image was offensive. The connotation is the underlying meaning of the image.

Obviously, it is up to you to decide for yourself what you think!





TASK: Logo Creation

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