Stuff and Materiality in Society 2

In lecture two we had a look at Subjects and Objects and Semiotics.

Briefly, subjects are conscious  (and have a sense of being ) and are produced by society (university/family/etc) , whereas objects are material things that have no consciousness.  Material objects are self-sufficient, they do not need to be a part of something to exist, as opposed to conscious subject that are social beings.

This got me thinking – us, as subjects, need material objects so desperately in our daily lives, but they actually do not need us at all to exist themselves. They are one of the sides in our relationship with them (we should admit we have an emotional relationship with some of them, the ones that we love, hate, etc.), but they actually do not have an active role in this relationship. Probably the reason why we like this so much is because it is only up to us as to fill this relationship with context – and we kinda like it. As opposed, the subject-subject relationship requires much more effort, that’s where things get a lot more difficult. It is a challenge having two real points of view and two different senses of being. Imagine your t-shirt shouting – “Be careful how you treat me, I am leaving you, you unfaithful human, how dare you liking other t-shirts” . Objects are so easy to work with, they are such dedicated slaves to our needs.

Semiotics is a main topic studied by Graphic Designers, because of its close relation to the theory signs and visual communication. Semiotics is literally “this means that”. This study of signs examine the ways in which images, shapes, objects mean things for people within a society. “Signified” is this actual meaning (different for everyone), and “Signifier” is the image/shape/object/etc. that carries it (which doesn’t change). Red roses are a symbol of romance.

As a task we were asked to think of a symbolic item that carries meaning which was given to it by society and not related to its real qualities. What came to my mind was food – for example Pasta is just a dish that is prepared all around the world, and has many varieties, but it represents Italy because of their traditions in preparing it, so that loads Pasta with meaning. Moreover, I guess flags do the same job too – a combination of colours would never make us think of a certain country if we hadn’t been told this information previously. Furthermore, there is a tradition in my country ( I am not sure if it’s the same in the UK) that you should never give an even number of flowers as a present, because an even number is given on funerals as a farewell with the dead person. So if you give somebody 2 sprigs of flowers for their birthday, that would probably mean that you wish their death. Which makes no sense, but that is what the beliefs are.


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