Chapter 12: Visual Images

This exercise asks you to use some ideas from Table 12.1 about viewing a street. You will need to spend time observing a local street in order to define a researchable topic.

  1. What is your topic? What models and concepts can you use to understand it?
  2. What data will you use? Which kind of people or objects will you observe?
  3. Which position will you choose to observe from? Why? Would you like to use a video camera? If so, where would you position it? Why?
  4. What conclusions about which topics do you think you will be able to derive from your analysis?

This is an exercise to help you to use Saussure’s abstract concepts. Imagine you are given a menu at a restaurant. The menu reads as follows (for convenience we will leave out the prices):

Tomato soup

Mixed salad


Roast beef

Fried chicken

Grilled plaice


Ice cream (several flavours)

Apple pie

Your task is to work out how you can treat the words on the menu as a set of related signs. Try to use all the concepts above: for example, langue, parole, syntagmatic relations and paradigmatic oppositions.

Here are some clues:

  1. What can you learn from the order in which the courses are set out?
  2. What can you learn from the choices which are offered for each course?

This exercise is designed to help you to think about how sign-systems work in visual images.

  1. Select two Internet advertisements which contain visual images for different makes of the same product (e.g. a smartphone).
  2. List the signifiers present in each advert.
  3. Now consider how these signifying elements are related (or articulated) to each other and the meaning (or ‘message’) that is, thereby, signified in each advert.
  4. Do the two adverts use the same or different strategies to convey their message?