Thursday, July 20, 2006

Visual memes

abus padlock on blue
Well I've just got into photographing padlocks after looking at someone else's collection on Flickr. That's made me look at padlocks in new ways - their material variety, their trademarks, product details, signs of use and so on - and of course their function and symbolism. At the same time I've been thinking about Kress's idea of motivated sign-making, re-making and transformation. But somehow that doesn't quite tell me enough about this padlock thing. It's more of a visual meme, a contagious image. But all it does at this stage is to remain a dumb image, a copy or perhaps to be more generous it communicates an interest, possibly a shared interest, an empathy or acknowledgement. On the other hand, photographing wall textures for the virtual world is more overtly purposeful. It means in a different way. Are these sorts of images easier to explain as motivated signs? And does this reflect the detail (or the context) of social participation? Or, do I completely misunderstand the concept of a motivated sign?


Kate said...

I see the motivated sign as being shaped by the interest of the sign maker. So people are focused on padlocks.
There is something there about affordances. I think Kress stops short of describing the cultural properties of affordances, and just sees affordances in terms of material possibilities. But I think the padlock is a sign with a lot of cultural affordances.
There you go.

Guy Merchant said...

Thanks Kate, that's helpful. I agree with that about the interest of the sign-maker, too. I suppose I was distinguishing between a rather casual (whimsical?) interest and the more focused purposeful interest in a particular kind image. Maybe it's an unhelpful binary....Anyway, I like your idea of cultural affordances and wrt padlocks there's also security, property and, ownership...and so on!!