GoogleTranslate Service

YouTube: Semantic ambiguity, bricolage and sign making

December 23rd, 2009 by Graham Attwell

This research rocks! At a workshop on ‘Technology enhanced learning in the context of technological, societal and cultural transformation‘, held in Garmisch Partenkirchen earlier this month, I was lucky enough to talk to Elisabetta Adami who was presenting an expellent paper on ‘Individualized participation in public forms of communication and learning: reshaping contexts in a changing world of cultural products.’

But it was her doctoral research which really got me interested.  Elisabetta’s dissertation, called Video interaction on YouTube: Contemporary Changes in Semiosis and Communication’, looks at interaction through video replies on YouTube. It is both serious research and fascinating to read.

The entire dissertation, written in English is available on the web and can also be downloaded. Here is an excerpt from the conclusion to the abstract:

“the analysis of the process of video-interaction focuses on (a) its distinctive features and structural characteristics, (b) its semiotic ‘affordances’ (Kress and van Leeuwen, 2001: 67), in terms of the material and social constraints and possibilities which the medium imposes over the semiosis, and (c) the diversified (and often conflicting) semiotic practices with which the affordances are actualized by the interactants.

Rather than following traditionally conceived cooperative or relevance principles and notions of coherence and cohesion, video-interaction works on a ‘loose’ form of individualized participation. While the structural characteristics determine the interactional possibilities, the interactants’ practices exploit the affordances of video-interaction in unexpected ways and often lead to changes in the structure itself (in the same way as the Saussurean parole, when made socially dominant, modifies the langue). Patterns of relatedness in the exchanges are driven by the sign-makers’ diversified interests. More specifically, sign-making relations in the exchanges are established through a system of differentiation-within-attuning, so that interactants bring their distinctive contribution while keeping the same (either formal or semantic) theme, set by the initial video. In this sense, video-interaction is analogous to collective forms of artistic improvisation (e.g., the genre of variation in music or the contemporary free-style). Video responses take up – and actualize – one or more prompts within the range of possibilities set by the initial video. This prompt-response relation generally disregards the interlocutor’s intended meaning, it often does not follow relevance principles, it presents (traditionally considered) marked textual organizations, and does not build coherent exchanges. Not only is (intertextual) implicitness widely practiced, but also formal attuning is sometimes more regarded than (semantic) coherence for the establishment of relatedness in the exchange.

Rather than on the interactants’ mutual understanding, video-interaction hinges on a playful and challenging engagement with the medium and with the other texts in the exchange, by exploiting maximally the representational possibilities of both.

Patterns of relatedness are established through an interest-driven selection, transformation, assemblage and recontextualization of (often formal, at times implicit or backgrounded) elements of the initial video or of other texts. This way, sign-making is often done by means of a copy-and-paste technique, which follows the interactants’ diversified interests, and disregards coherence or the signmaker’s intended meaning. Responses frequently and intentionally produce their texts through misunderstanding and exploit maximally the potential semantic ambiguity of the interlocutor’s text. Incoherent exchanges are successful and generally acknowledged and accepted by interactants. In this sense, videointeraction epitomizes the changes in representation and communication which are taking place in our contemporary semiotic landscape, whereby traditional systems of coherence are disregarded and (traditionally considered) incoherent or noncohesive exchanges are acceptable as the result of representations produced through the selection, copy and paste, recontextualization and forwarding of other texts.

These contemporary changes in representation and communication need analogous changes in the theories of communication, while their description requires adequate analytical models. Therefore the thesis concludes by hypothesizing the usefulness of the theoretical and analytical framework devised for the research to the description of contemporary forms of communication.”

Please follow and like us:


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Graham Attwell and Irmeli Aro, Susanne Draheim. Susanne Draheim said: RT @GrahamAttwell: blog post about great dissertation by @lisadami on YouTube: Semantic ambiguity, bricolage, sign making […]

  • Search

    Social Media

    News Bites

    Cyborg patented?

    Forbes reports that Microsoft has obtained a patent for a “conversational chatbot of a specific person” created from images, recordings, participation in social networks, emails, letters, etc., coupled with the possible generation of a 2D or 3D model of the person.

    Please follow and like us:

    Racial bias in algorithms

    From the UK Open Data Institute’s Week in Data newsletter

    This week, Twitter apologised for racial bias within its image-cropping algorithm. The feature is designed to automatically crop images to highlight focal points – including faces. But, Twitter users discovered that, in practice, white faces were focused on, and black faces were cropped out. And, Twitter isn’t the only platform struggling with its algorithm – YouTube has also announced plans to bring back higher levels of human moderation for removing content, after its AI-centred approach resulted in over-censorship, with videos being removed at far higher rates than with human moderators.

    Please follow and like us:

    Gap between rich and poor university students widest for 12 years

    Via The Canary.

    The gap between poor students and their more affluent peers attending university has widened to its largest point for 12 years, according to data published by the Department for Education (DfE).

    Better-off pupils are significantly more likely to go to university than their more disadvantaged peers. And the gap between the two groups – 18.8 percentage points – is the widest it’s been since 2006/07.

    The latest statistics show that 26.3% of pupils eligible for FSMs went on to university in 2018/19, compared with 45.1% of those who did not receive free meals. Only 12.7% of white British males who were eligible for FSMs went to university by the age of 19. The progression rate has fallen slightly for the first time since 2011/12, according to the DfE analysis.

    Please follow and like us:

    Quality Training

    From Raconteur. A recent report by global learning consultancy Kineo examined the learning intentions of 8,000 employees across 13 different industries. It found a huge gap between the quality of training offered and the needs of employees. Of those surveyed, 85 per cent said they , with only 16 per cent of employees finding the learning programmes offered by their employers effective.

    Please follow and like us:

    Other Pontydysgu Spaces

    • Pontydysgu on the Web

      Our Wikispace for teaching and learning
      Sounds of the Bazaar Radio LIVE
      Join our Sounds of the Bazaar Facebook goup. Just click on the logo above.

      We will be at Online Educa Berlin 2015. See the info above. The stream URL to play in your application is Stream URL or go to our new stream webpage here SoB Stream Page.

      Please follow and like us:
  • Twitter

  • Recent Posts

  • Archives

  • Meta

  • Categories