Week 7

Student name: Matt Hillesheim

Date of post: 8/9/2014

Topic and relevant lecture week: Interaction, Semiotics

Semiotic Analysis


Image Source – Google Images

The image is of a young African child being treated and cared for by a doctor. It is a symbolic image that resonates the issues that third world countries face. In this case the image is a representation of medical issues that young children face growing up in these countries. The building blocks identified are the doctor, the child, the mirror and the medical gown covering the child.


The main signifier is the image of a doctor holding a helpless child. He is signified as a saviour who is helping to save a child who gravely needs help. He is seen as a moral compass which is magnified with the light settings around him. Using dyers list representation of manner is important as he is looking down gracefully yet somewhat saddened at the state of the little boy.


An element that further portrays this imagery and even subjectively adds a spiritual or religious sense is the signifier of the mirror. The camera angle, distance and the standing position of the doctor give the illusion that the mirror signifies (signified) a halo. From the audience perspective the camera appears slightly tilted downwards. This gives the audience a perspective which helps emphasize guilt and sadness.


Finally the signifier that is the boy being held in the arms of the doctor. He is signified as helpless, ill and in need of medical treatment. His eyes are closed and he appears in a state of complete vulnerability, fully trusting the doctor to care for him. He can also be used as a metaphor for the health issues young children face growing up in poverty. The fact that he is a young child clarifies this as a stronger humanitarian problem than if it was an older man or woman. Collectively these signs have a symbol relationship due to the overall composition of the image which revolves around the focal point of the doctor and child but becomes symbolic due to the staging, lighting and the distance/perspective the photo was taken.


Despite the image being very symbolic it is seen as a narrative as the viewer naturally asks questions of why the child is in this state and being treated by a doctor. A journey clearly took place to lead to the point where the image was taken.


Image Source –


This image is taken in Iraq with a young girl giving a soldier a flower. The image at glance symbolises the innocence that can unfairly be engulfed in war. It is represented as a narrative because of the well-publicised issues in Iraq and the context in which a young Iraqi girl is interacting with a Caucasian soldier. This image is similar to the other as they are both narratives despite having very strong symbolic elements.


There are three main signals that represent the building blocks for the image. The first signifier is represented by a young female child. This is signified as the innocence and unfairness of the situation. Although there is no violence depicted it is clear that the child is present in a warzone and a dire situation. Their representation of activity portrays this innocence as despite engaging with the soldier she is still standoffish and maintaining a distance from a man perceived as a stranger. Salience is present by the bright clothing strongly standing out compared to the low value and dull colours of the background and soldier.


The second signifier is the armed soldier receiving the flower. Signified his role can be interpreted in a variety of ways. He can be signified as the image of violence and destruction due to his occupation, a figure of war. However he can also be viewed as a hero who is protecting the nation from more harm. Considering the interaction with the young girl she must perceive him as an approachable figure. His sitting position with the gun on his lap is quite unopen yet relaxed.


The last and most important signifier is the flower. The flower as a signal in interaction with the other signals is a relationship that is symbolic. If there was no flower the interpretation of the image would be vastly different. As well as if the image was zoomed in on the flower and hands, the context would be more universal to the world than strictly to the situation in Iraq. It is signified that the flower represents peace, compassion, innocence and friendship. The distance of the shot fits both child and man evenly and makes them viewed as strangers and unfamiliar with each other. Metaphorically the image represents the innocence that is present in an area torn apart by war.


Gillian Rose., (2001). Chapter 4: Semiology. In Gillian Rose., Visual methodologies: an introduction to the interpretation of visual materials, (pp.69 – 99).

Jewitt, Carey and Oyama, R, (2001). Visual Meaning: A Social Semiotic Approach. In Van Leeuwen, Theo and Jewitt, Carey, Handbook of visual analysis, (pp.134 – 157). Thousand Oaks [Calif: Sage.]

O’Neill, Shaleph, (2008). Chapter 5 : Semiotic Theory : Signs and Signification. In O’Neill, Shaleph, Interactive media : the semiotics of embodied interaction, (pp.67 – 82). London : Springer.


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