The developed world around us is full of art, logos, and advertisements, each image has several meanings. These meanings can be dissected into their literal meaning (denotative) and a meaning that is open to interpretation (the connotative). The connotative meaning is primarily derived from the viewer of an image. The viewer’s perspective is colored in part by to their socio-cultural background. What does looking at the several meanings of an image provide for us? Being able to decipher the connotative meaning of an image beyond the information given, grants us a deeper look into the ideologies an image embodies and the ideologies the viewer may hold.
To help visualize this idea I will present an image, one that I found at my college campus in the school cafeteria called Victor’s. I will first ask what components make up the advertisement visually, such as pictures, text, etc. Then I will analyze the image in terms in terms of its “literal” and denotative meaning. To follow up, the connotative meanings will be analyzed. Lastly, I will then explain how the connotative meaning and ideologies are linked together.
The image in Victor’s dining hall has several different components, including textual information (writing) and pictures. The text reads as follows, “WE’VE GOT THE “EAT” THING COVERED,” in large, bold, white print. Under the main text, there are various words that blend in with the background that say, eat, sleep, study, work, relax, read, play, and think. There are five pictures on this advertisement portray college students in a number of activities ranging from balancing a book on one’s head to a group discussing supposedly something academic. “We’ve got the “eat” thing covered” also implies two things, we need to eat, and we have busy lives. They are in essence trying to ease our responsibilities by “covering” the need to acquire our food. The denotative meaning of this advertisement would be something resembling this “Victor’s is a place on campus where one could get a meal.”
The connotative meaning is a bit richer and will require some background information from myself to give some context to my analysis. I am a college student who lives in campus housing working as a resident assistant. This means I eat at Victor’s three times a day because I am required to.
To begin, college is an environment where people to come to learn copious amounts of information and thus place their attention on academics. There is always much to be done and the days’ of students are packed hour to hour with academics and life. Through this ad, Victor’s Dining is suggesting their commitment towards providing an environment where students can relax and focus solely on their studies by eliminating one of the things that they may be worrying about. Or in other words, eating at Victors will make you a better student. This is the connotative meaning and the ideologies this ad displays.
How does the ad represent these connotations and ideologies? First I want to look at the relation between the pictures and the text. In each image, college students are depicted doing things other than eating. This alludes to the other things that one would have the opportunity of partaking in if they didn’t have to worry about prepping food. If Victor’s is prepping the food then they are doing their share to help you live a student life. This is in part emphasized by the choice words the ad uses as a background, i.e. sleep, study, play, work, read, think, etc. All of these words, in part, describe what a typical student’s day is filled with. College is an environment where one learns, and Victor’s provides one of the pieces of the environment so students can consume information as well as food.
The meaning of an image goes beyond the information given. There is some perceptible addition to the literal or denotative meaning of an advertisement. What is added to an image is a combination of beliefs or values. These values are applied to an image in part by the person viewing it, which are colored by their own background.
This analysis made me think about my own background, primarily in terms of how ideologies affect my own life. My studies in psychology have taken me on quite an extensive trip and given me insight into my own behaviors. To the introspective self, ideologies seem completely natural and we are unaware of the conflicts of ideologies. Another piece of information I draw from is that much of our behavior is influenced by factors we are unaware of but still act as though we are. There is some influence by the connotative meanings of images that while we may not be aware of, we are still acting as though we are. To give a more practical example, we live in a world where there are conflicting ideologies but yet we aren’t aware of them and still have to interact with other people.