Meaning-making on a non-spatial world
and the semiotics of commemorating an intangible past
As part of modern-day culture, the world wide web is unnatural, an extension of man's social construction of his world. Such is an entirely new dimension of reality that is both a material and a non-material construct. The material construct makes possible the non-spatial, online reality of the web which, just like a man's social reality, is legitimized through his meaning-making. We are said to be in the meaning-making era of mass communication where "you create your own meaning" (Baran & Davis, 2010).
Communication research “focuses on the ways in which messages link participants during interactions” (Kibler & Barker, 1969). Central to these interactions is meaning that “arises and lies within the field of the relation between the gesture of a given human organism and the subsequent behavior of this organism as indicated to another human organism by that gesture” (Mead, 1934).
Mead further posited that meanings are embedded in language which legitimizes the objectification and social construction of reality. Saussure, Swiss linguist and semiotician, on the other hand, saw language as a system or structure of arbitrary signs comprised of signifiers which most often have no direct resemblance to their signified (Griffin, 2013). Their meanings, too, may not be straightforward as a text may contain its own contradictions. Derrida, an Algerian-born French philosopher, held that words have meaning only in contrast or opposition to other words. They are never present but rather are deferred to other signs. Hence, there is a need to deconstruct text to uncover its true meaning.
This maiden issue of the Communication and Journalism Review (CJR) examines mainly the meaning-making of online communication through a study of political internet memes and social media. Online reality being socially constructed is a product of a person’s meaning-making. It also looks into the deconstruction of that meaning-making with the non-participation by some people on the internet. Aside from these, there are articles that investigate E-commerce as communication and the semiotics of heritage communication. It is a daunting challenge yet, our young writers have stood up to the task.
Said to be digital natives (Prensky, 2001), these young communication researchers can best describe and explain the online world. They can be on the other side of the digital divide that separates them from their parents; teachers from their students, and public authority figures from the public and young adults. In this issue, we pay attention to what the young researchers have discovered as they analyze the social construction and sense-making of their world. This world that they live in is heavily influenced by the virtual and non-spatial, rather than the real and tangible.
Online Communication. The first article focuses on the message or content as represented by political internet memes. Such memes are observable and can be analyzed as to what could make them viable as a tool for political communication. What meanings are assigned to certain memes which are basically non-verbal and how they are interpreted are among the areas this article looks into. The second article highlights the reception by students of a social media phenomenon - the use of aliases and real names in Facebook accounts and what it possibly means. The study exposes Facebook users’ vulnerability to messages from dubious sources as gathered from their responses to the survey.
Non-participation on the internet. The third article, written by a seasoned writer, Mr. Jason Baguia, EM, analyzes with great depth the non-participation of some people on the internet through a combination of philosophical and phenomenological approaches. The method grounded the discussion on actual experience and not just by means of an a priori interpretative approach. The paper is significant as it goes in the opposite direction through a deconstruction of how people build their online experience and the meaning-making that goes with it.
Meta-analysis of E-commerce in ASEAN. The fourth article highlights the metadiscursive aspect of the communication field. Considered as a discourse on discourse, a talk on talk, a communication on communication, communication studies can delve into the what-and-how of our discussion about a certain topic, such as E-commerce. By doing a meta-analysis of abstracts on the topic taken from articles published in Google Scholar, the researchers are able to uncover what has been the discourse on the topic in the ASEAN region all about mostly on media capability. This unravels the ambivalence of entrepreneurs towards technical issues and considerations surrounding the technology involved in E-commerce.
Semiotics of Heritage Promotion. From the social construction and deconstruction of online communication, and a meta-analysis of E-commerce, our fifth article does a semiotic analysis of a historical event and its commemoration. It brings Barthes’ Semiotics into the study of heritage promotion, particularly, the commemoration of Cebu City’s historic 1898 Battle of Tres de Abril. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the four overreaching goals of heritage protection are Credibility, Conservation, Capacity-Building, and Communication (‘4 Cs’). The article analyzes what the commemoration of the historic battle means to the public, the government and the heritage workers, and how the meaning-making in the signs used evolved from being denotative to connotative.
Meaning as embedded in language helps construct the online reality that is the web. A fairly recent human invention, this online meaning-making is in varying states of construction and deconstruction. It is important to keep a critical stance, a sort of metacommunication when dealing with the online world. With this maiden issue of the CJR, we hope to have initially accomplished that.
Jose D. Velez, Jr.