Semiotics is a tradition of thought known for calling attention to the formal structures of signification, of meaning-making, in culture. In so far as it can be used to reveal the arbitrary or constructed character of the meanings we use in our everyday lives, semiotics is also a form of social criticism.

Semiotics, or semiology, is usually traced back to both Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure and American philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce. As with any academic school of thought, semiotics has its proponents, detractors, and scholarly disputes. But, whatever else you can say about it, these days semiotics serves as a very useful set of tools for identifying many of the formal patterns that work to make meaning in many aspects of our culture, particularly the media.

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