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Journal of the International Association for Semiotic Studies / Revue de l'Association Internationale de Sémiotique

Editor-in-Chief: Danesi, Marcel

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Agenzia Nazionale di Valutazione del Sistema Universitario e della Ricerca: Classe A

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Volume 2015, Issue 207


Sports utility semiotics: A semantic differential study of symbolic potential in automobile design

Andrew Wilson / Małgorzata Haładewicz-Grzelak
Published Online: 2015-09-24 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/sem-2015-0044


The article aims to illuminate the issue of symbolic potential in postmodern society through a semiotic study of car design. In Baudrillard’s terminology, we explore the experience and sociological and psychological materiality of objects that, being above objects’ perceptible materiality, constantly modify the integrity of technological systems (Baudrillard 2005 [1968]: 6). The target concepts are analyzed through Baudrillard’s lens of symbolic capital and his technological system of objects, coupled with the method of semantic differential (SD; e.g., Osgood 1979, 1981) against the insights of Tartu semiotics. Such a complex framework helps to establish affective attitudes of the subjects towards scales selected for their perceptual saliency. The analysis is based on the responses of students in a Polish university who were administered an instrument comprising 14 concepts and 37 scales. The results of statistical analysis yield a semantic space with two factors: potency and activity/dynamism, which we shall call social prestige. At this stage of the analysis we could not determine the evaluation factor. The scales that loaded significantly showed that there is indeed an increment of perceptual saliency in both extracted factors in the case of target stimuli (pickups and SUVs).

Keywords: semantic differential; luxury; semiotics of economics; Roland Barthes; Jean Baudrillard; symbolic prestige


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About the article

Published Online: 2015-09-24

Published in Print: 2015-10-01

Citation Information: Semiotica, Volume 2015, Issue 207, Pages 1–29, ISSN (Online) 1613-3692, ISSN (Print) 0037-1998, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/sem-2015-0044.

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