Image for post
Image for post

So why might the photo fill you with dread?

How did you come to think this way? In Jaipur, like many other regions around the world, this is not uncommon. Note how the mother has wedged the child between herself and the driver. Perhaps for extra safety?

Image for post
Image for post

In the city, it’s compulsory that the rider wear a helmet. Though in this case the logic that the rider is most likely at the front of the bike, so needs to be protected, is skewed.

How do you look at this and begin to shape various thoughts. If you’ve rarely been privy or involved in accidents from riding a motorcycle and you’ve driven like this for many years unscathed, does it matter?

Driving in Jaipur looks chaotic to the outsider but it is framed by informal negotiated codes amongst those that use the road.

From the moment a baby’s eyes open, the process of meaning making starts. Perhaps, even before then, auditory expressions — a mother’s voice and lullabies start to have an impression.

At various points along their growth, things around them go from the abstract to comprehensible value. A rattle acquires meaning, through its purpose of rattling. It’s harmless.

You could provoke a storm by placing in the hands of the baby a toy plastic gun as a rattle. The baby could, as all babies do muzzle on the rattle. The meaning of the rattle is determined by, say the parents’s reaction to this. Yes, it would fill me with dread too and I would not approve. But toy makers continue to make guns for 5 year-old upwards wanting to play cops and robbers.

We learn not to play with fire, it isn’t hardwired into us. Assigning meaning to what ever we do is a fundamental act of our existence.

You could call this semiotics, which looks to meaning from the association of signs, but cannot ultimately tell you what the meaning is. That part, according to the cognitivists, is down to common sense (acquired through knowledge and experience c.f Kant). And where did that knowledge and experience come from?

Behavioural economics — an attempt to rationalise behaviour is predicated on meaning making via emotions, cognitivism and hidden in there too semiotics. How do markets react? Why do pictures of Greek banks with long queues instil panic at a certain moment and time?

Both semiotics as a means to explain and cognitivism can draw shorts. Semiotics because codes are not immutable. Cognitivism, because at least in the interpretation of film studies race and identity fail to furnish the interpretation as laden with ‘ how race matters’.

Our sense of meaning making invariably is shaped by a varying multitude of forces, not least the environment and those in power that shape laws or guidelines. When our baby grows up, she’ll be made to understand how certain things work, or should work.

My uncle tells me that my late father could have played a role in Ghanaian politics because he had that look. He looked ministerial. I know this first hand as at each police/army check in heady 80s Ghana we arrived at , he’d be saluted.

He had no political experience, but Barthes could argue the army men interpreted my father and the association of signs around him, as a framework to ascribe meaning. My dad cunningly drove around in a white merc.

I got to reading professor Diana Coyle’s blog on ‘Key questions are missing from debate on the productivity puzzle’. Coyle cites Why Information Grows by Cesar Hidalgo and Ricardo Hausmann. Hidalgo, she says, argues that:

…economic value is created, not by either materials or information alone, but by the arrangement of information as embedded in physical things using people’s know-how. His metaphor is of the economy as a jigsaw. The pieces are not interchangeable; and beyond a certain size the whole thing becomes difficult to transplant. An economy grows by building out from its initial “picture”.

By world play, semiotics gets a look in

..meaning is created, not by either materials or information alone, but by the arrangement of sign as embedded in physical things using people’s cognitivism.

This meaning making, I saw as Semiotics — a loaded word, and perhaps should have stuck with ‘meaning making’ via cognitivism, but the characteristics of how we know what we know appears to align with how meaning is ascribed.

Meaning making is not inherent, we’re not created with it but by association of, er yuk signs to rationalise sense. Cognitively we determine what those signs come to mean. The bane of journalism studies is this thought process that requires continual adressing. Its righted by professor Schudson when he says journalism is a social construct determined my cultural and literary values. Videojournalism, and my visit to Jaipur’s journalism conference, takes account of this.

Invariably, powerful sources compress meaning to be fixed into er, yuk codes. These codes appear immutable, but aren’t. Perhaps, this is exemplified by Greece’s overwhelming decision to ignore the position of its powerful mainstream press pronouncing calamity at a Grexit for something else. In Jaipur, a sense that the economics of behaviour, via new ways of videojournalism, have caught the attention of some.

My key takeaway from here, and refluxing Hidalgo’s quote is how often culture, identity and race surface little, or are not given enough space for shared understanding when discussing meaning making. In Economics perhaps that’s because race is neutered towards homogenous cultural identities.

Should the behaviour of people here on motorcycles cause for concern?

David Dunkley Gyimah’s doctorate examined meaning making in videojournalism, cinema and news. How we come to know what we know.

Written by

Top Writer & Creative Technologist, Int. Award Winner. Cinemajournalist. Cardiff Uni @jomec. PhD (Dublin). Visiting Prof UBC, Ex BBC/C4News. Apple profiled.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store