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Semiotic Review








The contemporary production of “style” relies heavily on the implementation of the “short-circuit sign” and the relationship of both to the emptiness of fourth-order simulation and to the remediation of successive visual forms. In distinguishing the “short-circuit sign,” film scholar James Monaco highlights the important role of cultural codes in the naturalization and the reification of on-screen images so that signifier and signified become identical, or are perceived as such. It is the cultural codes, then, that distinguish this mode from the establishment of a sign’s iconicity, insofar as the “short-circuit sign” belongs, as it were, to the genre and also in terms of the privileging of the visual over other means of transmission. If, however, the “short-circuit sign,” in which “signifier and signified are almost the same” and its role in the production of verisimilitude exist in and through cultural codes, then the study of this form need not confine itself to the study of moving images exclusively (Monaco 1981:447). Yet, the intersection of the visual and the material in such signs remains largely unexplored. Similarly, in their book, Remediation: Understanding New Media, Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin explain developments in new media by first examining their relationships with previous techniques. The process of rejecting, revising, and reproducing other media, or what they call “remediation,” takes two forms: immediacy and hypermediacy (1999:6-7). Immediacy refers to the tendency of media forms to be transparent, or realistic. The latter concept describes the tendency of a new combination of media to draw attention to its own artificiality, or mediated elements. While Bolter and Grusin update several of Marshall McLuhan’s tenets to arrive at the ways in which visual media repurpose and retransmit other visual media, none of these have really been applied to investigate the particularized and individualized effects of viewing everything and everyone through remediated lenses. In these regards, then, style presents a unique blend of iconicity, short-circuits, prosthesis, remediation, and simulation that points to and problematizes the inevitable materiality of the human body as a site of and a surface for cultural production. Thus, I will argue that style is more than just an aesthetic and is instead a prosthetic, a necessary attachment without which the self cannot exist.


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Original Publication Citation

Ouellette, M.A. (2013). “I know it when i see it”: Style, simulation and the ‘short-circuit sign.’ Semiotic Review 1(3), 1-15.