Assignments: Batch Two: Assignment 13

Compile a photographic essay on the visual semiotics of cafe culture in Aberystwyth or your own home town.


For general guidance about what is expected in your essays for this module, see the general criteria.

What Key Features Do I Look For?

  • Familiarity with relevant texts
  • Evidence - the stronger the better
  • Argument - coherent and balanced
  • Theoretical discussion - relation to relevant theories
  • Understanding of relevant concepts
  • Reflexivity - reflections on methodology
  • Examples - insightfully analysed
  • Style - readability and effective presentation

Please remember to avoid footnotes and to include an alphabetical list of 'References' which have been cited in the text (not a Bibliography of anything you have read for the essay). This list should include author's names, date, book titles (in italics), place of publication and publisher. Within the text always cite author's surname, date and page number. Double-space your text and number your pages. For more detailed notes on writing essays in this department, click here.

Advice for this particular assignment: The cafes in Aber reflect (or perhaps contribute) to constructing social stratification. Each individual cafe-goer seems to draw on a relatively limited repertoire of cafes (and in some ways it is the significant absences of certain cafes from an individual's repertoire that is most telling). You are expected to demonstrate your understanding of relevant semiotic concepts, in particular signifier, signified, syntagms, paradigms, codes and the commutation test. For instance, you can apply the commutation test to determine which visual features of one cafe would never be found in another one, and then you can discuss why this might be so. Map out a schema that seeks to account for key visual features in all of the cafes and then illustrate and discuss the points of divergence. This essay needs substantial illustration, particularly with photographs (ideally, some of these should be your own); essays with minimal illustration will lose marks for this.

Do not take photographs in commercial premises without asking permission first. Note that if you take photographs featuring people's faces that you must obtain permission first: use a consent form explaining that you are doing this for educational and research purposes only. Anyone featured will need to sign such a form granting you permission to use such photographs for these purposes only; pixelate out faces of bystanders where you have no such form. Any consent forms used must form part of your submission.

In particular, try to group related images together for comparison and contract in order to assist your discussion. Although this is effectively 'a photographic essay' the same criteria will be employed as for other written assignments, so do not neglect such essential features as the discussion of relevant academic sources. The illustrations should be deployed as part of a coherent argument. Remember to include a list labelled either Figures or Image sources after your list of References.

Only some of the books on the suggested reading are explicitly semiotic and you may need to recast their insights within a semiotic framework.

Some suggested reading

Note: Treat with extreme caution sources labelled with this symbol!

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