Barthes: Studium and Punctum

Chapter 2 of Internet Invention asks me/us to use Roland Barthes theories of photography to examine some photos. Barthes explains two sets of meaning in a photograph:

1) Studium: "meanings that are nameable," "given cultural meanings that we understand at once" (44)

2) Punctum: "a personal memory based not on the public archive but a private repertoire," "stings the viewer...some detail (some accident in the photograph)" (44); "occurs when there is a match between a signifier in the scene (in the photograph), and a scene in the memory" (45)

Let's give this a shot:

I got this image from Rodney's Flickr page.

Well, we've got the Texas flag which actually appears to be higher than the Stars and Stripes (in actuality, it's probably the same height - Texas is the only state that can do this, right? Have the state flag as high as the U.S. flag?) There is shrubbery and green grass. Rodney's page claims that this image was taken in Giddings, TX, but it seems too green to be Texas. We have had a lot of rain lately. Then, of course, the "Dime Box" sign. Rodney is so witty...I wonder if he took the picture at 4:20?

Rodney's picture of the Dime Box sign (classic "dime bag" humor) brings back memories of "The 10 Spot" on MTV. I have no idea what The 10 Spot was (I think it was just a way for them to package what was on at 10:00pm?), but in college we always called it the "dime bag."

One more:

[Image courtesy of slhr_zulu

Auburn Hair. Knot in the hair, or maybe just bed head? Black light poster in the background? Probably a dorm room.

The MySpace Angles. Pictures like this are part of a whole new genre of photography. This is explained best in MySpace: The Movie:

She's got the angles. It's only a shot of her face, a shot of her butt, a shot of her thigh. There's no full picture!

Now, in the movie, the discussion of the angles is about how "ugly chicks" on MySpace present themselves. But that's not always the case. It's not about hiding bad features - it seems to be more about mystery, or about amateur photographers getting creative, or about digital photography in general. You can take crooked shots, partial shots, and know instantly whether it "worked" or not. There's no worry about wasting film.

Moving on to Chapter 3 in Ulmer: Home and Family.


Not only did I not take the picture at 4:20, I couldn't have articulated nearly as full an explanation for why I did take the picture. Thanks for the illumination. Aside from the hard-to-pronounce Latin terms, Barthes seems to offer a really useful tool for talking about Internet and visual representation. I think I'll have to take a look at that book (more perhaps for the "invention" than the "Internet").

Also: dude, I want your drupal.