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Critiques visuelles : observations socio-sémiotiques sur quelques campagnes parodiques environnementalistes

Abstract : Visual criticism: socio-semiotic observations on some Environmentalist campaigns Based on Parody

This contribution is part of an ongoing research on semiotic visual and verbal forms of environmental and environmentalist communication. These forms are considered as essential elements in order to understand communicational dynamics that take origin from the "meta-narrative" of destruction and defence of natural environment. This "meta-narrative" is at the origin of a new social, cultural and communicational "normativity" (Jalenques-Vigouroux 2006 et 2007, Catellani 2010a). The chosen approach is that of a socio-semiotics of visual culture, aimed at the comprehension of communication phenomena as central dimensions of society and as the place for the production and reproduction of cultural forms, norms and constraints. The specific object of this contribution is the analysis of the use of visual image (still and moving, analysed in particular from the point of view of its interaction with verbal text) in the communication of environmentalist NGOs, and in particular the systematic apparition of a specific inter-textual phenomenon, parody. Criticism based on parody is considered in this text as a meta-discursive "emic" phenomenon (in the sense of K. Pike), present in society. It has as its discursive object the content and expressive forms of (verbal and visual) textual productions of the criticised firms and institutions; on this basis, it reconstructs a discourse that is more or less "parasitical", based on a normative axiology that is opposed to the one present in the communication of the organisation that is attacked. Many recent campaigns, in particular those by Greenpeace against firms like Mattel, Volkswagen and H&M, are examples of a largely visual strategy based on parody. They are contemporary examples of an epideictic rhetoric of blame, aimed at criticising and attacking by exploiting the visual "fictional world" of the brand. This world is deformed and reinterpreted, by forcing it into a "collision" with other visual fictional universes. Parody has an ancient history, and it is a visual form particularly adapted to the actual situation of medias and culture. The society of image, crossed by the explosion of the "mass- self communication" and by its critical and iconoclastic dimension, is the place of the multiplication of visual and narrative identities (of brands, fictional, political...) and of their mutation and hybridisation (for ex. in the case of "fun cultures"). Parody becomes only one form among others of this visual contemporary culture of "metamorphic reproduction", and it is strategically used by actors like Greenpeace. This paper will analyse the modalities of this visual criticism through parody, linking it to its objectives and its strategic pertinence in the communicational dynamics of the NGO, in order to reconstruct a contemporary form of "figural reasoning" through images. How Greenpeace build visual parodies of consumerist discourses? How the NGO organises the attack through parody, in coordination with the mobilisation on electronic social networks (for ex. by inviting the public to post other critical videos) and event organisation? Which type of argumentation and visual persuasive forms are used? How the "normativity" of the protection of the environment collides with consumerist discourse, on one side, and with fictional universes (like the one of Star Wars), evoked in campaigns, on the other? A first part of the intervention will present basic categories (inter-textuality, parody, etic and emic), and it will introduce some principles of the epistemological approach that is at the basis of this analysis. I refer to a socio-semiotic approach of "semiosic" aspects of social facts, using the terms of Fairclough (2005). The objective is the reconstruction of sense production of different social actors, with a reference to the underlying distribution of power. From the point of view of methodology, this approach is based on the analysis of images and verbal texts, but also on the analysis of practices and interactions, and it is open to different methodologies of data collection (interviews and observation in particular). The second part of the paper will present the analysis of some campaigns made by Greenpeace, combining the analysis of images and verbal texts with information collected from Greenpeace staff. The corpus will be made of the data collected from the staff and of a series of videos and Web pages, containing verbal and visual texts that present the criticisms, the argumentation, actions and results of the campaign. From the point of view of the analysis of visual and verbal texts, the focus will be on plastic aspects (the use of forms, colours, positions), "figurative" (or "iconic") aspects, the interaction between verbal and visual (with a critical reference to the categories of "anchorage" and relay" by R. Barthes), narration and enunciation. On these different levels, the analysis will try to understand "coherent deformations" operated by the parody, which defies aesthetic norms linked to the construction of fictional worlds of each brand universe, in order to affirm different norms (moral, ecologic). The RENVERSEMENT of values appears as the central mechanism of environmentalist parody, a particular form of dialectical "semiosis" in the form of "figural reasoning". These strategies will be showed in their link with extra-textual specific strategies (the attack to the immaterial capital of firms in order to obtain economic effects, which is also a way to improve the value of the enunciator and of his "brand"). With these campaigns, Greenpeace wants to obtain also a change in the behaviour of firms. I will pay attention to the textual traces of this strategy, to the verbal and visual supports of this form of attack aimed to be very "performative". My conclusion will focus in particular on the link between this parodist rhetoric and the environmental "meta-narrative". This last one is a galaxy of sense that keeps its position as a fundamental cultural reference also for visual "textualities". The conclusion will focus also on the forms of management of the distance in relation to values in the case of "figural reasoning" (a form of thinking that is produced and communicated through images, in interaction with the verbal).
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https://hal.univ-lille3.fr/hal-00823885
Contributor : Compte Laboratoire Geriico <>
Submitted on : Monday, July 22, 2013 - 3:55:36 PM
Last modification on : Saturday, July 27, 2013 - 9:46:59 PM
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Andrea Catellani. Critiques visuelles : observations socio-sémiotiques sur quelques campagnes parodiques environnementalistes. Communiquer dans un monde de normes. L'information et la communication dans les enjeux contemporains de la " mondialisation ", Mar 2012, France. pp.204. ⟨hal-00823885v2⟩

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