The manifold signs and symbols showcased in the previously created I.Mpotential are as highly polysemic as they are numerous. As considerably large in number are the theorists who try to explain the nature and classification of media output in pre-set genres.
By exemplifying my own cover page, contents page and double spread, I have set out to explain the theories of experts up to the point where their findings can be applied to my work.
Rick Altman, for starters, was concerned with semantics (the signifiers), the syntactic (the way in with the inter-relation between the signification of the signifiers creates meaning). Some examples of this in my work comprise the broken glass in the double spread. This connotes the visual distortion of society through social construction. Likewise, the barcode at the bottom of the same page (sign) challenges conventions through our ability to interpret it not only as a simple barcode (signifier), but as a way of bypassing the set labels in society (signified). The syntactic dimension of my work therefore implies challenging established societal conventions and encourages individual interpretation.
Steve Neale, however, argued that difference between media texts classified under the same genre is paramount. It is essential for one to always innovate and do things differently if one aims to attract and interest the audiences. This necessity can be noticed in a cycle that he theorized. According to Neale, all works have a classical, experimental, and baroque phase. The first sticks to conventions, the second breaks them, and the third comprises parodies and satirical creations of the sort. In my magazine, I found it important to play with concepts and mix genres, which renders my work experimental. The cover page, for instance, shows little typical elements. The masthead is well-defined and the motto (supporting innovative minds everywhere) is present, but the rest was improvised. I didn’t add the smaller article titles on the front page, nor did I really insinuate what the magazine’s content could look like. By mixing design and art, I meant to integrate novelty to awaken the audience’s senses, to keep things interesting.
By doing so, I unconsciously applied Douglas Chandler’s theories. In short, this British semiotician believed that the creator bears the receiver of media content in mind during the creative process. The conventions implied by a genre therefore include a form (the structure and style), and content (themes). Basically, producers create with an “ideal receiver” of their product in mind. I correspondingly bore my potential audience in mind when creating the magazine. I tried to make allusions to themes like novelty, youth, and creativity through the polygonal style, the writing and the inclusion of the artist’s picture in the contents page, for instance, to play with the audience’s potential idea of genre.
It’s a lot like David Bordwell ascertained, any theme may appear in any genre, so long as – and this is a nuance added by Jonathan Culler – its placement there makes sense and can be adapted to the expectations people have from that certain genre. For example, the inclusion of a freebie (contents page) doesn’t have its place in an art magazine, but in this youthful, playful context insinuated by the artist and her work, it blends in nicely.
Going by Culler’s principles, one would expect an art magazine to include art – this, my magazine provides floridly. Through the inclusion of the framed flowers, the notion of drawings (message by the artist), the artist per se, or the importance of innovation in the motto above “I.Mpotential”, one may assume that this is an art magazine. The conventions aren’t entirely broken, when we look at it from this point of view. Some subtle yet useful pointers still hint at the genre of my magazine: “Art/Design”.
Before, however, any of this is considered to be definite and resolute, remember David Buckingham’s wise words: “A genre isn’t simply “given” by a culture, it is a constant process of negotiation and change.” Who knows what sort of magazine will fit which category by 2070? Who actually knows if magazines will even exist by then…I guess only time will tell.