Viewers Make Meaning: 9/25/13

When does an image gain its image? That is the question Sturken and Cartwright answer in Viewers Make Meaning.

To put it simply, producers do not create the meaning of an image, even though they intend to. Consumers or viewers of images are the ones that create meaning behind an advertisement or a work of art.


An effective advertisement isn’t one that is created to reach out to a mass audience. An advertiser isn’t selling their product to a demographic. They’re selling to each, INDIVIDUAL PERSON. Therefore, images must be created for each individual consumer to create their own positive meaning behind the ad.

The chapter uses the term interpellation to describe this.

Interpellation- to know that the image is meant for the viewer to understand

(Example used in the reading: Olay’s “Olay For You” Campaign)

Producers might intend for a meaning to take form in their image. Producers can be the producers of a product, an ad agency, or the lead designer of the ad.

The most crucial decision a producer might have to make is where and when to put there ad up for individual viewers to consume. If I run an ad agency, I want the product I’m selling to consumers to be associated with positive things.

I want to associate my products with:

1)   Famous athletes/celebrities

2)   Attractive models

3)   Healthy people

4)   People with clean records

I do not want to associate my products with:

1)   Criminals/ Criminal activity

2)   Unhealthy behavior

3)   Anything boring

4)   Anything controversial



Both authors also dive into the importance of images in art and culture.

When we go to museums and other public cultural platforms, we rank works of art and other forms of images (photography/cinema). We rank them by value, class, rarity and quality. However, that can lead to a separation of classes. We begin to separate what is high class and low class. Therefore, we will associate certain images as classy and not so classy.


We as humans tend to associate images with what we know about them through our own culture. Certain ideas spread about a product or image and we either have a positive representation of that image or a negative representation.

Meanings of images and terms eventually cement themselves into a cultural fabric that is typically hard to undo. However, protestors and bold advertisers/artists make attempts at redefining an icon. (Appropriation)

For example, if I wanted to make a statement about how unfair Furman can be, I could go in front of the Furman mall or bell tower (campus landmarks) and hold up a paper that received an F. That defies the idea that admissions departments around the country give when applying for school that you’ll enjoy 

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