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A Semiotic Phenomenology of Visual Rhetoric: Communication and Perception of Attributes of Cultural Sustainability in the Visual Environment of Public Housing

An integrated framework comprising rhetoric, semiotics, and phenomenology was constructed to provide theoretical foundations for exploring public housing residentsâ experiences engaging in the visual phenomenon of ânew signageâ and âestate art.â The focus of study concerns how design, meanings, and experiences of the visual objects evoke in residents a sense of cultural sustainability. A mixed-method âconcurrent nested qual+QUALâ strategy was developed to approach the research problem. This theory-driven methodology embeds semiotics within the dominant strategy of phenomenology. The researcher began with self-reflection, or âbracketing,â providing a descriptive account of her own experience of the phenomenon. Qualitative interviews were then conducted in four housing estates with 26 participant residents including elderly people, workers, housewives, and students. Standardized questions elicited participantsâ readings of designs within their social context; the questions were ânestedâ within informal conversations, which generated participantsâ full descriptions, first-person accounts of visual experiences interpreted within a more personal context. Bracketing identified that a rhetorical situation exists in the semiotic neighborhoods of estates wherein relocated residents appeared to have âa sense of disorientationâ and âaspiration to prosper.â These sensibilities were addressed through the design of name signs and public art. Socio-semiotic analysis of the visuals entailed seven cultural codes, representing cultural values underpinning the community. Phenomenological analysis captured residentsâ lived experience of visuals as seven phenomenological themes. The themes formed a structure of experience, indicating what it is like to perceive attributes of cultural sustainability. Further, five interpretive positions, or essences of experiences were uncovered as underlying the experiences. A synthesis of findings shows that communication and perception of cultural sustainability involved the rhetorical encoding of intended positive meanings into the visual designs, which residents decoded to come up with cultural meanings that evoked thoughts and feelings about the vitality of their community and continuity of Chinese culture. It is a result of âvisualityâ â interrelationships among designâs persuasive power, visual signification, and viewing experience â conditioned by residentsâ interpretive positions. This dissertation bridges visual design and sustainability, unveiling their enhanced social values while integrated, and strengthens the knowledge base of both fields of study, especially by its theoretical and methodological implications.
Date18 July 2008
CreatorsMa, Magdy
ContributorsProf. Meredith Davis
Source SetsNorth Carolina State University
Detected LanguageEnglish
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