“I Know It When I See It”

Style, Simulation and the Short-circuit Sign

  • Marc Ouellette


The contemporary production of “style” relies heavily on the implementation of the “short-circuit sign” and the relationship of both to the emptiness of fourth-order simulation and to the remediation of successive visual forms. In detailing the “short-circuit sign,” film scholar James Monaco highlights the important role of cultural codes in the naturalization and the reification of non-screen images so that signifier and signified become identical, or are perceived as such. It is the cultural codes, then, that distinguish this mode from the establishment of a sign’s iconicity, insofar as the “short-circuit sign” belongs, as it were, to the genre and also in terms of the privileging of the visual over other means of transmission. If, however, the “short-circuit sign” and its role in the production of verisimilitude exist in and through cultural codes, then the study of this form need not confine itself to the study of moving images exclusively. Yet, the intersection of the visual and the material in such signs remains largely unexplored. Similarly, while Bolter and Grusin’s Remediation updates several of McLuhan’s tenets to arrive at the ways in which visual media repurpose and retransmit other visual media, none of these have really been applied to investigate the particularized and individualized effects of viewing everything and everyone through remediated lenses. Moreover, it is a critical commonplace to suggest that Baudrillard consistently ignores the materiality of sign production. In these regards, then, style presents a unique blend of iconicity, short-circuits, prothesis, remediation and simulation that points to and problematizes the inevitable materiality of the human body as a site of and a surface for cultural production.

Image: “Policeman” Ad, Urban Alliance on Race Relations.
Jun 15, 2013
How to Cite
OUELLETTE, Marc. “I Know It When I See It”. Semiotic Review, [S.l.], n. 3, june 2013. Available at: <https://www.semioticreview.com/ojs/index.php/sr/article/view/17>. Date accessed: 27 mar. 2017.