Encoding and Decoding (analysis)

Stuart Hall explains the process of encoding that is how a message is sent, and decoding, how it has been received. He says that it depends on the perception of both the encoder (sender) and decoder (receiver) what they choose to believe. That is because, as Hall explains, sometimes the encoded message misleads the decoder and vice versa. Also at times, the encoded message is not misleading, but is accurate and it depends on the perception of the decoder, if he perceives the message correctly or incorrectly.

Take this image for example:

If one is to see the image without the Coca Cola logo, they would not understand what the message is being conveyed. Some, like me, might think this is a lipstick or a fashion advertisement. Some might believe, as is the case with my cousins, this is an ad for perfume and travel. However, Coca Cola’s main aim was to show the glamorous and the vintage sexiness side of Hollywood. I think Coca Cola is trying to show the drink as something that is classic and glamorous.

Hall also has precariously analyzed the relationship between encoding and decoding with three hypothetical positions:

  1. Dominant position


For example, the coke bottle and the words in this image clearly explain the message the encoder wants the decoder to know. In clear-cut words and the tagline ‘the real thing since 1886’ also gives the impression that Coca Cola is the best of its kind.

2. Negotiated position


A deeper meaning is attached to this image. One has to look at this image for a few seconds to realize what the message is. The decoder gets a part of information given by the encoder. Some people might find this advertisement gross or hilarious but they finally catch the meaning after a few moments. They see ketchup all over the girl but they have to look again to notice her clean, stain-free white shirt. The advert shows that by using Ariel detergent, one can get rid of nasty stains like ketchup.

3. Oppositional position


Take this image for example. This is a Marc Jacobs advertisement in a fashion magazine. However, the image is really unsettling. Where does the line draw? The girl’s bare legs are shown, flattening the Marc Jacobs shopper, barely showing the brand’s name. When one looks at this image, they obviously do not think about shopping or fashion or whatsoever. When “sex” is being sold, the decoder cannot focus on the product that the encoder wants to sell in the advertisement. The decoder finds the image so tempting and attractive that he doesn’t pay attention to the product in the advertisement.

All in all, such images totally depend on the decoder how he analyzes them in his/her own way. Also these images are a few examples of Hall’s explanation of his theories about encoding and decoding.


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