Stuart Hall's Encoding/Decoding

Hall on the Philippine Rice Crisis

Rice in our country is a staple. The Philippines is currently the world’s biggest importer of rice. Just by reading this, you’d think that we buy rice because of overpopulation or because of the apparent recurrence of climate changes. This may be so but zeroing in on such reasons will not do justice to how other countries like Vietnam or China (who obviously has a bigger number of population) are able to produce enough rice for their countries’ demand and for their exporting. Question now is why our country, one who primarily produces and consumes rice, is having such a crisis and if there is a way of getting out of it.

Opinions have been said on how the main reason of such crisis is that institution that should have prevented it in the first place. Our current administration seems to be the one to blame for letting something as threatening as this happen. With our country being the top importer of rice and with allegations on the government’s neglect of the situation, the Philippines’ international face is again a scarred and bruised reputation. This clip on a report of the crisis shows how people think that resolving this is near impossible: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U5VNmhlqG30

In this, we can see that, according to Hall, “simple visual signs appear to have achieved a “near-universality” in this sense: though evidence remains that even apparently “natural” visual codes are culture-specific. The operation of naturalized codes reveals not the transparency and “naturalness” of language but the depth, the habituation and the near-universality of the codes in use. The articulation of an arbitrary sign – whether visual or verbal – with the concept of a referent is the product not of nature but of convention, and the conventionalism of discourses requires the intervention, the support, of codes.” Perception then of our truly abundant country turns towards a negative impression of how this abundance is put to waste. This simple video is a reflection of our culture and the result of how the world understands and worst, criticizes our situation because of the universality of such medium.

Hall also emphasizes the role of the audience being “both the ‘source’ and the ‘receiver’ of the message.” As an Information Design major, there is an established understanding that our audiences are as said, both sources and receivers. Our main aim is to be able to communicate in a language that makes our intended message reach its purpose and is applied by our “clients” because it simply works. “The “message form” is the necessary “form of appearance” of the event in its passage from source to receiver. Thus the transposition into and out of the “message form” (or the mode of symbolic exchange) is not a random “moment”, which we can take up or ignore at our convenience. The “message form” is a determinate moment; though, at another level, it comprises the surface movements of the communications system only and requires, at another stage, to be integrated into the social relations of the communication process as a whole, of which it forms only a part.” Applying design in a campaign that will inform and awaken everyone on our country’s current rice crisis must then be an incorporation of our culture’s society and methods or elements of art that will let people absorb the message.

If asked what a campaign like this would be on, I think it would be best to focus on both the improvement of our agriculture systems through modernization and careful evaluation of land conversion and a critique on the institutions causing the crisis to worsen. Information spread wrongly that according to Hall are “called ‘distortions’ or ‘misunderstandings’ arise precisely from the lack of equivalence between the two sides in the communicative exchange.” Effective design must then be able to inform, explain, and eventually make people realize the intended message.

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