Re-evaluating Semiotics: Can Pop Culture Save Higher Education?
Pop Culture Can Save Higher Education
A brief proposal.
Tvtropes.org is a wikipedia with few rules, an informal tone, and No Notability, provided one abides by the guidelines of the website. Its goal is to categorize every distinct device used by all forms of media to convey a particular message or idea to an audience. Browsing through the site reveals a systematic and evolving encyclopedia of these "Tropes." For example, clicking on a link to the entry "ChekhovsGun" will provide a description of this dramatic axiom and an expansive list of concrete examples ranging from classical drama to webcomics and music videos. But it doesn't stop there: ChekhovsGunman, CheckhovsArsenal, a list of related tropes often follows, allowing the user to see the memetic aspect of semiotics in action. There is a section called YKTTW where the user can suggest new tropes for launch (YKTTW stands for "You Know, That Thing Where..."
The site rewards attention to detail. Cross-references and indices are abundant. Wordplay and snarkiness abound. For example, there is an index called "WeWillNotUseAnIndexInTheFuture" on which one can find, among other related tropes, "WeWillNotUseMoneyInTheFuture" and somewhat self-referetially "WeWillUseWikiWordsInTheFuture."
Though its basis is in popular culture and related mediums, the wiki is expansive and covers virtually every form of media known to man. Notable tropes may be listed under "eras" such as "OlderThanDirt" or "OlderThanFeudalism." There is quite a high degree of intellectualism on the site, but this is balanced by self-awareness.
As a practical example in semiotics and cultural evolution, the maverick educator should quickly realize the potential of such a site as a learning tool in conjunction with assigned readings. For example, a teacher could assign each student to make a handle on the site and make one, well-research YKTTW entry. The entry may or may not get launched, but the students should provide a hard copy of the entry and a link even if it is discarded, and perhaps a write up as to why it didn't make the cut (too similar or identical to an existing entry, too subjective, etc...) Other research assignments can be carried out as well, provided students check their facts (since there is no notability this is a good research exercise). The way the site is set up, with catchy names for its entries and relevant cross-references, it is a much more relaxed and potentially more effective way for college students to learn about subjects like literary deconstructionism, post-modernism, and a host of other developments crucial the developing appreciation of cultural heritage and innovation.
Under proper academic guidelines, and in conjunction with assigned readings from an official syllabus, the application of the "Wikia Principle" of Semiotic Education could revolutionize the liberal arts and other disciplines.
“It is true that in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. It is equally true that in the land of the blind, the two-eyed man is an enemy of the state, the people, and domestic tranquility… and necessarily so. Someone has to rearrange the furniture.”