Semiotic analysis of “Cloud Computing in Plain English” video


Here is the video that I am talking about:

The video is titled “Cloud Computing in Plain English”….

A Youtube search for the words “Plain English” brings up a number of videos – Wikis in Plain English, Twitter in Plain English, Zombies in Plain English, Blogs in Plain English, Podcasting in Plain English and so on. I am doing a semiotic analysis about why these videos have been titled as “——in Plain English””. What are the signifiers present in the videos that support the argument that the concepts in these videos are in Plain English or in other words are easy to follow, can be understood even by a layman and do not require any previous technical knowledge. To pick up a particular artifact, I would be using the “Cloud Computing in Plain English” video; though the semiotic analysis can be extended to ‘genre’ of such videos.

Firstly, the video makes use of rough, hand-sketched drawings on paper. The use of paper, hand-made drawings and limited amount of colors (mainly black and white) are important signifiers that the video is simple to follow. Paper prototypes are low-fidelity and have limited functionality, which makes them an effective communication medium to explain a concept because the viewers attention in focused onto the main concept and does not get distracted by other details. Also the actions of the presenter as he flicks away a paper or overlays a new sheet of paper on top of the others, are everyday actions of how we interact with paper.

In the beginning, the script uses humor to draw the viewer in. “What is cloud computing? Do you have to be sitting on a mountain with a computer among the clouds?….” Even, a person with no technical background, will not think that this is what cloud computing means. It invokes thoughts in the viewers – “No, I didnt think so. This is dumb.” The humor is related to the words of the concept : Cloud Computing; but uses it in a unique way such that it sounds ridiculous and funny to our common-sense.  It thus creates a feeling of confidence in the viewer that the video would be simple to understand.

The use of simple, easy-to-undestand, common English, without the use of jargons is another signifier that supports the claim (Plain English) in the title of the video.

The use of everyday examples such as the electricity meter, or the taxi ride are also signifiers that signify that this video can be understood easily.

All these signifiers together help us reconstruct the addresse of this video. That, the intented reciepients of this video are not only people with technical background, but , anybody who understands English, uses the Internet and might want to know what Cloud Computing is.


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