The commutation test is a fun way to challenge our knowledge and feelings about a particular sign. It involves changing certain aspects of the signifier such as color and shape. Some paradigmatic transformations would involve substitution and transposition, while syntagmatic transformations would be in the form of addition or deletion. This test shows how changing something about the signifier can alter the signifieds that one initially associated with it. Examples of alterations would be “the use of a close-up rather than a mid-shot, a substitution in age, sex, class or ethnicity, substituting objects, a different caption for a photograph, etc.”(“Semiotics for Beginners: Paradigmatic Analysis”).
Here's an example:
What we obviously did here was switch the colors of the originally blue eagle and green archer. The blue eagle and the green archer are both staples of the Ateneo de Manila University and the De La Salle University respectively. Upon seeing these signs in another light, did your views change? What new signifieds did you think of when presented with the new versions? Comment and let us know!
Although the colors green and blue already have preconceived notions within the Filipino community as being associated with La Salle and Ateneo respectively, studies show that colors in general have respective emotions attached to them, as well as certain impressions that people get upon seeing a certain color.
Here are just a few examples:
Red- energy, strength, passion, eroticism, bravery
Pink- romance, love, femininity, sweet smelling
Orange- warmth, enthusiasm, tropics
Brown- earth, outdoors, inexpensive, dirt
Gold- wealth, winning, prestige, desire for power
Yellow- light, sun, joy, imagination, summer
Green- monetary success, growth, food, envy
Blue- communication, calmness, water, artistry, loyalty
Purple- psychic ability, royalty, mystery, fame
White- spirituality, innocence, cleanliness, sterility, positivity, faith (sorry, we couldn't really make it white or else it'd be invisible)
Silver- glamorous, high tech, industrial, astral energy, modernity
Black- sophistication, elegance, secretiveness, remorse, evil
Another example of a commutation test would be in the ever popular spoof t-shirts. Spoof t-shirts are able to change a couple of letters or words and totally change the meaning or impression one gets from seeing the shirt. The example that we chose is the ubiquitous I love NY shirt.
Next is a shirt that is almost exactly like the first, however it says I Love Manila more than NY.
Instead of proclaiming once more that we are puppets and constant admirers of anything American, this shirt now gives off the signified of Filipino pride and the destruction of colonialism.
The third shirt, again using the same design, now says I have never been to NY.
This shirt pokes fun at the popularity of the original I Love NY shirt and how almost everyone has one in their closet, even though some have never even been to New York. The shirt has become one of those "have to own one" pieces of clothing, that the meaning originally tied to it is often traded in for the sake of fashion.
The Meaning of Color in Web Design.Sibagraphics. 4 October 2008.
Semiotics for Beginners: Paradigmatic Analysis. Daniel Chandler. Prifysgol Aberystwth University. 4 October 2008.