For my analysis, I wanted to analyze a series of objects with both interesting symbology and cultural significance. I considered coins, state license plates, or state flags. I chose flags because of their interesting symbols and relation to human culture. I narrowed down the flags to Iowa and 5 surrounding states: Nebraska, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Missouri.
I used the Chapters 4, 5, and 7 from Theo van Leeuwen and Carey Jewitt’s Handbook of Visual Analysis as three different methods of analysis: Cultural Studies, Semiotics and Iconography, and Social Semiotics. I answered questions about the images posed by the various methods. For example, Cultural Studies asked about the context of the image and the point of view it is viewed from. States flags are typically viewed from below near a government building because the flag is for everyone. Everyone can see it and it represents the government’s jurisdiction over its people. My Semiotic and Iconographic analysis resulted in comparison charts of the denotative elements of the flags in order to locate commonalities.
My Social Semiotic analysis led me to consider what it means that almost every analyzed state flag has some reference to the United States in it. My theory is that since these states were added to the union much later than the thirteen original colonies, they felt the need to prove that they were a part of the team. In the same vein, the Social Semiotic method asked the question “how are elements arranged in the image?” In almost every case, the flags had a central, circle containing information specific to the state like mottos, names, founding years, etc. surrounded by a plain background. This could signify state pride, individuality, and heritage within the larger context of the country as a whole.