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double coding


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1. Any sign or text which is open to two different interpretations depending on the frame of reference which is used to interpret it, as in ‘I used to miss him…but my aim has improved’. Irony has sometimes been referred to as a form of ‘double coding’. In irony, double coding is open to both a literal and an ironic interpretation: the former can be seen as depending on a broadcast code and the latter as depending on a narrowcast code. Thus interpretations would diverge. However, referring to irony as double coding obscures the role of context as well as code: determining that the preferred reading is ironic can be seen as requiring a greater sensitivity to context, rather than requiring access to another code. In this sense, one might argue that all signs are double coded, requiring reference both to codes and to contexts: see also Jakobson's model.

2. For the American architectural theorist Charles Jencks (b.1939), a defining characteristic of postmodern architecture, art, and literary works in which modern techniques are combined with ‘quotations’ of traditional or historical styles.

Subjects: Media studies


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