This may be the most important proposition of all. The idea is that one does not ‘send’ a message but rather a gives a set of signs which have to be decoded by the person being communicated with; these signs can make sense to the person only in terms of  the way in which she interprets, or decodes, the signs. A ‘successful’ communication then is one in which the communicator has encoded the message in such a way that the communicatee will decode it in the context, and in the meaning-terms which are compatible with the sender’s intentions. Communication thus requires that the communicator understand the comunicatee’s conceptual frames, her understandings of shared contexts, the meaning of the signs in the message to her.

A scene from Wicker Park that matches this general proposition is Matthew and Lisa’s scene at Luke’s shoe store. When Lisa entered the store, Matthew thought that that was now his chance to talk to her, and so he grabbed it. Unfortunately, he felt upset when (he thought) he blew it off.

Here’s their conversation after Luke implied that there’s no shoe size available for Lisa (atleast for the pair of shoes she was eyeing):

Matt: Not… you know… not necessarily. We can order these for you. Special order.
And, uh… I can, uh, if you leave your number, I can give you a call personally when they come in.
Lisa: Do you normally spy on people?
Matt: What?
Lisa: Are you really gonna tell me that you’re a huge fan of modern dance?
Matt: Look, I’ve never done anything like that before.
Honestly… could you let me take you out for a cup of coffee and explain?
Lisa: I don’t think so.
Matt: I’ll stay on my side of the table. I promise.
Lisa: Just call me when the shoes come in, okay?
Matt: Listen, I’m not what you think I am, okay?

With that, Lisa left the store and Matthew felt dejected that he just lost his chance to her, but that was until he read the note she left for him. On the shoe box, there says

Tomorrow night.
6p.m. Café Tangiers on Kinzie. . .
Now you won’t have to follow me!

Lisa left that note without any explanation, but fortunately, Matthew was able to decode its context. She did not actually ‘send’ the message, but the way he interpreted it was compatible with her intention. By then, Matthew knew that it was the sign that Lisa was giving him the chance to get to know her.


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