Forum B

Please look at the following images and attend to the one or more of the first three questions as well as the fourth question.

Question #1:

pink_triangle     pinktridolo

Do some research on the pink triangle as depicted above?  Is the pink triangle a symbol, icon, or index or a combination of two or all three?  Please justify your answers?  How does appropriation configure into the use of the pink triangle and what does appropriation teach us about discourses in place?


Question #2


Would you categorize this statue as an icon or symbol or both or neither?  What is the reason for your answers?  What does this statue teach us about the the ways in which power and difference are intertwined with discourses in place?

Question #3:

CautionSign-IllegalsCrossing Near International Border. Southern U.S.

How would you categorize this road sign–icon, symbol, or index? What are the reasons for your answers? Who do you think erected these signs along the border and why? Who benefits and who doesn’t? In what  specific ways? 

Question 4: 

Overall, based on this exercise, how do the images above complicate our understanding of signs in ways that Scollen and Scollen do not attend to inDiscourses in Place?  What can we learn from the images about indexicality or the context-dependency of signs?

5 responses to “Forum B

  1. 1. The Pink Triangle was used by Nazi’s in concentration camps to identify homosexuals. Homosexuals were forced to wear the triangle at all times, as were other prisoners such as gypsies or Jews. However, each prisoner had a different color triange; for example, gypsies wore a purple triange and Jews wore a yellow one. In my opinion, this object is a symbol and nothing else. I don’t think it is an index because it’s not pointing in any direction, such as an arrow, and it doesn’t resemble an icon by any means. It fails to explain some direction. A symbol makes the most sense because the triangle does not represent “homosexual”. It does not represent its meaning. Appropriation configured into the use of the triangle because it is something that must be learned by others, in this case the Nazi’s and the prisoners. They learned to associate the pink triangle with a homosexual. Without appropriation occurring, the pink triangle would bear no meaning. This relates to discourses in place because this is primarily how symbols attain their meaning. Without appropriating symbols, they mean nothing, which is why a Chinese symbol means nothing to us, but a lot to someone who knows Chinese.

    2. I would categorize this as a symbol, because it represents something arbitrary. Of course I myself do not know who this man is, other than the name Howe printed on his belt. However, I’m sure countless people could identify with this large statue because they have learned about him. Then again, he might be no one at all, only known to the person who built him.

    This man represents a different kind of power. He is physically fit, pointing his arm in the air, almost saluting someone. Perhaps he is pointing to the heavens, leading the way, or simply stretching. It’s hard to tell. Regardless, he looks like he is control, and rather a leader than a follower. To someone like myself, I would associate him with someone of leadership or high status, someone that people would look to for guidance.

    3. I believe this sign is an icon as well as a symbol, as it is alerting drivers that people may cross the road suddenly and without notice. It wants drivers to be aware of this occurrence. These signs were most likely erected because of deaths occurring on this stretch of road due to drivers hitting people running across. Since this is located near the border, I would assume the people running across are illegal immigrants. The sad part is, it’s making us aware that people are getting over the border; there wouldn’t be a sign if this problem wasn’t occurring. If we fixed the problem of people getting across illegally, drivers wouldn’t have to be cautious when driving down this road. A poor job on border security is resulting in deaths on the road way. It’s interesting how much this simple sign tells us about the problems in this particular area.


    • (hit submit to soon, sorry)
      4. I think the images above complicate how Scollon and Scollon discuss them in the book because it’s hard to identify these objects when compared to the examples in the book. For example, for the most part, they make it seem like the only type of icons reside in directional pictures, such as the escalator ones. Again, they give an arrow as an example of an index rather than something more abstract. I guess I feel that they make it too easy to identify icons, symbols, and indexes. These pictures above are much more complex and are much harder to place in a category.

      From these images, I think we can learn that context is extremely important in understanding these images. The last one, of the caution sign is only best interpreted when the location of the sign is given. The indian is questionable as well, as we no nothing about him at all. Again, the pink triangle means nothing unless you have researched the Holocaust and the symbols the Nazi’s gave homosexuals in concentration camps. Context is extremely important, and without it, a crucial piece of the sign’s indexicality is missing.

  2. Question #2

    To be completely honest I don’t think that the statue is either a symbol or an icon. It says in the book that an icon is a sign that is telling you to do something, which the statue is not. It also says that a symbol is a sign that is completely conventional and does not point out anything significant. The statue is merely there to attract a person’s attention. The statue itself could signify an Indian preservation, a casino, or anything. It is clear that the statue shows strength because of the way it is built and his stance. It is almost like he is calling you towards him.

    Question #3

    I would say that this sign is an icon. It is telling you that there might be people crossing the boarder so keep your eyes out. The sign is clearly telling you something, but it is not telling you where or pointing you in a direction of where people might be so therefore it isn’t an index. I think that the government and the boarder patrol erected these signs to inform American citizens that there might be illegal immigrants trying to cross into this country. I think that it is very disrespectful that human beings are treated as if they are deer. I don’t think that any specific person benefits from these signs, but the illegal immigrants trying to cross the boarder benefit negatively from them.

    Question #4

    In the book there are specific definitions for what an index, an icon and a symbol are. Sometimes those definitions don’t directly associate with certain signs. Specifically the signs that are on the webpage. Those signs can have many different meanings to them. I think that context is important to understand in reading these different signs because some signs in different contexts mean different things. Like the crossing sign, if that had been placed in the middle of the country it would have a completely different connotation than that one it does when it is placed near the southern boarder. Without context some signs may be unreadable.

  3. 1.I believe that the pink triangle pressed upon the jews by the Nazi’s is a symbol and an index. I feel that it is a symbol because as far as I’ve researched there were no preexisting connections between a pink triangle and jews. By definition of the youtube video “Semiotics: The Study of Signs” a symbol does not have a direct connection to the actual object it represents thus the symbol is left for interpretation. Thus whoever sees the symbol may interpret the meaning differently than others based on personal experiences. However, due to appropriation, I believe once the Nazi’s established the connection with the German society that a pink triangle means gay; a word that is already stigmatized. The symbol then becomes an index because the pink triangle in turn becomes a label. Labels have meanings that are recognized throughout society, which causes discourse. This discourse disrupts public space, and thus another community is formed by a label.

    2.I would categorize this as an Icon. By looking at this large standup sign of a Native American, one thinks about all things associated with that culture. Then on the belt of the chief it says Howe, meaning welcome. Judging by the headdress, one could assume that it is the chief of the tribe and if he is saying Howe to a person, that would be inviting one into their camp or establishment. Because traditionally you would be in a tribes home camp if you were to meet with the chief.

    4. I feel that these images and signs complicate what was in the reading. One common theme that I’ve encountered in my sociology based classes at Syracuse, is that it is very hard to place labels, make groups, and categories because often times you will find something that doesn’t apply to your system. However, it is human nature to understand and conceptualize so despite previous failures we try to label and group.

  4. 1. The Pink triangle is an example of a symbol. These triangles are “completely arbitrary … signs that do not resemble there meaning and do not point to it” (Scollon 27). Before researching the pink triangle I would have no idea what it represented had I seen it on a wall. Without context this image means nothing to a person. The Nazi’s were the first ones to use the pink triangle as a symbol. It was given to homosexual prisoners as a way of identifying what type of prisoners they were. These people were oppressed for their sexual orientation, and many were put to death because of it. What’s interesting is that the pink triangle was later revived by the LBGT community as a symbol of pride. You wouldn’t think that a community would want a something that reminds people of concentration camps and oppression to be their symbol. But its possible that by choosing this symbol to represent yourself as a community could give others the discourse that the LBGT community is still being oppressed and something should be done to change this situation.

    3. I believe this image is an example of an iconic index. It is an icon depicting a family running towards the highway, but an index in the sense that it tells passerby cars to slow down. The reason it is not a symbol is because it is not arbitrarily attached to the thing it represents. This is not a sign warning people that animals will be crossing, it is telling drivers people will be crossing this highway. Despite who erected the symbol all parties benefit from its installation. Even if you hate illegal immigrants and think they should all be deported from the country, there is no way you would want to hit one with your car, it would cost you money, time, and you would have someone’s death on your conscious. Illegal immigrants crossing the highway appreciate the sign because it gives drivers a heads up, and they are less likely to be killed while crossing the road.

    4. The biggest issue that these signs raise that Scollen and Scollen did not cover is the importance of time when it comes to signs. The Nazi sign used to be a symbol of imprisonment, but the same symbol now represents protest and empowerment. The border sign would have meant absolutely nothing to passerby’s 40 years ago, because their concept of how illegal immigrants get into this country was much different. Also the location of signs is very important. Placing that pink triangle in a very Christian community would probably upset the community to a pint where they take it down, and placing that immigration sign on an Illinois highway would have no relevance. Based on these signs we can learn that context location and time mean everything when it comes to icons, indexes, and symbols.

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