1. Sifunkle
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    Sifunkle Dis Member

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    Brainstorming a 'society' symbol

    Discussion in 'Research' started by Sifunkle, Nov 26, 2014.

    Hello lovely people!

    Sorry if this isn't exactly Research, but I've been beating my head against it for several days and need to at least vent. I suspect the best advice is, "Write around it and come back later." Also, apologies that this thread is so specific it's unlikely to be of use to anyone else. Anyway...

    I need a symbol by which the concept of society/civilisation/civics/fellowship/cooperation/interdependence/teamwork/etc could be represented pictorially in-universe (i.e. I'd be writing about a depiction of this symbol). It need not be something that screams 'Society!' in any context, but should have an obvious link if 'society' is currently in mind.

    My main criteria are:

    - Able to illustrate with a fairly simple picture (think heraldry, although nothing like a full coat-of-arms)
    - Link to the concept is intuitive to the reader, or grounded in common knowledge (e.g. astrological symbols would not be appropriate, because they'd be unfamiliar to many)
    - Should have a predominantly positive connotation
    - Ideally something with few other symbolic implications (potentially less important)
    - Ideally not cliche (less important) or strongly associated with an existing organisation

    I usually have no trouble imagining my own symbols/metaphors, but this one's proving tricky (possibly indicative of how antisocial/uncivilised I am). Searching online, I mostly get links to vague interpretations of literature, and I've already plumbed 2 books on symbolism and 1 on heraldry to no real avail.

    My best ideas so far are (in rough order of preference): beehive, ants, handshake, rope (multifilament), chain, multi-headed animal (e.g. Cerberus), predator being friends with prey, pyramid, set of scales (a bit off-track: law/justice/equality is important to society, but not really representative of the whole)... perhaps there is a symbiotic relationship that can be simply depicted, but I can't think of it...

    If anyone would be so kind as to do any of the following, I'd really appreciate it :) :

    - Suggest any good symbology resources or other approaches I could take
    - Offer your own ideas that fit the bill
    - Comment on my current ideas (underlined above), as I may need to settle for one of them
    - Confirm my suspicion that I should do my own damn work

    Sorry for the long post, just trying to sufficiently explain. I realise I could cleverly exposit about pretty much any symbol's relevance, but I'm hoping not to have to.

    All replies gratefully received!
     
  2. stevesh
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    stevesh Banned Contributor

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    A little more information might help. What is the purpose of this symbol in the story? Is it some sort of logo for a government entity? How much/often is it seen and described in the story?

    Of the suggestions you offered, I like the handshake best, but it seems a little one-on-one for what you're looking for. I'd stay away from animals. Bees aren't altruistic. They seem that way to our anthropomorphizing brains sometimes, but their behavior is innate, not considered.

    And forgive me, but my inner grammar Nazi is keening to be heard, and I see this so much here:

    Cliché is a noun. Your story, plot, symbol might be clichéd, or a cliché.
     
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  3. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    How about a simple ring, a circle. It implies continuity because it has no discernible start or end point. It encloses, implying inclusion, but this also implies exclusion, of course, of everything outside the symbol.

    Your symbol can be anything, really, because symbols used by groups of people to denote "us-ness" have amazingly varied chains of events and history that lead to said symbol being used. Christians use a Roman device of capital punishment as a cherished shape denoting their religion. Nazis stole a symbol from Hinduism that means balance and harmony and turned it into a strong visual tie for their movement (yes, the swastika is present in many cultures to include Native American cultures, but Hitler didn't steal it from the America's. He stole it from the East).
     
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  4. Sifunkle
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    Sifunkle Dis Member

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    Thanks for the replies!

    @stevesh : Sorry - it's an emblem for a school that teaches civic/social studies. It's not a major point of focus and wouldn't be described in huge detail. It will mostly be a 'tag' to identify scene locations or label characters as students of that school, but I hoped it would represent their ethos. (On reflection, perhaps one reason I liked the beehive is that it evokes a building with students milling around.)

    Handshake was my first idea. I worry that it could also imply a deal, bet or uneasy truce - not that those are unrelated.

    I'm interested in your perspective on animals (not saying you're wrong, just looking to discuss): why does it matter whether a behaviour is innate or considered? Aren't humans generally thought of as innately social (albeit complex and variable)? To my knowledge, in sociobiology/behavioural ecology, eusocial insects like ants and bees are considered prime examples of altruism, and were actually a roadblock Darwin recognised to his theory of natural selection (there have since been several proposed explanations, but no definitive answer). But that's probably a context shift and fairly off-topic...

    Thanks for the well-deserved grammatical slap-down. I should have known better. I wonder why 'cliche' works differently to other French loanwords (e.g. passe)...

    @Wreybies : I'm aiming for something more reflective of cooperation/interdependence/mutual reliance than inclusivity/exclusivity - I'm going for a symbol of the concept of society/civilisation rather than a symbol that a particular society might use. (It's complicated because it's both really: a symbol for a group that only exists because of its members' mutual interest in civics/social studies.)

    You're certainly right about symbols potentially having esoteric roots, but when I mentioned my search for an 'intuitive' symbol, I meant one that is an obvious metaphor (e.g. egg = birth, dice = chance, skull = death).

    I've read that the oldest known form of the swastika was a sun symbol (I think I can see it), and that all the other meanings branched from there (Hindu, Buddhist, compass points, 4 winds, Thor's hammer, etc) :) . A pity it's been usurped in modern times :(

    I've also read that originally the crucifix was used by Romans to taunt Christians and was only adopted later on. They apparently used the fish symbol originally as a secret sign, because in Greek the initials of the phrase "Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour" spell out ichthus! (I don't know Greek, so this could just be hearsay...)

    Thanks again, and apologies once more for the return essay and its various meandering digressions.
     
  5. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    No, sorry. That Jesus fish symbol is actually a vagina. Modern religious scholars don't really know why early christians went with it, but pretty much every fish symbol up to that point had to do with fertility.

    And (coming from a graphic design background) if you want a symbol for unity in community you want hands, and usually, hands grasping other hands.
     
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  6. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ooh! Some kind of graph (basically circles connected by lines) is the purest, clearest symbol of the concept of society that you can find. The first graph that comes to mind, simply because it is easy to draw, is K5:

    [​IMG]

    I am sure there are other, more interesting graphs that are escaping my mind.
     
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  7. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    Cliché is a noun, passé is a verb participle that is being used as an adjective. It only works differently in English because it works differently in French.
     
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  8. Shrubs
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    Shrubs Member

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    When I think of a society and fellowship I always jump to a shield although this may be a common symbol you can do a lot with it. When I think of teamwork and cooperation gears in a clock are a good fit. So you could have a shield with gears on the front and a banner on top with a name on it. Colours can be important to describe as well (purple banner, grey outline of a shield, gold gears etc.). Hope this helped.
     
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  9. Sifunkle
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    Sifunkle Dis Member

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    Thanks for more responses all!

    @Jack Asher : My wording was ambiguous, sorry. By "originally", I meant in the context of symbol use within that religion (I'm just a dilettante without primary literature, but what I mentioned is certainly widespread, including in the article your Cracked page links to). The ichthys certainly has a history prior to Christianity, as do most of their symbols.

    Thanks for the input - I suppose the more anthropocentric a symbol, the more closely people will relate to it.

    @daemon : Ah, nice one! Graphs are used all the time for population dynamics; I feel silly to have overlooked them :oops: To play devil's advocate, I suppose the edges technically only represent 'interactions', which might not necessarily be interpreted as positively as I'm hoping to connote. From investigating complete graphs so far, I'd probably look at 5 or 6 nodes for the appropriate level of complexity I'm after - and unfortunately these look like a pentacle and a star of David respectively (obvious other implications) - but there's certainly lots more options to explore, so thanks for the suggestion!

    @Shadowfax : Ah thanks :) I don't speak French, so initially assumed it would relate to that, but must have misread whatever reference I found and concluded otherwise :oops:

    @Shrubs : Ah, clock gears are a great idea! Good one :) And yep, I'll definitely be considering colours, etc too.

    I'm still not fully decided, but everyone's contributions are really helping me bounce ideas around and explore new avenues, so much appreciated, and sorry I'm being so fastidious.
     
  10. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    On the other hand, the concept of "society" or "civilization" is not a purely positive phenomenon -- while civilization brings people together who become friends, it also brings people together who become enemies. While civilization unites people in harmony, it also gives people the opportunity to oppress other people. You might say a pure symbol of the concept of "civilization" should embrace both the good and the bad.
     
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  11. Sifunkle
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    Sifunkle Dis Member

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    Very true :) but for my purposes, one criterion was that it have 'a predominantly positive connotation'. I do think that a graph is probably the most logical and neutral of all symbols, so I might work it in somehow.

    I hope I don't seem ungrateful for looking all these gift-horses in the mouth. I do really appreciate everyone's help. I'm probably just being way too picky and overthinking things.
     

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