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Unformatted text preview: yellow and green in the system, with concepts (go, wait, stop) attached to each of them through arbitrary convention. According to Saussure (1996) our understanding of “what something is” comes from “what it is not.” This claim, of course, is the very basis of the logic of all classifications, using “difference” to group objects into different classes based on selected criteria. Figure 4. Color lights create meaning in an arbitrary space of difference Map as a sign Any atlas map illustrates the simultaneous workings of all three semiotic principles. 1) Maps show only selected attributes of our world, not all attributes. 2) Data is aggregated and maps are drawn at appropriate geographic scales. 3) The representation of the data is done through categories, which are classified and named in a system of difference, shown in the legend. 9 Figure 5. The map is a sign produced from a semiotic process that has selected, aggregated, and differentiated The makers of the World Bank map of poverty shown in figure 5 chose “income per capita”—a discursive selection‐‐this being only one of many alternative measures for the well‐being of people. The data was discursively aggregated at the national level to yield per capita income of nation states. Again this is a choice. Finally the World Bank grouped the countries into four classes: High income, Upper middle income, Lower middle income, and Low income. These are the discursive choices which created the World Banks’s poverty discourse. The world map of per capita income used all three semiotic principles andas such it is a discursive construction. 2. Some Attributes of Signs All communication—or discourse— happens through the use of signs such as words, symbols, images, equations, maps, and gestures. Semiotics is the study of these “signs.” The field of semiotics is vast (Nöth 1995; Colbey 1996), but drawing on the work of Saussure, Peirce, and Derrida I will summarize the main ideas that are rele...
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This document was uploaded on 01/24/2014.

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