Symbols, logos and images of power that populate the offline world of politics, religion, science and culture are also prominent on the Internet.
In the real world, we associate flags, currency notes, military insignia, weapons, stamps and seals, with power, influence, authority, ownership and might. In cyberspace, we have equivalent symbols. Not specifically about power, but the ‘Access Denied’ idea and image are one of the first symbols of ‘control’ and ‘access’ online. We are so used to seeing this sign across web spaces and our computer programs that we don’t think about how intrinsically we associate it, rather, disassociate it with loss of control and access. Because that’s what this symbol stands for: loss of control and access.
There are government domain names and logos that have crossed the barrier from the real to the digital space and wield authority online as well, if not real power. There is respect associated with government, legal services, state and city-level departments’ domains, portals and websites that disseminate information. Even official tourism, cultural and educational websites are accorded respect and draw followers.
The logos of applications and programmes in the online world dominate the imagination of offline subscribers too. These logos are signifiers of subversive culture, cults or anti-establishment in nature. The Torrent symbol “mew” has created a culture of subversion, granting unwritten licenses to users to accelerate piracy and illegal content storage.
Of the corporate world, today, the four-coloured Windows logo or the A of Adobe are a prompt entry into a suite of software and tools that a host of us have come to associate with legitimate products: writing (Word), reading (PDF, eLit), creating presentations (PowerPoint, Prezi) and surfing online – the IE symbol or the fox on fire. Need I mention YouTube, Facebook, Skype, Twitter or other companies in the real world who now occupy significant brand space online? It’s what Cadburys is to chocolates or Xerox is to photocopying.
Cyber security and censorship are two important issues that many netizens are debating about. While the tick mark of ‘Verisign’ and ‘Verisecure’ have become hallmarks of trust and safety, the “I Agree” box that we all invariably click and accept are blatant invitations to web services and apps to hold us hostage unless we agree to their legalese. Sometimes, we know that by ‘Agreeing’, we allow companies access to our messages, photos and private communication but are helpless against the door guards of ‘Sign-In’s and ‘Accept’s’.
There are those unseen behind-the-scenes puppet-strings that deny us access and limit our understanding of the backdoor. The symbol for passwords – keys, asterisk and circular bullets – and our slow evolution to accepting the ‘browser organiser’ to save, remember and recall our passwords for future log-ins also signify control.
Logos online have sought inspiration from their offline counterparts: the Home symbol on our browsers and the checkout cart image on shopping sites are two such examples.
The shopping cart of the supermarket is now the ‘checkout’ and ‘add to the cart’ symbol online, and our concrete houses are still keeping us ‘Home’ even in cyberspace.
This blog post is a lateral process in identifying the processes of meaning making in the World Wide Web and to ascertain the various parameters via which we attribute a symbol with meaning – whether in the real or offline world. I am sure I have left out a host of symbols, images and logos in use, please post your thoughts on this.Hits:1062