Symbols are not so universal!


   I rediscovered an article I was struck by a few years ago, tucked into the back of an old sketchbook. The FAO had sent a professional artist as part of a training team to Burkina Faso to illustrate training pamphlets, with unexpected results!

“…To the extension agents, and of course the artist, the meaning of the drawings had been clear and unequivocal. But the interpretation of these images by local people differed enormously; in fact, it was apparent that the drawings, especially when presented out of the context of the planned extension message, were virtually undecipherable, or simply failed to convey the intended message. What to the extension agents the artist (and the author of this article) was clearly a black and white line drawing of a tree was interpreted by the local people as a road, with the lines in the tree crown interpreted as worms; a drawing of a cow seen from above was seen as a spirit, and a dangerous one at that; a syringe was often perceived as a bicycle pump; a cow tethered to a stake was an elephant; the horizon line in a drawing was seen as a boundary between two fields; a stream which continued past the edge of the paper was a porcupine; an improved beehive became a suitcase; a man falling from a tree was a man sleeping on the ground; a cross to signify negation was a pair of sticks….” 

Read more!  ambiguous-symbols


2 Responses to “Symbols are not so universal!”

  1. Another blog mystery explained. Where can I find a houseguest as useful as that, to be here with me when I try this? I’m sure it won’t work for me. Oops, better adjust that attitude. -k-

  2. Betsy Lahaussois Says:

    (Now for the beginning blogger’s exercise–how to get the three pages into a blog post? First I scanned them, one by one, remembering only the second time around to select the source as “black and white newspaper article”. Saved them as TIFF, but then realized they were gigantic files in this format. Was re-saving as PDF’s, when a young houseguest came into the room and gave me some tips. He showed me that with Adobe Acrobat, all three pages could be combined into one file, saved onto my desktop, and uploaded into the Media Library for insertion into the post. I was expecting to have to do something with the little chain-link icon, but it was enough to select “file URL” to get the blue link.

    I think.

    Maybe I’d better try this a few more times to be sure! And maybe I’d better investigate cropping and straightening while scanning…..)

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