Symbols in the current context: Identity as a Symbolic Construction

As I finished this week’s readings, I realized that all readings were converging to one topic: Embeddedness and dependencies of human behavior and cognition.

While defining technology is a challenge, understanding the human symbolic system made it even more challenging for me. While the readings historicized human symbolic interaction, and Wong, in her article “The Morning of the Modern Mind: Symbolic Culture,” described the process of behavioral revolution, I realized that human symbolic interaction was similar to that of a technological tool: While technology is path-dependent, human symbols are path-dependent as well, and that path is evolution.

What is even more challenging is understanding how symbols function today, and what is different in their functionality in regard to the past. The rise of globalism, consumerism, and nationalism in the current context, and the way ideologies use symbols might give the idea that symbols are socially constructed. Understanding the history of symbols, however, reveals that symbols still function to address survival instincts: Flags have symbolic value, because it symbolizes nations – whereas nations are defined in regard to enemies from other nations.

In the current context, however, symbols are functional in many areas. Communicating identity was probably not common throughout history. As symbols were employed to communicate identities, consumer culture found an instinctual basis to develop. Another occurance today is how the symbols carry value of the concepts they symbolize. And finally, symbols’ roles as stigmatizers: Symbols do not only help us communicate our identities, but also help us understand oru identity in regard to our environment. While cognition is embedded in the society, as Clark mentioned in “Supersizing the Mind: Embodiment, action, and Cognitive Extension,” identity is embedded in the environment. It is probably not what we are, but rather what we are not that dbest describe who we are.