My second day of reading in the Introduction to Communication helped me understand in identifying if the symbol you see is Arbitrary.
I had to describe and comment on a sign that I noticed in the media (online, on TV, in advertising, in a book or newspaper or magazine, etc.). And answer questions:
Was the sign a symbol, an icon, an index, or some combination? What was the sign's signifier? What was its signified?
So I was in the middle of completing my online research for work and had trouble loading a particular webpage then I noticed a pop-up window with a “red shield”. The sign was a symbol because it has no direct connection to the referent; it could be a McAffee Virus Scan Shield. The signifier (elements of the red shield – color, shield, & the letter x in the shield). It signified a warning to internet users that it is not safe to open the website; it may indicate an attempt to fool you or intercept any data you send to the server.
Not all internet users are knowledgeable or highly oriented about the world of internet and because of this lack of knowledge some signs found while browsing the net would imply different meanings to users. The “red shield” is arbitrary in such a way that other internet users such as kids would possibly look at it as a game button; it could be a logo used by an organization or to an event like The Salvation Army’s annual fund raising campaign.
More questions I answered:
How would subjectivity, negotiation, and/or culture (all described in chapter 3) affect how you and other people might differently interpret the sign you discussed? What possible miscommunications (or other communication or interpretation problems) might come about as a result? How might these communication problems be prevented or minimized?--or could they be?
As internet users learn the outcome of not receiving the sign’s message correctly, or as the sign appears on a webpage repeatedly while surfing the net, some of internet users would take part in learning the primary meaning of the sign.
The more the “red shield” appears to internet users while browsing the net, some internet users would take part in learning the message of the sign is trying to deliver, as a result of negotiation, I and other internet users would develop a common meaning to the sign. Or the more time an individual spends using the internet, the more chances of encountering the “red shield” sign which will eventually make you understand the message it’s trying to send.
A communication problem may occur, for instance, when some internet users do not understand the message of the sign (red shield) created by webmasters/programmers to send a warning to the internet users.
PREVENT COMMUNICATION PROBLEM
For the example I illustrated, the message of the sign needs to be re-sent for internet users to understand the message. Or the webmasters/programmers need to say it loud in the context of re-designing the sign (clear & big; add words) to add more meaning.