Imagine license plates existed starting in 1765.

The post image means something, yes?  If you’re John Adams and you’re trotting down the road on the way to drop off a letter to The Boston Gazette arguing against the Stamp Act, you might cluck your tongue as you pass the wagon with this license plate.  Loyalists!

Fast-forward to 1770. Imagine your name is Gray, and you live in Boston, and you were a Loyalist, and this was your license plate.  Your brother Samuel is killed in the Boston Massacre.  Angrily, you remove this plate from your wagon -the same wagon Adams saw five years prior, and toss it in the trash.  A signal, of a different sort.

Or imagine you’re John Adams and you’re defending the soldiers accused in the Boston Massacre, and you come out and find that someone has found this plate from the trash and tacked it on the back of your coach.  That means something different.  In the context, Adams would probably regard it as a threat, yes?

Fast-forward to 1812.  It’s entirely possible that this license plate would get you shot.  What does this license plate represent, to the average American?  Decades of oppression by a distant monarchy, followed by two wars!  The burning of our capitol!

Fast-forward to today.  Do any of those signals still come through the mists of time?  If they do, do you think any of those signals are implied by the person with this license plate, or is this just an inference on the part of the viewer?

Does the rest of the context matter?

Here it is:


Awesome van, whoever you are.  (photo credit to Kitty)

What’s the point?

The point is that signaling has many components to it.  What the presenter wants to imply.  Who the presenter has in mind as their audience.  Who actually sees the signal, which may or may not overlap with the intended audience.  What inferences the intended audience reads from the signal.  What inferences the unintended audience reads from the signal.

I missed the beginning of the RNC yesterday, but I caught most of the end of the Davis speech, and everything that followed.  I thought Ann Romney’s speech was a little too calculated to my ear, but that’s probably because I’m a cynic.  I thought she navigated possible mine fields up until just before 7:25pm (PDT).  Here’s the speech (don’t watch it yet).

I think one of the weird things about people who come from privilege (and this includes myself) is that they generally have a hard time talking about their hard times without sounding clueless to some of the people who are listening.

Everybody has hard times.  It’s well established that people with more money don’t have less stress, because your stress-coping mechanisms aren’t hardwired tools, they adapt to your circumstances.

When you don’t have enough money in your checking account to pay for your apartment, you feel the stress of housing difficulties acutely… whether you’re living in a project or a basement apartment.  Whether you don’t have a place to go, if you lose that apartment in the projects… or you just don’t want to call your support network for help if you can’t afford that basement apartment one month.  Stress is stress, as it is perceived.  At one point I was unexpectedly unemployed and I could barely pay my rent.  If I didn’t figure out a way to get by on a drastically reduced cash flow, I would have had to default on my lease and move back in with my parents, or become a financial drain on my parents.  That certainly sounds better than, “I’ll be out on the street!” for certain.  But the funny thing about stress research is that you feel stress in accordance with perception of consequences, not the reality of the consequences.

If Mitt had a seizure going to class one day and their firstborn came down with an illness that required hospitalization for six months at $100,000 a week, Ann and Mitt would have a support network to fall back on that someone who lives in the projects lacks.  So trying to come across as “just folks”… comes across as genuine, for your intended audience (the people who are probably going to vote for you anyway), and as political baloney for your unintended audience (those not inclined to vote for you anyway).

I was interrupted by the chillun’s at one point so I missed a few seconds.  Fast forward the video to 12:19.  Hit “play”, and let it run out to 12:22.

Now, if you didn’t hear the entirety of the speech, what did you just hear?

If you did hear the entirety of the speech, what did you just hear?

Any bets on whether or not that 3 seconds of airtime gets play on social media, today?

Tying into Jason’s post, which I just bumped but it is well done… IF you weren’t in the bag for Romney, AND you heard that three seconds of speech… AND you were a single-issue voter on the issue of gay marriage (pro- or con-), and your first introduction to the entire speech was that three seconds, spoon-fed to you with a whole additional context… could you manage to listen to the whole speech without seeing REDCOAT?

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