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  • General Semantics & GIFs: A Panel Discussion on Symbols & Social Media

General Semantics & GIFs: A Panel Discussion on Symbols & Social Media

  • 18 Sep 2019
  • 6:00 PM - 9:00 PM
  • The Players Club, 16 Gramercy Park S, New York, NY 10003

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General Semantics & GIFs

A Panel Discussion on Symbols & Social Media

According to Wendell Johnson, general semantics is concerned with the problems we have in trying to live with ourselves and with each other. He argues that we understand very little about what it means to be a symbol-using class of life, and that we fail to consider the connection between our use of language and the way we live. Understanding language as technique allows us the possibility of taking a critical position with regard to this powerful human dimension and the way in which our modes of communication give shape to our broader lifeworld.

Over the last several years, the GIF, or graphic interchange format, has become an integral component of online communication. These short moving images are typically emotive “moments” clipped from popular media that capture a sentiment or complex emotional state. Today, GIFs have been integrated to most social media services in enormous searchable databases. Users of social media can employ GIFs on their own, or in combination with text-based communication, creating a hybrid form with both discursive (word-based) and presentational (image-based) characteristics. The exploration of this theme expands the reach of general semantics further into the area of online and digital communication, in pursuit of Wendell Johnson’s critical position.

In what ways does this visual form enhance text-based communication, adding depth and complexity to our communication? How does this symbolic form relate to the process of abstracting and what pitfalls does it present to clear and effective communication? How does the popularity of this symbolic form relate to Korzybski’s notion of ‘infantilism’ and what defense can be made for the form’s utility in thought and action?

The participants on this program are:

Michael Plugh, Assistant Professor of Communication at Manhattan College, Past-President of the New York State Communication Association, and a member of the Board of Directors of the New York Society for General Semantics. Dr. Plugh is Pedagogy Editor for the journal Explorations in Media Ecology, and is currently program planner for the Media Ecology Association’s presence at the annual National Communication Association convention. His research interests include general semantics and media ecology, particularly with respect to issues of education.

Arshia Anwer, Assistant Professor of Communication at Manhattan College. Dr. Anwer has worked in the communication and education fields in a variety of marketing communication, editing and teaching roles, and currently serves as the Community Manager for the New York State Communication Association. Her research interests include integrated marketing communication, philosophy of communication, and religious communication, and she has published in the areas of communication ethics and religious communication.

Brian Cogan, Associate Professor of Communications at Molloy College. Dr. Cogan is the author of numerous articles. book chapters and books, with emphasis on popular culture and media ecology, including works on punk rock, South Park and Monty Python. He was the Awards coordinator and a Board member for the Media Ecology Association for many years, is a past president of the New York State Communication Association and a Wilson Scholar., and co-edits the zine Submerging which highlights both emerging and established authors and photographers.

Come join us for a presentation that is sure to to be arresting and amusing!

6 PM to 9 PM September 18th at the historic Players Club in Gramercy Park. 

Registration is free, but all attendees must be registered in order to gain admittance to the club. This includes any guests you might want to bring with you.

The program will take place in the Library on the 2nd floor of the club. Please note that, as an historic 19th century landmark, the site is not handicap accessible. Dress code is business casual and is strictly enforced, including no sneakers, shorts, ripped jeans, t-shirts).






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The New York Society for General Semantics is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization established September 9, 1946.

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