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Symbols, the basis for communication (Stacey, 2001, 102) -
A symbol is a thing that represents something other than itself. For example, the word ""table"" is a symbol representing a table. In regards to communication, Mead's use of the word is very different from common usage and more in line with the Greek origins of the word in the sense that he takes symbols to be actions. For Mead, a gesture made by one animal that is responded to by another animal is a symbol. In the complex responsive processes perspective of interaction, this means that a gesture is thrown together with a response and together they stand for, or better still, constitute, a meaning. Mead rejected the notion that symbols are independent of their meaning and said that they could not lie outside the filed of action. Communication is understood to take place in the medium of symbols. According to Mead a gesture followed by a response equals a symbol that equals meaning.

Symbol classifications (Stacey, 2001, 102-114) --
Symbols can be classified as --

  • symbols used in forming narrative knowledge --
    • proto symbols -- Proto symbols are feelings directly experienced in the body changes in rhythm, and therefore, as meaning in the form of feeling rhythms or emotions. The meaning of the protosymbol is always context dependent. Experiencing protosymbols is a self-organizing process in which patterns of meaning occur.

      Bodily gesture (A) followed by bodily response (B) equals symbol equals meaning.

    • significant symbols -- A significant symbol is a gesture that calls forth a similar response in oneself as in another.

      Bodily gesture (A) followed by bodily response (A)/(B) equals significant symbol equals meaning.

  • reified symbols used in forming propositional knowledge (see propositional theme)
    • reified symbols are symbols made ""concrete"" so to speak, in the form of symbols expressed in the form of words stored as artifacts
    • abstract-systematic frameworks form and are formed by reified symbols
    • reified symbols are gestures that point to, or stand for, abstract-systematic frameworks of explanation
    • reified symbols represent reality in an abstract way and refer to that abstraction as reality

    • Bodily gesture (A) followed by abstract framework followed by bodily response (A)/(B) equals reified symbol equals meaning.

Bodily interactions are symbols -- they have the relational, responsive, associative, and interlinked rhythm of bodily gesture-response. Symbols are associative in that they are gestures by one body calling forth an associated responding gesture from another body.