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Equal sign wins ‘Symbol of the Year’ in 2013

The Stanford University Symbolic Systems Program affiliates have chosen the equal sign as the Symbol of the Year in 2013, in their second annual vote for notable symbols.

The citation reads: “The Human Rights Campaign’s modified logo became a viral symbol for marriage equality in 2013 ahead of the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in June. The embedded equal sign also featured prominently in similar logos, reinforcing an equality message that was echoed in the cracking of the glass ceiling for women.”

Other Notable Symbols in 2013 that won substantial support in the balloting were the National Security Agency logo, and “the cloud”.

The three recognized symbols were chosen from 17 nominations submitted between Dec. 16 and 23, with voting taking place Dec. 26-30. Nominations appeared on the ballot in the words of the nominators, without endorsement of any particular nomination from the program. One hundred and three alumni/ae, students, faculty and staff affiliated with the Program cast ballots in a system that allowed each voter to say “Yes” or “No”, or to abstain, on any nomination. When the results were verified, public web pages were prepared for the winning symbol as well as the two other symbols that received more Yes’s than No’s.

Symbolic Systems’ Associate Director Todd Davies initiated the nomination and voting process last year on a pilot basis. All of the program’s alums, current students, and faculty/staff were eligible vote. The ballot stated that the purpose of the vote was “to recognize the important role that symbols play in our world” (“as affiliates of the Symbolic Systems Program”). “Last year’s ballot asked voters whether we should do this every year,” Davies said, “and they overwhelmingly said ‘yes.’ So we decided to make it an annual event, which we expect to evolve over time.”

The idea of a “Symbol of the Year” was inspired by the many annual “of the year” designations and awards that are put out by various organizations, especially the American Dialect Society’s annual”Word of the Year” vote. Creating such recognition for symbols was seen as a good match for Stanford’s Symbolic Systems Program, which focuses on human and computational systems that use symbols to communicate and to represent information. Although program administrators are not aware of any other annual “Symbol of the Year” designations, the author Lindy West playfully invoked the idea a few years ago, when she wrote that the Twitter hashtag (“#”) was the “Symbol of the Year” in 2010.


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Posted by on Jan 7, 2014. Filed under Around the Nation, Online Only, Top Highlights. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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