Symbol Systems and Sociology

Social Systems, Metanarratives, and Meaning

Success in a capitalist system requires subscribing to the ultimate value of capital, with the ultimate goal to acquire the capital to put others into debt slavery to try to pay off the privilege of access to your capital.

It is fascinating to explore the development of pictograms, symbols, and writing systems. I was particularly intrigued by the power associated with coding and decoding symbol systems. Literacy was once monopolized by the priestly class. A few decades ago, as trained designers, we were a small subset of the population who had access to the tools for mass communications, assuming the role of the priestly class for corporations and governments.

Questioning Everything

As we train more designers, there are more people who, if they take the time to explore their new abilities, are able to question the very foundations of the systems that we have been tasked with building. At issue is an entire system built on the power of markets to enforce the values and beliefs of a corporate success myth.

A Capitalist Symbol System

Money is a globally recognized symbol of value exchange. In itself, it has no value. But humans have been conditioned to ascribe value to an abstract monetary number for individual net worth that can be exchanged for social capital.

Corporate Debt Slavery

I was recently listening to a podcast that described the situation something like this:

A Union Meeting

For the past couple of decades, the tech companies of Silicon Valley (and beyond) have run unchecked, causing havoc, destroying civil discourse, democracy, ruining personal relationships, running marketplaces of harassment and abuse, all to line their pockets. The very worst part is that they did it with our labor. This isn’t a talk, this is a union meeting.

Designers craft symbol systems to embody metanarratives of meaning that we attach to brands to create tribes of identity and consumption in a social system designed to extract the greatest possible amount of capital from a human being during their lifetime on earth.

Mike Monteiro — Let’s Destroy Silicon Valley
How to Build an Atomic Bomb, a presentation by Mike Monteiro

Designer, writer, educator, social architect, founder, Builders Collective, Leading with Design.

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