One way to best observe culture is to distance yourself from it. For this assignment, I'd like you to attempt to get something done in society BOTH WITH AND WITHOUT THE USE OF SYMBOLS (language or gestures).
For this assignment, you'll need a pet (yours or someone else's) and also, like the first activity, a friend, family member or co-worker.
First, see if you can convey a simple idea - "THIS IS TASTY" - to the pet. You can use gestures, objects, smells, etc. in your effort to convey this idea.
Next, use the following phrase to convey the idea that "THIS IS TASTY" to a person. Try to convey the idea at first WITHOUT the use of any gestures or symbols (just state it plainly without emotion or action). If this fails, try again using gestures or other forms of symbolic communication.
Say, "OOCHING COOS-NO"
(note: this is actually a phonetically correct Ukrainian phrase for "this is tasty!")
Were you able to successfully convey this idea without the use of gestures or symbols?
Did it help to also use gestures or objects to do this? Explain what transpired.
Finally, looking back at the White article on the importance of symbols, discuss one specific idea given that this activity helped you to understand.
Through this excersize I was better able to understand the idea that a thought is better able to be remembered and used if it is represented as a symbol in our minds. My roommate's cat uses language, and by using HER gestures (not human ones) I am able to communicate in a limited way with her: hello, i like you, go away, let's play, would you like to cuddle? and so on .. these are things that a cat can understand, and that they have ways of communicating with each other, but trying to tell her that something is tasty was beyond her realm of experiance - she has no symbol in her mind for yummy food. It is easier to understand this when I tried the same experiment with a human, since we share a common culture. We have MANY symbols (in the forms of gestures, facial expressions and so forth) to denote that food is good, and on top of that, we are exceptionally good at interpreting new symbols if given enough context.