context the environment, cultural or physical, in which a message or form is perceived and by which it is conditioned.

defamiliarization the term (along with “making strange”) often used to translate the Russian term ostranenie, the word used by Russian formalists to identify the principal function of artworks. The principal function of poetry and presumably other artworks us to challenge our habitual modes of perception. It can only do so by a process of defamiliarization.

anthropology 1) the science of human beings; especially the study of human beings in relation to distribution, origin, classification and relationship of races, physical character, environmental and social relations, and culture. 2) theology dealing with the origin, nature, and destiny of human beings.

sociology the science of society, social institutions and social relationships; specifically the systematic study of the development, structure, interaction and collective behavior of organized groups of human beings.

connotation and denotation a sign denotes that to which it explicitly refers. the denotation of the word is its literal meaning, what is found in the dictionary. these are objective. the connotations of the sign are the totality of the meanings evoked by the sign. these are subjective and derive meaning from culture. although the meaning may differ from individual to individual, we are able to gauge the response of the sign based on universal cultural implications.

sign most directly it is something that stands for somethings else. it is an umbrella term under which icon index and symbol, among others fall. French linguist Ferdinand de Saussure uses the terms signifier and signified to define a sign and the arbitrary relationships created. An example of a sign is the word “tree”, “arbol” and “arbre” which arbitrarily stands for the object, what we see and feel as a tree. In this example, the word “tree” is the signifier referring to the object, the signified.

icon a representation based on resemblance or similarity. A map is an example of an icon, since it represents a region or terrain. A portrait of Thomas Jefferson is an icon of him because it depicts a representation that is clearly discernable to the viewer.

index a representation of an indirect nature, causally influenced by the object they point to or are the physical mark left by the object (smoke = fire, fingerprint, a bullet hole). Indexes are the most interesting signs because they require more conceptual participation in the process of interpreting.

symbol an arbitrary representation based on agreement or convention. Examples: red for danger, a cross for Christianity, a flag for a country. Some are easy to accept while others require extensive learning and use.

metaphor a literary device where one thing is explained by comparing it to something else. “his eyes were as blue as the ocean” “her hair was as red as the sun”

synecdoche describes the whole through a part. “glad to lend a helping hand”
doesn’t mean only a hand will be lent–it is the whole person who will be doing
the work.

metonymy literally means changed name. used as a substitute for the original.
a hard hat would refer to a construction worker, a flatfoot would refer to a police officer walking a beat.

simile a metaphor using the words “like” or “as.” this is a simple comparison and is useful in idea generation. “__ is like __.” or “__ as__.” as big as a house.