The notion of a signal and signalling has for a long time held a certain interest for me. With too much free time on your hands it’s possible to get really deep on this and start delving into the notion of signifier and signified explored by the swiss chap de Saussure whom I touched on in this post. For a signal to function you need a sender and a receiver, otherwise it’s not a signal. You haven’t signalled anything to anyone. It’s rather like the philosophical conundrum: “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”

Sometimes when I’m driving I don’t signal when I turn a corner, rebel that I am. If there’s no-one behind you, no-one coming the other way, no cyclists or pedestrians around, what’s the point of signalling? There’s no-one to receive it, no-one to benefit from it.  If there is someone around, then I signal to them that I’m turning and they can use that knowledge to navigate their own path from A to B.

As far as I’m concerned, though, the best signals are two-way, where the signal turns both sender and receiver into receivers. Let me give you an example. When I go to bed at night, I lock my car remotely from my inside my house, using the key-fob. This automatically sets the alarm. The red ‘armed’ light flashes on the car dashboard. This signals to me that I have alarmed my car. It also signals to the would-be car-thief that the car is alarmed. Perfect.

Some signals only benefit the receiver, some benefit both.