Culture Code-X

Canny Circumspection

Image for Canny Circumspection

Gary Oldman as George Smiley

The CODE-X series catalogs a vast codex of source codes (aka “signs”) extracted from past audits.

The object of study in semiotics is not the signs but rather a general theory of signification; the goal of each “audit” is to build a model demonstrating how meaning is produced and received within a category or cultural territory. Signs on their own, therefore, only become truly revelatory and useful once we’ve sorted them into thematic complexes, and the complexes into codes, and the codes into a meaning map. We call this process “thick description”; the Code-X series is thin description.


CANNY CIRCUMSPECTION” NORM: Britishness in the US is often associated with circumspection, in the sense of a shrewd and highly competent person who shuns the limelight. Showing off your power and knowledge is — in the US — something we assume is considered uncool in England.

Banksy art

CANNY CIRCUMSPECTION” FORMS: Fictional figures such as Dumbledore and Gandalf staying behind the scenes, allowing others to think of them as incompetent. Jeeves to Bertie Wooster. George Smiley. Banksy never revealing his identity.

From a 2014 study of BRITISHNESS as perceived through the lens of US pop culture and brand communications.

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