It is generally believed that the “social function of communication is the ensuing of continuity through access to the experiences and ideas of the past, expressed in [loosely speaking] symbols for transmission across space and through time. This is the ‘time-binding’ function of social communication” (Neelameghan 1979:103). Man’s time-binding ability arises from his usage of “language, number, gesture, picture and other symbolic forms” enabling him to transcend the limitations of inherited characteristics and the seemingly insurmountable barrier of “time.” It should be noted, in passing, that an era will come when messages vitally important to the race, affecting its survival, will be transmissible by microsurgical intervention with man’s molecular blueprint, but the technology required for this form of temporal communication is far from available yet.

Thomas Sebeok, I Think I Am A Verb, 152, (1987).

We are, for better or worse, stuck with communicating primarily through words, images, and gestures.. Jogged by a post at 2 Blowhards, I wanted to jot down a relevant bit from Sebeok regarding “messages” crossing the supposed divide behind linguistic and alinguistic communication. I have long suspected that it’s a matter of inflection rather than any alteration or intermingling of codes between media. Even the sense of smell can get into the act:

Context is often the crucial factor in resolving the significance of a message. This messages are encoded in the chemicals isovaleric acid and methyl mercaptan are components, respectively, of human body odor and halitosis. This notwithstanding, the same chemicals and, consequently, the same odors, are responsible for some of the bouquet and flavors of cheese—contexts account for the differences in interpretation.

The verbal context may subtly yet decisively affect memory, as was shown in a remarakable experiment by Loftus (1980) and Palmer. These two psychologists showed a movie of an automobile accident, and questioned two different groups of “witnesses” about it in two slightly different ways. One group was asked, “How fast were the cars going when they smashed into each other?” The other group was asked, “How fast were the cars going when they hit each other?” A week passed. Then all “witnesses” were asked “Did you see any broken glass in the accident?” Although there was no broken glass, those who were cued with the verb “smash” were more than twice as likely to erroneously report the presence of broken glass than those originally cued with the verb “hit.” (159)

It’s just a theory, but I would suspect that Apple’s favoring a visual only cue for the connectors has more to do with a fear that verbal labels convey complexity—a sort of perception they wish to avoid on their products. While both a visual and verbal cue might be more effective, it would also create a completely different impression that violated their “ethos” in an interesting way. It isn’t a matter of visual or verbal tyranny so much as it is a complex understanding of how to maintain an important aspect of the identity of their products.