In 1946 Morris claimed that a sign is iconic “to the extent to which it itself has the properties of its denotata.” (Eco, p192). On the level of common sense Eco agrees, but with deeper examination Morris’ statement is shown to be ‘tautological and naïve’. And one that does not satisfy semiotics (p 192)
Later in his study, Morris himself qualifies this ‘rigidity’ by modifying his original statement to “any sign which is similar in some respects to what it denotes.” (p 192) The qualification therefore produces a definition of iconism as one of degrees and exposes an elasticity that permits the notion that ‘certain perceptual mechanisms in iconic experiences are the same ones that function when involved with the perception of actual object’. (p193) But they are not the same but rather produce two different perceptual results.
Using an example of iconic signs to advertise beer detailed on p 193, Eco asserts that the stimuli in the beer advertisement are not the same as the stimuli of the actual beer. Iconic signs do not possess the same properties as actual objects being represented. They do, however, rely on the same perceptual structure. A line on a page that outlines a horse clearly does not share the same properties as a horse. It is previous learning that leads an addressee to accept a line on page as a horse. A line that is precisely a property that a horse does not address.
How does this occur? In part through “surrogate stimuli that, within the framework of a given representational convention, contribute to the signification; they are sheer material configurations that simulate perceptive conditions or components of iconic signs.” (Kalkofen, 1973, commenting on Eco 1968, cited p 194)
Another example to debunk the icon-as-same-properties notion is the way saccharine is quoted as resembling sugar. But neither are the same chemically as chemical analysis clearly shows. Nor are either similar visually, in fact sugar resembles salt more than saccharine. Sugar is also demonstrably different to saccharine in the culinary field. This leads Eco to conclude that it is not a relationship of ‘form’ but of ‘effect’. (p195)
[OS The allocation of arbitrary time slots to depict the actual time of writing is being used in the previous two and the next four academic-blogs, to instil a perception of daily work, as opposed to mad-catchup-all-day,long-hours session. But, it is hoped, the effect of the blogs will be the same.]