Normative Signs: The Poetry of "Ought"

In which the author finds beauty in how people tell other people what to do.

Stop, Point, Cross

stop_point_crossThis is at a crosswalk in Toronto. Not every crosswalk has them, but I’ve seen a few of them around.

On this blog, I’ve generally avoided signs that give instructions on how to do something. For my purposes, normative signs are ones that tell you that you should do something, period. The sign pictured here is a hybrid, I guess. It indicates how to cross the street safely — what procedure to follow — but also tells you in no uncertain terms that there are certain things you must do.

Interestingly, the procedure given on this sign is one I have literally never seen implemented by anyone here in Toronto.


speedbumpIs this a normative sign? Does it tell people what to do? In principle, it merely indicates the existence of a speed-bump. Whether you want to slow down (thereby avoiding damage to your car) is up to you. Functionally, though, it’s a command: slow down!