Normative Signs: The Poetry of "Ought"

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

Evolving Rules: No Vapor, Please!

As society changes, sometimes normative signs have to change. Here’s an example:
This sign is posted by a restaurant patio in Philadelphia. Note that, just a year ago, such a sign probably would not have existed. Vaping — the use of e-cigarettes — just wasn’t a thing.

Interestingly, the relevant City of Philadelphia Ordinance doesn’t seem to mention vaping at all. It seems that someone has extrapolated from an ordinance about smoking to assume something very controversial, namely that vaping amounts to the same thing as smoking traditional cigarettes.

When Regulations Get in the Way

IMG_3794This sign is posted in a planter on the sidewalk in downtown Philadelphia.

It’s a great example of how normative signs can demonstrate more general principles of regulation. In this case, it demonstrates that sometimes regulations — the regulations someone thinks, rightly or wrongly, are needed — are just so intrusive that you might as well give up on the regulated activity altogether.

As you can see from the image below, the normative sign here sort of um, dominates the ostensibly beautifying flowers.
Thinking about normative signs as an attempt to regulate behaviour, we should also notice that there are alternatives here. The owner of these flowers could have opted to place spikes along the edge of the planter to make sitting on the planter uncomfortable. Would that be better, or worse?