One word increasingly related to the products of postmodern culture is symbols. In fact, one commentator has observed that modern capitalistic culture produces symbols and icons more than products.
While there has been considerable investigation of the meaning of symbols there has been relatively little exploration into the dynamics of their movement through time. Yet meaning and dynamics may possess a strong relationship. In an important sense, what a symbol means may be directly related to when it appears.
Our research into leading symbols from different cultures and periods of time suggests symbols move in a cyclic manner. The beginning of cycles stand in opposition to the end of cycles. Therefore, symbols which cluster at the beginnings of cycles are opposite symbols from those that cluster at the end of cycles.
The movement of symbols from beginning to end of cycles has a universal sequential movement of all growth and development. Therefore, symbols between the duality opposites at the beginning and ending of cycles have a correspondence of image over different cultures and periods of time.
One of the best laboratories to test the hypothesis that symbols move in a cyclic manner containing universal sequential stages is that congregation of powerful contemporary symbols known as television programs.
Centering on prime time television programming from 1950 to 1995, we have searched for cyclic and sequential dynamics.
Is there a relationship between television cycles and sequences and other sequences in the entertainment industry such as top box office films, chart-topping songs and best-selling book fiction? Does the relationship between top entertainment products have a correspondence to that growing popular media called the Internet?
If there is a common trend between leading entertainment products, does this trend have a correspondence with other broad cultural, social and political trends in America and the world during the period under analysis?
We provide a summary of our research findings, speculations on its implications and suggestions for future research.