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  • Titill er á ensku "Let's run it up the flagpole..." : the symbolism of flags and a democratic attempt to design one
  • Bakkalár
  • Útdráttur er á ensku

    National flags are ubiquitous symbols on the world stage. We are used to seeing them in a variety of contexts and on an average day it is likely that a person will encounter at least one, but more likely, multiple flags. We have even put a flag on the moon. But what do flags symbolize, beyond being a visual manifestation of a nation-state? A flag can mean many things, it has an infinite number of definitions depending on the beholder. Yet, it also has a single meaning as a unifying symbol for a diverse nation. But just as flags are symbols of unity, they are also symbols of division, between and within nations. After all, in the past, flags were predominantly used as tools for identification on the battle field. This thesis explores the multivocality of a national flag, drawing on the theory of semiotics. It also details the origins of the national flag and outlines the five principles of successful flag design. Then, applying the knowledge gathered, it examines the process surrounding the historical ‘flag referendum’ in New Zealand in 2015-2016. This was a unique attempt at democratizing the entire process of designing and adopting a national flag. First, the designs were crowdsourced, resulting in over 10,000 proposals. Then, the citizens of New Zealand were able to vote for their preferred design from five finalists, the winner of whom was then pitted against the incumbent flag. The new flag design lost and while New Zealand did not retire its defaced Blue Ensign, it had engaged in a monumental democratic experiment. However, as this thesis concludes, the democratic nature of the process might have been exactly why New Zealand did not get a new flag. People attach strong emotions and associations to symbols, like the national flag, and therefore, from the start the competition was rigged for the flag that had the most history.

  • 12.6.2018

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