[Air-L] Metaphors in Technology

Cameron Adams C.L.Adams at kent.ac.uk
Mon Jun 9 01:37:35 PDT 2008


Metaphors in technology go way back.  One very important one is William 
Harvey describing the heart as a pump.  This was not only the first 
sense of what the heart was actually doing, but could only be done 
through metaphor (ok, its backwards, tech metaphor for non-tech) .  
Then an interesting one is that the radio project was almost scrapped 
by Marconi because it was a lousy wireless telegraph (no one to one 
communication).  Then someone came up with the broadcast metaphor (from 
agriculture).  In terms of computer tech, how about the information 
superhighway.  This leads to more effort being done to make modems (the 
cars) faster and the lines (roads) smoother and more efficient.  This 
is at the expense (to some degree) of other possibilities such as 
information packaging and network structure.

I really don't think you can really do justice to the metaphor stuff by 
focussing on describing various metaphors and how they manifest, 
though.  There is a huge literature on metaphor theory and cognition.  
If you want a slice of it, I can give you a pretty good biblio, drop me 
a line off-group and I'll send you one.  I am an anthropologist so the 
focus is there, but there is a lot of stuff that should be useful to 
you (ie where do specific metaphors come from, and why, what is going 
on in the brain, how it affects how we perceive stuff post-metaphor, 

Also, you may be interested in  
http://creet.open.ac.uk/projects/metaphor-analysis/index.cfm (metaphor 
analysis website), and Researching and Applying Metaphor International 
Association (RaAM) at http://raam.org.uk/Home.html



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