Land-use Metaphor in Scholarly Communication – METHOD / APPROACH, PT. 3 (DRAFT)

Author’s note: This post is the third part of a rough draft of an methods/approach section to an article that I am publicly writing on this blog. I’ve previously written and posted an Introduction section. As you may see in the author’s notes to the previous two parts of this section, I had a system in mind on how I would write this, but it became clear in the third week that that system isn’t… going to work. I don’t know, man, I’m just trying to get some stuff down on paper here.


Land-use Metaphor in Scholarly Communication (DRAFT)

METHOD / APPROACH, PT. 3  (PT. 1 here; PT. 2 here)

In conclusion of this section, I will summarize the major points discussed, distilling them into a guide for our method / approach.

The three most basic mechanics we will employ are

  • identification of a metaphor (or conceptual metaphor) in circulation;
  • case-making for its suitability; or
  • case-making for its replacement;

along with a fourth mechanic, which is

  • identification of potential metaphors for tangential areas.

Metaphors are figures of speech that allow us to refer to one thing in terms of another, and a conceptual metaphor is something that allows us to think about one conceptual domain in terms of another. A conceptual metaphor may gain circulation if it is catchy, vivid, or if the underlying mapping is clear or enticing. The wide circulation of a metaphor does not necessarily signal that the metaphor is actually sound. Further, even if a good number of metaphorical mappings are present, there may be other factors that make them unfit for beneficial use.

Deep consideration of a metaphor can solidify the case for a particular metaphor, present a case against one, and help uncover alternatives and related metaphors. To unpack a conceptual metaphor is to uncover the persuasive little story it may be conjuring in our thinking. Dennett coined the term intuition pumps to describe fable-like objects which raise an issue effectively, but does not settle it. As Hofstadter advised, we should consider the intuition pump to be a tool with many knobs we should turn in order to see if they still raise the same intuitions.

The particular ‘knobs’ we will repeatedly attempt to identify (if not all the way turn) are three we take from Lakoff and Johnson (1980). Lakoff and Johnson argued that conceptual metaphors structure thinking, and in doing so, they:

  • highlight some aspects;
  • hide others; and can lead to
  • self-fulfilling prophecies which act as a guide for future actions.

In the next sections, before diving into land-use metaphors that are particular to scholarly communication, we will observe how the approach / methods described here have been enacted onto land-use metaphors in librarianship (weeding), and more broadly in the information fields (information ecology / ecosystem).

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