I recently tweeted about my jQuery Code ‘n’ Tell project, a mapping tool for Lakoff-Johnson Conceptual Metaphors, and @codecademy on Twitter asked me to send a note in about how I came up with the idea. I’ve now added some help text boxes to the tool so people who haven’t done a lot of mapping of conceptual metaphors can understand what it’s for and how to use it.
A conceptual metaphor mapping details how people understand complex concepts by transferring meaning from how things work in more basic domains. You can read about them on Wikipedia here, or check out George Lakoff and Mark Johnson’s book Metaphors We Live By. For example, people often use “Time is Money” so that they can think about spending time, saving time and comparing the value of doing different things with their time, using the rich toolset of financial reasoning.
The most interesting thing about conceptual metaphors to me is that they are the basic building blocks of complex systems of reasoning. As the conceptual systems build up, they include basic metaphors as mapped pairs in higher-level metaphors. The interlinked nature of these metaphor isn’t at home in a book, where the reader has to track the links by names or page references. These interlinked mappings need hyperlinks to show how they connect and to drill down from higher-level metaphors so that we can analyze speech and build new coherent arguments.
I’m currently reading George Lakoff’s newer book Moral Politics, which argues that conservatives and liberals both use metaphors about family life to build their moral systems, but in using very similar language about families, they mean completely different things because the component metaphors of each version of the prototypical family are almost completely opposite one another. I want to build a site where people can map the network of metaphors we use every day to understand our world. A little form like this to visualize one metaphor would be the first step in making the social tool I think cognitive metaphor analysis needs.
Check it out now! (tell me what you think, catch a bug maybe!)