Motives for Metaphor in Scientific and Technical Communication
by Timothy D. Giles (Baywood) Examination of the work of scientific
icons-Newton, Descartes, and others-reveals the metaphors and
analogies that directed their research and explain their
discoveries. Today, scientists tend to balk at the idea of their
writing as rhetorical, much less metaphorical. How did this schism
over metaphor occur in the scientific community? To establish that
scientists should use metaphors to explain science to the public and
need to be conscious of how metaphor can be useful to their
research, this book examines the controversy over cloning and the
lack of a metaphor to explain it to a public fearful of science's
power. The disjunction between metaphor and science is traced to the
dispensation of the Solar System Analogy in favor of a mathematical
model. Arguing that mathematics is metaphorical, the author supports
the idea of all language as metaphorical-unlike many rhetoricians
and philosophers of science who have proclaimed all language as
metaphorical but have allowed a distinction between a metaphorical
use of language and a literal use.
For technical communication pedagogy, the implications of this study suggest foregrounding metaphor in textbooks and in the classroom. Though many technical communication textbooks recommend metaphor as a rhetorical strategy, some advise avoiding it, and those that recommend it usually do so in a paragraph or two, with little direction for students on how to recognize metaphors or to how use them. This book provides the impetus for a change in the pedagogical approach to metaphor as a rhetorical tool with epistemological significance.
Excerpt: The Problem of Metaphor in Scientific and Technical
A presentation at a recent meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science attempted to account for the factors affecting public perception of science, drawing no more tangible conclusions than that people are more likely to support scientific research if they know more about it. Even such a conclusion, however, cannot be directly credited to better science education (Pearson, 2005). The debate over cloning is an excellent example. After several years of debate, a United Nations legal committee has recommended that member nations ban all forms of human cloning, which includes research on cloning that could someday generate organs for those who need them to continue living. Some have suggested that scientists exploring cloning are playing God. If cloning is hampered and lives are lost as a result, then who, indeed, is playing God, those who clone, or those who prevent cloning? An examination of cloning reveals that no central metaphor has emerged that communicates cloning to the public. This book broadly recommends metaphors and analogies as an epistemological strategy that can be generative for the scientist, the engineer, and the lay audience, and specifically for metaphor and analogy to be taught in the scientific and technical communication classroom.
Metaphor and analogy have long aided and directed scientific thinking. In the seventeenth century Rene Descartes theorized that light was contained in a medium, which led to the theory of light as a wave. Newton’s experiments with the prism later suggested that light was a particle, because the prism broke light into bands of color. Today, theory of light plays a role in developing technology, from eyeglasses to CRT screens to fiber optic cables. Metaphorically, industry thinks of light as a wave and as a particle, depending upon the application. In a fiber optic cable, industry thinks of light as a wave. For images to appear on computer screens, industry must think of light as a particle. So for an image to appear on the computer screen via the Internet, a wave of data encased in light must travel down the fiber optic cable to the computer, where the signal is translated into particles that appear on the screen. In either case, it was necessary for light’s wave-like properties or its particle-like properties to be recognized in order for theory to be shaped into usable products. Theories of light from the seventeenth century until now have proceeded and advanced by means of metaphor, evidence that metaphor has long been important to scientific writing, which this book reads, and defends, as a type of technical communication.
Does the shift between metaphors of light mean that there is a type of negative tension occurring here? To the contrary, such tension is not at all negative. Rather, it is a sign of health and can be read as science’s growing pains. The title of Thomas Kuhn’s The Essential Tension (1977) suggests instead that such stress is necessary, especially for a paradigm shift to occur. A good example of yet another paradigm shift for theories of light happened in the early nineteenth century when Thomas Young performed the double slit experiment. Young allowed a beam of light to pass through a hole in a screen. On a surface where the light struck, he made two holes, and on a surface behind that, he expected to see points of light where it had passed through the two holes. Instead, he saw bands of light, which contradicted what he expected, at least according to Newton’s theory. Hence, Young reverted to Descartes’ wave metaphor. Einstein’s theory of relativity allows for the comprehension of light’s wave-like and particle-like properties.
The passing and shifting of metaphors over centuries and from one scientist to the other further calls to mind Kuhn’s influential work in science studies. He has argued that science is a social construction and he has also carefully delineated the idea of paradigm shifts in science. Scientific metaphors are certainly further evidence of the social nature of science. As my study will indicate, it is difficult, if not impossible, to identify the coiner of the Solar System Analogy since, as I shall argue, it can be traced back to the ancient Greek atomists. As other theorists have noted, the value of studying metaphor in a scientific context is that metaphor is communal as it is passed from scientist to scientist, or from group of scientists to group of scientists, as the case study of the Solar System Analogy (SSA) evidences.
These examples demonstrate the value of metaphor to scientific thought, but what are the implications for technical communication, specifically in Information Technology (IT) and engineering? As a field, IT is rife with metaphors. E-mail and its accompanying desktop icons are obvious examples; and how is it that e-mail is sent, over the Internet, the Information Superhighway, or the World Wide Web? All of these are metaphors for tying down these abstract expressions of silicon and light.
Metaphor is important to engineering as well. A good example is John Smeaton’s train of thought as he developed ideas for what became the Eddystone lighthouse. Prior to Smeaton’s design of the Eddystone lighthouse, most lighthouses were built like Roman watchtowers, as wide at the bottom as at the top. Smeaton’s journals reveal how he considered structuring the replacement lighthouse, the third one to stand on England’s Eddystone reef. Two previous ones, the first built like a Roman watchtower and the second conical, had been swept away. Initially, Smeaton envisioned a lighthouse structured like a cradle, so that it would rock with storms. Then he considered structuring it like a ship so that the lighthouse could ride the waves. However, it occurred to him that a cradle can tip over and a ship can capsize, so he settled on an oak tree structure, wider at the bottom than at the top, but tapering more gradually than a cone. The cradle and the ship were analogies that suggested the next steps, and some might read them as having been dispensed with at that point, except for how they led to the metaphor that inspired Smeaton to build a lighthouse that then stood on the England’s Eddystone Reef for over two hundred years. Smeaton’s lighthouse finally had to be moved inland because the rock around it had eroded to a dangerous point. This lighthouse, which still stands today, is a testament to the concrete value of metaphor as part of the engineer’s thinking process (Smeaton, 1953, pp. 90-100).
Of course, metaphor can be problematic in science when metaphor becomes myth, which can occur when a scientist has too much invested in a metaphor and resists a paradigm shift. Einstein never fully accepted quantum mechanics because the idea of probability contradicted the precision of classical physics, and as a result, he was regarded as somewhat anachronistic in his later years (Greene, 2003). Other nineteenth-century physicists discussed in this book such as J. J. Thomson, who is credited with discovering the electron, and Oliver Lodge, who did important early work in radio and whose work is presented as an example of nineteenth-century science writing, would not relinquish the aether, the substance thought to pervade outer space, much like a thin atmosphere. Just as the metaphors for light shifted between Descartes, Newton, and Young to the current understanding, Einstein, Thomson, and Lodge may not have been completely wrong with their adherence to classical physics. Today, string theory seeks to combine the atomic with the cosmological realms in a spirit of unity that hearkens to Scottish Natural Philosophy, which this study will also explore for its connection with metaphoric thought in science. Dark matter in outer space may also renew the aether metaphor.
With the importance of metaphor to science and engineering established, some definitions are in order. I begin with that distinction between scientific and technical communication and then move to metaphor and analogy.
DIFFERENTIATING BETWEEN SCIENTIFIC AND TECHNICAL COMMUNICATION
It is helpful to attempt to differentiate between scientific writing and technical communication since they are so often mentioned in the same breath. How might they be defined? W. E. Britton (1965) surveyed a number of other scholars who had attempted to define technical writing. Throughout his article “What is Technical Writing?” he uses the terms “technical writing” and “scientific writing” synonymously and often conjunctively referring to them as “technical and scientific writing” (p. 114), something that he does 12 times in this article. He notes that others such as Blickle and Passe (1963) have defined technical writing as “writing that deals with subject matter in science, engineering, and business” (Britton, 1965, p. 113). Another approach is from the linguistic perspective, in terms of syntax and vocabulary, which Robert Hayes (1961) has defined inductively to the extreme. According to Britton, A. J. Kirkman’s approach differentiates between technical writing and creative writing by naming the writing belonging to the fine arts as “associative writing,” while technical writing is “sequential writing” (p. 114). Britton himself defines technical writing by its transparency. As an analogy, he compares aesthetic writing to a symphony. However, “technical and scientific writing can be likened to a bugle call,” which illustrates, according to Britton, the idea that technical writing should have one meaning and one meaning only. He concludes by recommending that those who teach writing to science students should encourage them to write about the work in their discipline because “such an assignment not only is a real exercise in composition but also taxes the imagination of the student in devising illuminating analogies for effective communication” (p. 116). Such advice has not been fully realized, unfortunately.
Britton’s definition is an early one, published in 1965. In general, but especially on the topic of metaphor in technical communication, I do not agree with Britton’s assertion that technical writing should be defined in terms of its transparency, especially when it is used for epistemological purposes. For a metaphor to be generative, and by generative, I am thinking of McMullan’s (1976) idea of fertility, it must allow the scientist to develop the metaphor in conjunction with, or as, a model. It is interesting, though, that Britton recommends the writing of analogies, which supports the basic idea of my work. His support of analogy undermines his assertion of technical writing as transparent, because for a metaphor to be used as I have described, it must be used consciously, and the more consciously it is used, the better, since scientific theory is typically generated through careful thought and study. Smeaton’s metaphors were far from transparent. Instead, his journals record him rejecting the ship and cradle metaphors before arriving at the oak tree metaphor that allowed him to build the best lighthouse. Granted, some metaphors, such as ones related to IT, are most valuable for their transparency, but such metaphors are used for communication and to allow a lay audience to use computers, not to generate scientific theory.
As technical communication textbooks evidence (and I examine them in the next chapter), some technical communication scholars argue against the use of metaphor in general because of how it can be misinterpreted. These scholars are clearly still supporting the idea of technical communication as a transparent medium, a concept that Britton’s early definition does not contain.
Not all technical communication scholars would agree with Britton (1965) on the issue of transparency. For example, Carolyn Miller (1979) has questioned in general the extent that technical writing can be considered transparent. To describe the argument opposing hers, she poses the windowpane metaphor to illustrate how many scientists view writing as something that is most valuable when it is transparent. She posits that to accept technical writing as transparent is to accept the positivist tradition apparent since the Seventeenth-Century Enlightenment that pigeonholes technical communication as a discipline without a subject, an idea that harkens to Socrates’ admonitions against the sophists apparent especially in Plato’s Gorgias (1990). More recently, Miller has noted, this tradition’s position may be described as reinforcing the idea that “if language is highly decorative or opaque, then we see what is really not there or we see it with difficulty” (p. 612). The idea of language that is “highly decorative” as problematic in terms of how it may stand between the reader and knowledge is an issue that this book addresses.
Though these aspects of technical communication are important, they still do not define technical or scientific writing. David Dobrin (1983) has offered a definition of technical writing as “writing that accommodates technology to the reader” (p. 242). He defines scientific writing as writing that makes truth claims that are responsive to the scientific discourse community, and he differentiates between scientific and technical writing in that technical writing can make truth claims relative only to a specific context. As an example, he poses, “‘Nut A fits on bolt B,’ does not refer to all the rest of the discourse. If the statement were found to be ineffective rather than invalid (but how would one invalidate it?), the rest of the discourse would still stand” (p. 231). For this reason, Dobrin contends that any connection between scientific and technical writing is weak. After differentiating between the two, he does not further pursue scientific writing, other than to note that, “In the scientific community, it would be considered an evasion of responsibility for a scientist to leave his or her writing to a scientific writer. (The only professional writing having to do with science ...is science writing, a species of journalism)” (pp. 243-244). Given Dobrin’s criticism of Britton and others who wrote technical writing definitions that make sweeping generalizations, it seems odd that he would ignore the many books and articles written by scientists and science writers each year that are intended for a general audience. However, his intent is to write a definition of technical writing, not scientific writing, so he does well to limit himself.
Both technical communication and scientific writing share a common goal to communicate to a specified audience. Though a technical communicator is more likely to write to appeal to a general audience, scientific writing can be aimed at a variety of audiences. It may have as its audience other scientists with highly specialized knowledge that allows vocabulary to create shortcuts that truly do communicate more effectively to an audience with a relevant background, but will be less meaningful, and often meaningless, to the general audience. The authors of these types of communications, which are most frequently journal articles, are usually scientists reporting on original research or raising questions through articles reviewing the work of their peers. However, science writing can also take the shape of articles designed to communicate with scientists in other fields but who do not have specialized knowledge. A molecular biologist may indeed be interested in a physicist’s research, and of course, there are science journalists who specialize in communicating the discoveries of science to the general audience. The two case studies in this book deal with writing by scientists and science journalists. In terms of the work written by scientists, the articles studied here can be categorized as those written for other scientists with highly specialized knowledge in molecular biology and atomic physics; articles written for other scientists who lack the knowledge of these specialties; and articles written for the general public. Therefore, because of the breadth of the audience approached by these types of science writing, it is appropriate to discuss science writing in conjunction with technical communication. Because the articles in the case studies touch such a variety of audiences, they are appropriate to consider as manifestations of technical communication.
METAPHOR AND ANALOGY
This book uses the terms “metaphor” and “analogy” interchangeably. In some ways it would be more accurate to refer to the focus as “tropes and figures,” as Fahnstock (1999) has carefully delineated. However, the term “metaphor” is so commonly played fast and loose in metaphor studies that this book refers to usages such as metonymy, synecdoche, personification, and many others, as metaphors, though each type of trope is discussed and defined within the appropriate context. The point is not to differentiate between how each plays out in an A:B versus an A:B::C:D structure, but to study how metaphor consciously and unconsciously affects science; this study argues that metaphor is epistemologically generative, but that science too often fancies that it has laid metaphor by the wayside like so much ornamentation. Unfortunately, a metaphor used unconsciously can misdirects science. In cloning research, for example, E. F. Keller (2000) has proposed that the metaphor “reprogram” may have misdirected research, especially when it is used as a verb with the cell’s nucleus as its object rather than the genome, which is part of the chromatin, the material surrounding the nucleus and to which research has finally turned. Consciousness of metaphor usage can prevent such a problem. However, such a potential problem is not a mandate against metaphor. Just as a technical communicator would not write a set of chainsaw instructions without warnings, self-conscious use of metaphor can allow it to be a powerful tool.
SUMMARY OF CHAPTERS
This book presents the argument for teaching metaphor in the technical writing classroom because of the value that can be accorded to metaphor as an epistemologically generative tool. Scientists use metaphor quite freely, but largely unconsciously, as the case study of current cloning research indicates. As a result, they sometimes create problems for themselves when communicating with the public. More importantly, metaphor has epistemological significance, as the first case study of the role of the Solar System Analogy (SSA) demonstrates. In this case, the analogy drawn between the solar system and the structure of the atom was abandoned for reasons more cultural, I argue, than epistemological. If Niels Bohr (1913) and Ernest Rutherford (1911) had been more consciously aware of the role metaphor can play, then the SSA could have continued to play a role in the development of theories of atomic structure. Indeed, the SSA is still apparent in Bohr’s metaphors after he largely dispensed with the analogy. The case studies in this book support teaching metaphor in the technical communication classroom because future scientists, engineers, and technical communicators could benefit from becoming aware of metaphor and learning how to use it consciously.
Chapter One introduces the topic by drawing on the historical and pedagogical. It examines technical communication textbooks to build a case for a disparity in what students may be currently taught about metaphor and its role in technical communication.
Chapter Two argues for teaching metaphor in the technical communication classroom. This chapter reviews the literature in technical communication from different technical communication theoretical perspectives.
The dialogue regarding metaphor in technical communication scholarship spans nearly 30 years. During that time, metaphor has been a humanities concern in technical communication, but for the technical communication classroom, it can be most closely related to the computer industry. Though J. S. Harris (1975, 1986, 1993) kept the discussion alive by publishing an article on metaphor in scientific and technical communication about every 10 years, his approach is largely inductive and touches only lightly on theory. An important point in this chapter is that the question of metaphor in scientific and technical communication persists. It could be reasonably questioned whether its discussion is only academic and a byproduct of scholarship with roots in the humanities, emanating particularly from those with degrees in English. However, the concept of metaphor is important to the computer industry in terms of saving time and money and communicating more clearly with customers, especially new ones, in addition to the way it contributes to scientific epistemology, the focus of this book’s argument.
On the other hand, the range of instruction on metaphor provided by introductory technical communication texts varies widely. Why are there chapters on “Definition” or “Description” but not on metaphor? Instruction in the use of metaphor would be valuable to students in life sciences, physical sciences, and computer science. My study creates reason to provide room for such a chapter.
Chapter Three reviews the literature on the changing conceptions of metaphor, which can be drawn from a number of disparate fields, including the philosophical, literary, and rhetorical. With those influences in mind, I begin with the substitutionists and proceed to interaction theory and then to metaphor as an epistemology. With such theory as background, I then explore the case studies in the next two chapters. The focus of this chapter, regardless of the field that the works it reviews are drawn from, is on the rhetorical, the most advantageous perspective because the roots of metaphor as a theoretical construction lie in rhetoric.
Because Aristotle (1991) was the first to place a theoretical emphasis on metaphor, the discussion must begin with him. Though later classical scholars misinterpreted his theory of metaphor as advocating a substitutionist perspective, his work was influential and is evidenced in the writings of contemporary scholars. When Aristotle’s theory of metaphor is examined carefully, it is more relevant to contemporary concerns. Understanding its nuances points to its universality as a concern, one that has perplexed people for ages.
Aristotle philosophized metaphor, though he retained it as part of his rhetoric, but not of his science. When Newton sanctified probability as a way of creating scientific knowledge, rhetoric was elevated, along with metaphor. However, for about 2,000 years after Aristotle, metaphor was taught as ornament. Evidence of it is in the work of the anonymous author of the Rhetorica ad Herennium (1990), and further evidence of the substitutionist approach is in I. A. Richards’ (1936) work, though he set examination of metaphor’s interaction as a goal. Chaim Perelman and Lucie Olbrechts-Tyteca (1969) begin to examine the way metaphor works, but they acquiesce the final word to a language of science, and they fail to acknowledge mathematics as another metaphor. Conversely, Nietzsche (1989, 1990) recognizes all language as metaphoric, and his influence can certainly be noted in Richards (1936) and Weaver (1990) as well as Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca, who resist Nietzsche. Paul Ricoeur (1975) corrects our notion of metaphor as a noun (an object) rather than as the verb (an interaction) that Aristotle intended, which sets the stage for the interactionists.
Before the interactionists are addressed, the tensionists are considered as a bridge. Their approach is perhaps best realized in the work of M. C. Beardsley and D. Berggren. Beardsley (1962) names the metaphorical moment in his identification of the metaphor’s “twist.” Berggren (1962/1963) is interested in this moment as well, but he disparages Beardsley’s call for case studies, despite his lack of direction for research. The tensionists’ work is but a prelude to that of the more fully realized interactionists.
Max Black (1962) is credited, and rightly so, with bringing the interactionist approach to the study of metaphor. Kuhn (1970) further contributes to metaphor’s veracity by including it as another facet of the social construction of science. Black’s focus on the verb as fertile ground for metaphor and the sentence as an organic whole sets the stage for a contemporary discussion of metaphor’s philosophical dimensions that are explored epistemologically.
For metaphor as an epistemological construction, Karl Popper (1972) asserts that when a science such as psychology cannot cast a hypothesis that can be later borne empirically, that science is a pseudoscience. Its continued existence and appeal, then, become rhetorical. However, Popper’s claim of such a science as psychology is not meant to be a searing indictment of its efficacy. Such a rhetorical stance can be epistemological since Popper recognizes the pseudoscience’s value and contribution to society. On the other hand, this type of science cannot participate in verification through falsification, and the danger is if a pseudoscience becomes a dogma, or what Mary Hesse (1970) and others would call a myth. Metaphor, however, is part of the comparative nature of human thought. So long as it does not become dogmatic, it can be valuable as an epistemological tool.
Arbib and Hesse’s (1986) approach to the epistemology of metaphor represents an important aspect of the current state of metaphor studies. Their research into artificial intelligence focuses on the layering of metaphors whose interaction creates a scenario where background knowledge can interact with metaphors in a structure with epistemological potential.
In addition, Hesse (1970) has noted the value of the role of historical research as it relates to a philosophy of metaphor, as has McMullan (1968, 1976), who also has differentiated between the U-fertility (unknown-fertility) and P-fertility (proven-fertility) of metaphor. All of these voices enrich the study of metaphor as a rhetorical act with epistemological significance. With epistemology, metaphor reaches the climax of its development in terms of its importance to science and philosophy.
Inconsistencies found in these voices lead to the impetus for the examination of the case studies in the next two chapters. Two questions emerge. One concerns whether or not mathematics is metaphorical. As an invented language, it would be interesting to know if it contains metaphors. Richards, along with Perleman and Olbrechts-Tyteca, posit that mathematics is not metaphorical. Deciding upon this issue has bearing upon the next question, which concerns whether or not all language is metaphorical, for Richards (1936), Black (1962), and Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca (1969) have declared all language to be metaphorical, but each insists upon breaking the metaphor down into two parts: a metaphorical part and a literal part. If there needs to be a literal part for the metaphor to be a metaphor, then there is a literal use of language that is not metaphoric. These questions are important because if all language is metaphorical, then the case for teaching metaphor in the technical communication classroom is strengthened.
Chapter Four is a case study that focuses on the analogy drawn between the solar system and the structure of an atom. Such a study is appropriate because it begins with a metaphor emerging into an analogy and ends in mathematics, as Black (1962) would have it, so it allows an exploration of whether or not mathematics is metaphorical. The study is drawn from the writings of three pairs of mid-nineteenth to early twentieth-century physicists as they attempt to determine the structure of the atom. The roots of metaphor in the work of these physicists are examined in light of Scottish Natural Philosophy. This case study illustrates how the metaphor serves a descriptive, explanatory, and predictive function that guides scientific theory and practice as well as serving as a teaching tool to disseminate scientific ideas to the public.
This particular slice of the history of science is important because this metaphor as it specifically relates to the structure of the atom has a definite beginning in the work of W. Thomson (Lord Kelvin) (1910) and J. C. Maxwell (1986) as the metaphor begins to take shape as the “vortex atom.” Then it is followed in the work of J. J. Thomson (1907), who first proved the existence of the electron, and Oliver Lodge (1924), a physicist better known for his early work with electricity and radio but who extended the solar system metaphor to a concept he referred to as “atomic astronomy.” Next, I examine the work of Rutherford (1911), who theorized that an atom contains a nucleus and quite a bit of empty space. Rutherford passed his work along to the young Niels Bohr (1913), who finally dispensed with the SSA when he felt the model could no longer contain ideas such as the leap of electrons from one orbit to another.
Examining the development of the SSA in the work of Kelvin (1910), Maxwell (1986), J. J. Thomson (1904), Lodge (1902), Rutherford (1911), and Bohr (1913) allows observation of the development of this analogy. Though it is more frequently referred to as the “Bohr Atom” or as the “Rutherford-Bohr Atom,” but less often as the “Thomson Atom,” Thomson worked with the SSA more frequently and over a longer period of time than either Rutherford or Bohr. Lodge contributed to its explication since it may be discerned in his work earlier than it appears in Thomson’s. The SSA’s nascence was ferreted out in the writings of Kelvin and Maxwell, whose educational experiences prior to Cambridge were influenced by Scottish Natural Philosophy. The Cambridge wranglers valued metaphor and analogy as well.
With Rutherford and Bohr, a cultural schism becomes apparent. The fact that they more readily rejected the SSA is indicative of a scientific cultural perspective that did not weigh metaphor with the same value accorded it in the British Isles. Certainly New Zealand was a British possession during Rutherford’s time there, but it was far removed geographically from the environs of Cambridge, as well as the influences of Scottish Natural Philosophy. Bohr’s intellectual influences regarded analogy as an aspect of a suspect materialism, and his dispensation of the SSA was regarded by many (Heilbron, 1985; Kuhn, 1993) as heralding a new science that dealt with quantitative expression without recognizing the quantitative as yet another metaphor, much less the more traditional application of metaphor. As a result, metaphor was swept aside as an anachronism.
Chapter Five examines the use of metaphor in articles published shortly after the announcement of the cloning of the sheep Dolly. Focusing on metaphors associated with cloning allows a consideration of whether or not all language is metaphorical. In this case, there is no central metaphor such as, “light is a wave,” associated with cloning. However, a good metaphor would be helpful for communicating with the world outside of science, which is important in terms of securing funding as well as furthering theoretical and popular understanding of the phenomenon. Instead of conjuring the vision of the mad scientist in the lab, a good metaphor could create a context for cloning that could place it more effectively and less controversially in the public eye. There are, however, a number of tropes making the transition from metaphor to dead metaphor, which indicates the metaphoric nature of language.
An examination of secondary-school textbooks reveals no metaphor for cloning, unlike the examination of these texts related to physics that yielded not only the SSA as the most frequently used metaphor to describe the structure of the atom, but the most nearly accurate one. As a result, it may be concluded from its absence that there is no coherent, central metaphor for cloning, at least not one in popular use. If there were one, then, like the SSA, it would be reasonable to expect it to appear in a textbook.
With the cloning case study, a variety of tropes and figures are witnessed as scientists and science writers seek to express cloning’s ramifications. Though no central metaphor emerges, technical metaphors affiliated with the computer industry are observed, and I am able to demonstrate other emerging metaphors that are transmogrifying into dead metaphors, which indicates the metaphoric nature of language.
I continue the examination of cloning by studying articles heralding the cloning of Prometea, the first cloned horse. What is most remarkable here is that she was cloned from a skin cell of the mare in whose womb she was then nurtured. These articles are examined for metaphoric usage to determine what changes might have occurred for the metaphors describing cloning in the six years after the publication of the articles on Dolly. The relevance of these studies is illustrated through the way that cloning is currently playing out in the international arena, where motions have appeared before the United Nations to either ban human reproductive cloning or to ban cloning altogether. The latter choice would inhibit research that would explore how to clone a single organ to replace a failing one.
In Chapter Six, I consider the implications of the theoretical literature, the two case studies, and the technical communication literature. I draw conclusions for the implementation of metaphor into the technical communication classroom.
This book offers evidence for why metaphor should be taught in the technical communication classroom as a rhetorical strategy. It contends that avoiding metaphor is a disservice to students who are preparing to become scientists, engineers, or technical communicators. Such scholarly exposition casts metaphor in both a contemporary and historical context that can strengthen the case for teaching metaphor in the scientific and technical communication classroom.
Connecting People with Technology: Issues in Professional
Communication Edited by George F. Hayhoe
and Helen M. Grady (Baywood) explores five important areas where
technology affects society, and suggests ways in which human
communication can facilitate the use of that technology.
Usability has become a foundational discipline in technical and professional communication that grows out of our rhetorical roots, which emphasize purpose and audience. As our appreciation of audience has grown beyond engineers and scientists to lay users of technology, our appreciation of the diversity of those audiences in terms of age, geography, and other factors has similarly expanded.
We are also coming to grips with what Thomas Friedman calls the "flat world," a paradigm that influences how we communicate with members of other cultures and speakers of other languages. And because most of the flatteners are either technologies themselves or technology-driven, technical and professional communicators need to leverage these technologies to serve global audiences.
Similarly, we are inundated with information about world crises involving health and safety issues. These crises are driven by the effects of terrorism, the aging population, HIV/AIDS, and both human-made and natural disasters. These issues are becoming more visible because they are literally matters of life and death. Furthermore, they are of special concern to audiences that technical and professional communicators have little experience targeting—the shapers of public policy, seniors, adolescents, and those affected by disaster.
Biotechnology is another area that has provided new roles for technical and professional communicators. We are only beginning to understand how to communicate the science accurately without either deceiving or panicking our audience. We need to develop a more sophisticated understanding of how communication can shape reactions to biotechnology developments. Confronting this complex network of issues, we're challenged to fashion both our message and the audience's perceptions ethically.
Finally, today's corporate environment is being shaped by technology and the global nature of business. Technical and professional communicators can play a role in capturing and managing knowledge, in using technology effectively in the virtual workplace, and in understanding how language shapes organizational culture.
Intended Audience: This book will be of interest to practitioners in technical and professional communication and to students and academics seeking up-to-date information on current industry practices in technical communication. Colleges and universities that offer bachelor's, master's, and doctoral programs in technical communication will find this a useful addition to their libraries. The book is also suitable as a text for undergraduate seminars and some courses at the master's level.
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With a new chapter on how to protect oneself from unwanted propaganda, Age of Propaganda reveals how manipulative messages work, how to deal with them sensibly, and how to use the tactics of persuasion wisely and effectively.Contents: Why We Wrote This Book; 1. Our Age of Propaganda;
Information, Knowledge, Text by Julian Warner (Scarecrow Press) is concerned with connections between computing and writing and precursors to modern information technologies. It brings historical and humanistic perspectives to bear on contemporary information developments.
Origin to Graphic Communication contrast between the graphic nature of writing and the auditory nature the emerging influence of the recognition of the computer as a of speech. The contrast itself has to be qualified: writing may be universal information machine, have made it possible to regard relatively consistently graphic (although some forms of writing, such as developments previously considered separately as products of a single the matrix of marks on a musical roll or particular transformations of human faculty for invention. The idea of an information society, while computer programs, may be more readily auditorily than visually intelligible), but speech is only being questioned insofar as it is taken to imply a radical disjunction, purely auditory if the sounds can still be retained as a valuable, and potentially illuminating, utterance are isolated or abstracted from an oral verbal performance. investigatory problematic.
There is some evidence to suggest that such abstraction may be a post literate move prompted by the development of the idea of language existing apart from a specific verbal performance. In this context, it should be noted that the first sign in Genesis is visual, not audible.
Why should searching for an origin to graphic communication recall' Coleridge's comments on critical attempts to explain Iago's evil, "motive hunting for a motiveless malignity?" Communication is a condition of being social and man is only fully human by being social. Even utilitarian artifacts can assume primarily semiotic functions: Odysseus's final journey was to be concluded when an oar was recognized as a winnowing fan in Strangers on a Train, a tennis racket signifies a character's profession. Biological individuals, historically, although without empirical validation. in Vico's account of human history (Vico 1744) and empirically in confused accounts of savage infants, may be a‑ or pre‑social and, possibly although not necessarily, without signs, but man is always social and necessarily communicating. It may be worth recalling that there is a theological tradition in the human account of Hell, the devils preserve truth among themselves in order better to tempt mankind.
From these indications of a historical perspective on the development of information technologies, the computer emerges not as a radical novelty but as the product of developments gathering force from the 1870s and 1880s. The associated idea of an abrupt disjunction, in the transition to an information society can also be questioned. It may be that current preoccupations with information technologies.Julian Warner is a faculty member in information studies at the Queen's University of Belfast and has been a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is also the former chair of the Special Interest Group on the History and Foundations of Information Science.
and Technology: From the Telephone to the Internet
by Ian Hutchby (Polity) We live in a world where
social interaction is increasingly mediated by technological devices. In this
book, Ian Hutchby explores the impact these technologies have on our attempts to
communicate. Focusing on four examples - telephones, computerized expert systems
at work, speech-based systems dealing with enquiries from the public, and
multi-user spaces on the Internet - Hutchby asks: are we increasingly
technologized conversationalists, or is technology increasingly
conversationalized? Conversation and Technology draws on recent theory and
empirical research in conversation analysis, ethnomethodology and the social
construction of technology. In novel contributions to each of these areas,
Hutchby argues that technological media can profoundly shape the ways in which
we interact, while at the same time we ourselves are shapers of both the
cultural and interactional properties of these technologies. The book begins by
examining a variety of theoretical perspectives on this issue. Hutchby offers a
critical appraisal of recent sociological thinking, which has tended to
over-estimate society's influence on technological development. Instead he calls
for a new appreciation of the relationship between human communication and
technology. Using a range of case studies to illustrate his argument, Hutchby
explores the multiplicity of ways in which technology affects our ordinary
conversational practices. Readers in areas as diverse as sociology,
communication studies, psychology, computer science and management studies will
find much of interest in this account of the human and communicative properties
of various forms of modern communication technology.
Author Description: Ian Hutchby is a member of the Department of Human Sciences at Brunel University and Honorary Research Fellow in the School of Social Sciences at Cardiff University. His research involves the application of conversation analysis to various areas of technologically-mediated interaction, including the distinctive properties of broadcast talk and the possibilities of human-machine interaction; as well as the analysis of children's communicative competence
Contents: Chapter 1: Introduction: Technologies for Communication Chapter 2: The Communicative Affordances of Technological Artifacts Chapter 3: Communication as Computation? Chapter 4: Talk in Interaction Chapter 5: The Telephone: Technology of Sociability Chapter 6: Telephone Interaction and Social Identity Chapter 7: Technological Mediation and Asymmetrical Interaction Chapter 8: Computers, Humans, Conversation Chapter 9: Virtual Conversation Chapter 10: Conclusion: A Reversion to the Real? Appendix: Transcription Conventions Bibliography Index
INFOSENSE: Turning Information into Knowledge by Keith Devlin ($24.95 Hardcove, 213 pages, W H Freeman & Co, ISBN: 0716734842)
In INFOSENSE, Keith Devlin deftly applies some of the insights of the new discipline of Situation Theory to common problems in business communication. The importance of context and the frequent vagueness of conversation are just two of the areas of information explored. It has been called everything from the new gold standard to the fundamental building block of the universe. No matter where we live or what we do for a living, it is ever present in our lives and many of us are barraged with it daily. Yet few of us know how to distinguish information from mere data, real knowledge, or worthwhile communication in short, few of us know how to make sense of it.
In INFOSENSE, noted mathematician and popular science writer Keith Devlin shows us how to make sense of the constant flow of information that swirls past us daily. What is crucial, Devlin points out, is to understand the difference between data, information, and knowledge. By exploring the nature of each, and describing what distinguishes them from better information management. Using clear, nontechnical language, simple diagrams and many real life examples, Devlin explains such important and far-reaching points as:
Why people, not computers, are the most effective way to transfer knowledge
How social and cultural factors influence work
The hidden rules of everyday communication
How to conduct a meeting to achieve what you want
How to avoid miscommunication
As information becomes the single most valuable asset in many industries, the key to success lies in our ability to manage that information. With INFOSENSE, Keith Devlin offers an easy and accessible way to learn not only how to manage it but to use it to live and work successfully in the Knowledge Age.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Keith Devlin is Dean of the School of Science at Saint Mary's College of California and Senior Researcher at the University's Center for the Study of Language and Information. A Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, he is the author of a number of books, including The Language of Mathematics, Life by the Numbers, Goodbye, DescartesGoodbye, Descartes, MathematicsMathematics:The Science of PatternsThe Science of Patterns, and Logic and Information. He is a frequent commentator on NPR, and lives in Moraga, California.
DIFFICULT CONVERSATIONS: How to Discuss What Matters Most by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, Sheila Heen ($24.95, Hardcover, 288 pages, Viking Press; ISBN: 0670883395) Audio CD (Bantam Books-Audio) Audio Cassette Abridged
This book offers sound approaches for reframing conversations so that one can better
communicate with others and problem solve. It helps one isolate basic elements in
communication and how to consider these factors in speaking and listening to others. DIFFICULT
CONVERSATIONS is smart, helpful, and down-to-earth read. Unlike many self-help books
this one can actually make a difference in how one negotiates through life.
DIFFICULT CONVERSATIONS approach derives from the Harvard Negotiation Program. For more than ten years of research and methods presented in this book have been tested and refined into useful insights about why we have trouble with certain kinds of conversations and what really works to get through those stumbling blocks. Highly recommended.
In todays fast-paced, high-pressure business world, effective communication is
often undermined by the very technology designed to enhance it. While the advent of video
conferencing, high-speed fax, pagers and email has increased the speed at which businesses
make decisions, it has not always helped them to make the right ones.
What we often overlook is the importance of skillful communication in formulating decisions, improving performance, and increasing productivity, according to Eric Douglas, author of STRAIGHT TALK. In this new book, Douglas shows how effective communication can actually help people and organizations achieve strategic results even for the thorniest, most controversial issues.
"The key to becoming a great communication and better decision maker," says Douglas, "is recognizing that every conversation gets bogged down in assumptions, and each of us is prone to making certain kinds of assumptions. So were all responsible for the problem," he states. "To deal with it," Douglas continues, "you need a few tools: first, you need to identify your style of communicating, with its inherent assumptions; then you need to learn how to recognize other peoples styles." Once you do this, he says, the rest is a matter of practice. The book explains how to deal with assumptions on the fly while a conversation is unfolding. "With a few tools at ones command," Douglas says, "straight talk can actually be quite easy."
In STRAIGHT TALK Douglas identifies four basic communication styles Director, Expresser, Thinker, and Harmonizer that each of us uses, at home and at work. He explains the markers for each of these styles: for example, Directors tend to pay attention to facts and respond assertively, while Harmonizers are attuned to feelings and ask questions. The secret to identifying other peoples styles? Ask questions, observe reactions, and listen actively. "Watch how people interact with you," says Douglas. "Do they engage in small talk? Do they cut to the bottom line? Do they tell stories? Each of these are trademarks of a particular style," he says.
Understanding each communication style is the best way to avoid crossed wires, improve communications and minimize conflict with coworkers, bosses and clients, states Douglas. STRAIGHT TALK presents sample conversations, engaging exercises and useful techniques to help develop a broader repertoire of styles for different occasions. In fact, the author notes that the most highly skilled communicators develop multiple styles to use in a range of situations, from managing conflict at work or relating more effectively to your peers, to developing closer bonds with your family.
Whether your goal is to motivate others, find effective solutions or challenge your own thinking, STRAIGHT TALK offers the tools to help you develop more productive communication.
Eric Douglas, an award-winning executive and management consultant, is president of Leading Resources, Inc., and senior associate in BMR Associates, a media consulting company. Past clients include Time Warner, American Public Television, and the University of California.
Leading Resources, Inc., is the exclusive provider of STRAIGHT TALK workshops and seminars for companies and organizations. It is also the producer of Straight Talk online, an interactive Web site where people and groups can take a survey and learn more about their styles of communicating.
A former media executive, Douglas has spent the last 12 years developing and refining the tools he makes available in STRAIGHT TALK, He lives in northern California with his wife and three children.
GOODBYE, DESCARTES: The End of Logic and the Search for a New Cosmology of the Mind by Keith Devlin ($27.95, hardcover, 301 pages, notes, references, index, John Wiley and Sons, ISBN: 0-471-14216-6)
Devlin claims that as far as the concepts in this book are concerned, he is only the messenger. The plain fact of the matter is that the traditional borders between many separate intellectual disciplines are rapidly breaking down. The degree of analytic precision that is nowadays achieved in the human sciences of psychology and sociology is increasing their need for, and dependency on, mathematics. At the same time, the humanistic nature of such studies is forcing scientists and mathematicians to face up to the fact that there are definite limitations to what can be achieved using mathematics and science. Indeed, in order to make further progress in our understanding of human reasoning and communication, we may well have to abandon some of the most cherished assumptions about the nature of evidience and formal analytic methods.
The evidence presented by Devlin should made us very skeptical that any reductionist, mathematical theory of everyday reasoning or of human-human communication is feasible, even in highly restricted domains. Soft mathematics involves a new role for mathematicsor, if you prefer, for mathematical techniques. The use of mathematics in the physical sciences, especially in physics, is of an all-embracing theory (in many cases involving differential equations, for instance). The physical scientist uses mathematics as a conceptual erector set, constructing an elaborate framework, a skeleton on which the flesh of the theory may be built. The justification for such an approach is that it has, over the centuries, proved extremely useful. Devlin forsees soft mathematics ascent. It use is best captured by the analogy of a toolbox. Mathematical techniques are used as if they were screwdrivers and gauges (or scalpels and thermometers, if you prefer a medical example), used to tease apart various aspects of the data and to probe for unclear or even inconsistent points in our initial understanding.
What does a soft mathematics analysis look like? In this book, Devlin writes about mathematics and linguistics but does not actually 'do' any mathematics or linguistics, and the same is true for soft mathematics. The description Devlin provides of resolution of the Liar Paradox in can be sharpened up into a soft mathematics argument using situation theory as the underlying mathematical framework. The argument has two aspects: the genuinely mathematical parts and those parts of the argument that cannot be formalized in mathematics. The analysis to identify the role played by context in an utterance of the Liar sentence is of the latter, nonmathematical kind. The only way to understand the role played by context is to obtain and examine linguistic evidence. The valuation system against which this part of the argument is evaluated is that of linguistics. The 'mathematical' parts of the analysis can be made as mathematically rigorous as you wish. In fact, in their book The Liar, published in 1987, Barwise and Etchemendy present the mathematical part of the resolution of the Liar Paradox with full mathematical rigor, just like any mathematical proof in algebra or geometry.
Likewise, each of the brief descriptions of the key contextual issues involved in the various linguistic puzzles and paradoxes discussed at the conclusion of the book can be developed into a soft mathematics analysis using situation theory as the underlying mathematical framework.
A key issue is whether it serves any purpose to do so. Complete mathematical rigor is one of the two principal valuation criteria in mathematicsthe other being the far less precise measure of mathematical aesthetics. To qualify as good mathematics, a mathematical argument has to be completely rigorous. But for soft mathematics, the evaluation system is different. There, the goal is to use mathematics together with other kinds of reasoning to gain and increase our understanding of various complex human phenomena that in all likelihood cannot be fully described using the formal systems of mathematics. If the analyst suspects that there is something dubious or problematic about a particular point of a soft mathematics analysis, then it is probably sensible to increase the level of mathematical precision at that point and see if there is a flaw in the logic of the argument. However, given the complexity of even the simplest example of everyday human reasoning or human-human communication, too much mathematical precision simply swamps the analysis in pages of complex formulas. Then, far from increasing our understanding, the resulting analysis simply obscures the issues of concern.
The soft mathematics approach is very different from most past attempts to use mathematics in the study of reasoning and communication, which have for the most part been firmly rooted in the 'erector set' paradigm. This is, in particular, characteristic of all work on reasoning and natural language in AI. Nevertheless, the toolbox role for mathematics, that Devlin is calling soft mathematics, is, he believes, the role that mathematical techniques will increasingly have to play in the realm of reasoning and communication. The evaluation of scientific work using soft mathematics will require the development of a quite new value system, one motivatedat least initiallymore by the needs of technology than by any existing scientific paradigm.
Mathematics is unique in the high degree of precision it can offer in a particular study, but that precision comes at a high price in terms of simplification. The simplification involved in the use of mathematicsthe amount that has to be discarded or ignoredmakes it an inappropriate basis for a comprehensive theory of reasoning and communication of the kind that was envisaged by many from the 1950s through the 1970s. But to conclude on this basis, as some sociologists and linguists have, that the use of the precise tools of mathematics has no place in the study of language, is to turn one's back on an extremely powerful product of three housand years of human intellectual development. The surgeon's scalpel and the nurse's thermometer do not in themselves provide an overall understanding of human physiology or the key to a healthy life, but when used properly, with precision and on the right occasion, they can contribute greatly to both goals. A growing number of people are coming to believe that the techniques of soft mathematics will find an analogous application in achieving a scientific understanding of everyday reasoning and communication. Devlins work shows how this change is so compelling.
CONVERSATIONALLY SPEAKING: Tested New Ways to Increase Your Personal and Social Effectiveness by Alan Garner ($14.00, paper, 210 pages, bibliography, index, Lowell House ISBN:1-56565-629-6)
Newly updated and revised in its third edition, this classic breakthrough book on communication skills teaches tested and proven ways to: Ask the kind of questions that promote conversation interest people in what you have to say; issue invitations that are likely to be accepted; achieve deeper levels of understanding and intimacy; handle criticism constructively; resist manipulation; become far more confident in social situations; listen so others will be encouraged to talk to you.
Drawing on hundreds of research studies as well as on his own experience reaching thousands of people in conversation workshops, Alan Garner has produced a practical, concise, and valuable book about the skill and art of conversation.
Alan Garner is a nationally known communications consultant. He has taught hundreds of Conversationally Speaking workshops and over one million copies of his books have been sold worldwide.
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