University of Earth
Projects Overview (Explanations)
Metaphor Project (Explanations)

Governance through Metaphor Project

Overview: Metaphor and Patterns Project


Projects: Problems | Strategies | Values | Integrative concepts | Human development | Transformative approaches | Metaphors

Scope and rationale
Background
Organization and structure
Information content
Method and development

Explanatory comments
Context

Reservations and disclaimer
Statistics
Media used & multi-media


Scope and rationale

A variety of forms may be used for presenting and communicating new information. Designers of any new strategy in response to the global problematique must necessarily select and encourage modes of communication that will facilitate mobilization and coordination of resources, ensure appropriate interaction between those participating, as well as enabling communication with those affected by the strategy but unskilled in the conceptual or procedural language through which it is organized.

Background

The purpose of this project is to review the range of communication possibilities and constraints of metaphor, pattern and symbol. This is partly in response to the narrow focus of recent major intergovernmental initiatives under the extremely misleading titles of  "International Commission for the Study of Communication Problems" (limited to the mass media) and the "International Communications Year" (telecommunications hardware) by UNESCO and ITU respectively. It is however a direct consequence of participation by the editors in the Forms of Presentation project of the Goals, Processes and Indicators of Development project of the United Nations University.

Since the early 1980s, in relation to the Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential, the role of metaphor and pattern in relation to governance, understanding of world problems, articulation of more appropriate organizational strategies, transformative conferencing and dialogue, and knowledge organization. This has been presented at a number of international meetings.

Organization and structure

As a whole the project provides a framework within which to review alternative ways of interrelating items of information to facilitate comprehension and communication.

Experiments: In addition to the research described above, a number of experiments in developing metaphors have been undertaken.

Information content

The results of various experiments with metaphor, as explained explained below, are also presented on this site as demonstrations:

Method and development

The procedures used in preparing this section are discussed in detail in a commentary.

Development: In addition to the refinement of the selected metaphors, the variety of phenomena used as a basis for such metaphors could be increased. A better indication could be provided of the strengths and limitations of each metaphor. This would enable groups of complementary metaphors to be interrelated by a pattern of cross-references as explored in Section MP. This points toward the possibility of producing a repertoire of metaphors that may be used to communicate complex insights into a wide range of social phenomena whilst at the same time empowering them conceptually to explore new patterns of organization in which dynamic processes are emphasized, rather than static structures.

In addition to the refinement of the description of each form, much more effort is required to determine under what conditions any particular form is appropriate or inappropriate. This would then enable cross-references to be inserted linking forms together into patterns of complementary forms that could prove more effective than present reliance on a limited number of unrelated forms.

The selected groups of patterns could be further developed, especially that based on the use of Alexander's work as a substrate. That work was deliberately designed to produce a "pattern language" which people and communities could use to design their own environments. An analogous pattern language could be developed to enable people and groups to design (and redesign) their own conferences and organizations.

Explanatory comments

Detailed explanations and commentary are also provided in a collection of 40 documents. As a whole the projects provide a framework within which to review alternative ways of interrelating items of information to facilitate comprehension and communication.

Research studies on metaphor, written in relation to this project and to international organizations, are directly accessible from separate checklists:

Many of these studies have explored the role of metaphor as a basis for new approaches to social and conceptual organization. These are reinforced by the recognition within the software industry that new metaphors are the key to new interfaces for knowledge management. The information on metaphor, and how it can be organized and presented, is seen as one of the keys to the global organization of knowledge about organizations, strategies, or problems.

Note that more general comments and explanations, regarding the collection of projects initiated within the framework of the Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential, are available in a collection of 27 documents.

Context

The contents presented by this project may be considered as complementing the other projects in ways such as the following:

Reservations and development

Reservations: The entries indicate the possibility of developing a technique for designing powerful metaphors. As this is an exploratory exercise, individual entries may call for substantial revision. The value of the information in a section of this kind is in the extent to which it gives an understanding of the set or pool of available forms on which a programme designer can draw. There are of course whole libraries on many of the individual entries but they seldom help to convey this understanding. The information available seldom detailed the unique strengths or weaknesses of any particular form as they must necessarily be recognized by those attempting to design a communication strategy using complementary forms. The entries are therefore indicative rather than definitive. Entries have occasionally been included because they raise useful questions about the scope and content of this section.

Although the results of this deliberate editorial experiment are interesting and indicative of further possibilities, the entries raise many questions concerning the appropriateness of the language used. The language is stilted, forced and artificial in order to explore the correspondence between the different metaphorical levels. It highlights the difficulties of making what may be vital distinctions in the social, conceptual and intra-personal realms, compared to the richness and subtlety of the vocabulary and imagery available for similar distinctions at the physical level. This points to the merit of treating the physical level distinctions as a metaphor through which the possibility of equivalent distinctions at other levels may be explored.

Statistics

Statistics on metaphors and patterns, in the light of the methodology of this project, are provided in tables in the commentary and were published in the Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential. They are also also available on-line

Media used & multi-media

The information generated by this project on various aspects of this work has been published initially in the Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential; subsequently it has been made available on-line.

The current multi-media experiments are seen in part as the exploration of visual metaphor to offer new insights into the challenges of organization. The experiments with sound are in part based on the recognition that in the search for harmony in global society, there is some merit in exploring the extensive and well-articulated understandings of musical harmony.


From Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential

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