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Metaphors of the Web 2.0

With Special Emphasis on Social Networks and Folksonomies


Alexander Tokar

This study is an attempt to semantically decompose the most popular metaphorical expressions associated with two particular Web 2.0 practices: social networks and folksonomies. What is a friend on a social networking Web site like MySpace and StudiVZ? Is it polite to poke strangers on Facebook and give them fives on hi5? How can we subscribe to RSS feeds, if we don’t pay subscription fees? Do we really broadcast ourselves on our YouTube channels? These and other similar questions are dealt with from the perspective of the referential and the conceptual approaches to meaning, i.e., what these words stand for (referential/extensional approach) and which concepts they signify (conceptual/intensional approach). Thus, from the referential point of view, a friend on MySpace is only a hyperlink directing to a profile page of another MySpace user. But from the intensional point of view, a friend is a subscriber to the content generated by the profile owner.


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1. Introduction 1


1 1. Introduction It is a well-known fact that our most important abstract concepts (e.g., emotions) are usually characterized by metaphorical pluralism (Lakoff and Johnson 1999: 70), i.e., conceptualization of a single target concept in terms of multiple source concepts. For example, LOVE is simultaneously A UNITY OF TWO COMPLEMEN- TARY PARTS (e.g., she’s my better half), A FLUID IN A CONTAINER (e.g., she was overflowing with love), A PHYSICAL FORCE (e.g., I was magnetically drawn to her), CLOSENESS (e.g., they’re very close), POSSESSION (e.g., you’re mine and I’m yours), INSANITY (e.g., I’m crazy about you), WAR (e.g., she conquered him), MAGIC (e.g., she is bewitching), FIRE (e.g., I’m burning with love), etc. (Kövecses 2000: 26-27). In addition to abstract concepts, metaphorical pluralism often emerges when, as a consequence of a technological innovation, language users need to verbalize (i.e., find expressions that can be used to refer to) a new, highly complex con- crete concept such as, for example, the Internet (Gehring 2004: 10). Indeed, given the complexity and the multi-functionality of the global computer net- workas is well-known, the Internet is used in a variety of ways, e.g., for communication, commerce, entertainment, etc.it is not surprising that in addi- tion to being a series of tubes and a rubbish heap, the Internet is also often re- ferred to as agora, electronic frontier, cyberspace, global village, empyrean realm, information superhighway, ocean of information, container, prosthesis for the senses or limbs, city, etc. Each of these metaphors seems...

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