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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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Part 1 Theoretical issues 5


5 PART I THEORETICAL ISSUES 6 2. Basic concepts Since the focus of this study is on metaphors of the Web 2.0, it seems reasonable to start with the terms metaphor and Web 2.0. 2.1. Metaphor 2.1.1. Definition and structure. Metaphoricity. In the Conceptual Theory of Metaphor (CTM) (see Lakoff and Johnson 1980, 1999; cf. Kövecses 2002, 2005, 2006), metaphor is defined as a systematic cor- respondence between two different domains of experience one of which (the target domain) is partially understood in terms of the other (the source domain), so that the former can be said to be the latter. For example, ELECTRONIC JOUR- NAL IS A TRADITIONAL PRINT JOURNAL (i.e., TRADITIONAL PRINT JOURNAL is the source domain for the target domain ELECTRONIC JOURNAL), ELECTRONIC MAIL IS TRADITIONAL MAIL, THE INTERNET IS A HIGHWAY, etc. (A conceptual domain is “a more generalized „background‟ knowledge configuration against which conceptualization is achieved” (Taylor 2002: 195). For example, we need the concept of electronic mail system in order to understand what an e-mail message is. Accordingly, the former is the domain against which the latter is conceptualized.) One of the main CTM hallmarks is that it distinguishes between conceptual metaphors and metaphorical expressions. The former are structures like the just named E-JOURNAL IS A PRINT JOURNAL, E-MAIL IS TRADITIONAL MAIL, THE INTERNET IS A HIGHWAY, etc., which are believed to be ensembles of neurons in different parts of the brain connected by neural circuitry. The en- sembles of neurons located in...

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