Metaphor Terror

The recent horrible development in Oslo demonstrates the difficulty facing those we employ to look out for potential terrorists. What makes a person go from talk to action? When should we take threats seriously? When are figures of speech just images? And what predispositions make us look and interpret in certain ways?

It’s only natural for a government initiative with the tag line “ Be The Future” to launch a Metaphor Program. The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) recently opened up for researchers to contribute in the development of automated tools and techniques for recognizing, defining and categorizing linguistic metaphors associated with target concepts and found in large amounts of native-language text in order to identify the conceptual metaphors used by the various protagonists, organizing and structuring them to reveal the contrastive stances.

Similar, critique regarding this program is only to be expected by someone who has organised his website according to a water metaphor: From the drainpipe, Half-filtered and Pure Water. Here David Allan Barker provides six elaborate arguments for why he thinks the program is the lamest idea he’s ever heard.

A more neutral approach is held by Wired blogger Lena Groeger. She manages to squeeze in three metaphors in her first paragraph and continues throughout the text. One of her links takes you to research regarding how metaphors impact how we think about crime and more importantly, how we act.

Yesterday, David Allan Barker posted a piece in his Pure Water section on how mental illness stereotypes used by media affect how we think about people like Anders Behring Breivik. This is not the first time Barker used queer theory to expand the thinking regarding mental health issues. I wonder if they take this into account in the Metaphor Program?