Publication details [#9334]

Publication type
Article in book  
Publication language
Place, Publisher
Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag


In this paper I discuss how US science and information technology policy is being shaped by U.S. Vice-president Albert Gore's use of the INFORMATION HIGHWAY conceptual metaphor system. I contrast his use of the metaphor with the metaphor as it is used by critics of his policy proposals, arguing that the two versions of the metaphor engender different inferences about science policy. For example, Gore argues that the U.S. economic boom of the 1950s and 1960s was fueled by the federal commitment to plan and build the interstate highway system, and a similar economic boom would result from a federal commitment to plan and build the information highway. I diagram how each step of this inference is metaphorically mapped from the source domain (transportation highway policy) to the target domain (information infrastructure policy), presenting the metaphorical inferences as parallel knowledge structures. Meanwhile Gore's critics have argued that Gore's information highway is fact more of an information railroad, with similar attendant possibilities for monopoly control and exploitation. The wide acceptance of these examples of metaphorical reasoning about U.S. information policy raise general questions about social policy: Are metaphors constitutive (as Lakoff and Johnson suggest) of social policy? If so, then how can cognitive semantics account for the differences between domains which seem to motivate revisions to social policy? In this paper, I claim that metaphorical inferences produce a kind of conceptual blending which takes place between the domains, motivating changes in the world to fit our metaphorical understanding. I conclude that the conceptual blending proposed by Gore and criticized by his critics is constitutive of contemporary U.S. information policy and is transforming the future. (Tim Rohrer)