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Cognitive Linguistics and Content Management

June 22, 2010

Dedicated to Livia Labate

I was a late blogger. It must have been around 2004 when I started blogging in earnest. was primarily a vehicle to elaborate some strange (some might say paranoid) ideas about how cognitive linguistics (as described in George Lakoff’s book Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things) can shed light on the challenges with content management. I wrote dozens of blog posts on how the metaphors we used to describe content management were (a) evidence that we had conceived the technology incorrectly and (b) actively undermining our efforts to implement good content management systems.

An excerpt from the content management workbook.The two venues where I really got to explore these ideas were at the IA Summit in 2006 and at the IA Retreat in 2005. At the Summit, I led part of a workshop sponsored by the IA Institute, and then I gave a regular session on new ideas in content management. The Retreat was more fun. I constructed a workbook (PDF download) that drove the conversation.

I’m confident that with sufficient time to do research, I could elaborate this concept into something substantial. The language we use to talk about computing no doubt shapes the design of interfaces and the ways technology integrates into our lives. Emphasis on “sufficient time”.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. June 23, 2010 12:34 pm

    Thanks buddy! I’d love to see you dig deeper on this. The fact that I periodically think about this presentation tells me there is something about it that strikes a chord. And it was only five years ago 😉

  2. August 8, 2010 10:38 am

    I agree. Some earlier work has been done to apply Lakoff and Johnsson in the area of metaphors of interface design, but I have not seen any substantial work in the area of IA. This is a good paper:

    Benyon, D. and Imaz, M. 1999. Metaphors and models: conceptual foundations of representations in interactive systems development. Hum.-Comput. Interact. 14, 1 (Mar. 1999), 159-189. DOI=

    I had ideas in this direction in the late nineties when I started my PhD studies, but my research took a different turn. So I will gladly read everything you write on this topic.

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