October 1996

Root Page of Article: Coming Out of the Closedt World, by John Horberg

Computer Metaphor

Edwards' chapter 4, entitled "Metaphor and the Politics of Subjectivity" constructs a detailed, if slightly schizophrenic web of political theory, principles of advertising, psychology, and sociology, as he explains the power of metaphor in how we make meaning. Such metaphors, especially computer-based metaphors and metaphors for the human mind -- alter the meanings we make and the very way we go about understanding the world. Fascinating if difficult stuff.

For example, Edwards' description of the ambiguity of creating closed worlds offers a fresh perspective on the process of drawing boundaries around specific geographic, political, or cultural communities:

Did the United States, in creating its own "closed-world discourse," hope to enclose the USSR, thereby protecting the rest of world by keeping the "evil" contained? Or was the idea to make the United States the closed world -- isolating ourselves from the encroaching menace of communism? In raising these seemingly metaphorical or semantic questions, Edwards broaches an area of great interest to all manner of social constructionists, philosophers of reality and knowledge, as well as rhetoricians and teachers of English composition.

Edwards also notes Harry Truman's Undersecretary of State, Dean Acheson's description of communism using an "analogy of `rotten apples in a barrel' whose 'infection' would spread throughout the world if unchecked. The ambiguity of Acheson's container metaphor is instructive. Was the United States the lone active agent in the scene, reaching in from outside the barrel to remove the bad apple? Or was the United States inside the barrel as well, one of the apples to whom 'infection' might spread if nothing were done?" ^

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