Reflection on Research

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Is deep necessarily focused and narrow?


Metaphor has always been known as a powerful way to communicate. In recent dacades it has been investigated as a mechanism of thought (Lakoff, G. Johnson, M. 1980, 1999). A metaphor maps one thing onto another in order to imply attributes. They give the example of the metaphor: argument as war and point to how that gets embedded in language: (1980:4)

• “Your claims are indefensible
• He attacked every weak point in my argument.
• His criticisms were right on target”
and so on. The point is that, when we accept a metaphor in out conceptual system we accept the mapping of attributes from the source of the metaphor onto the subject we are thinking about or discussing. “we don’t just talk about arguments in terms of war. We can actually win or lose arguments”. For example, if you are told that the criticism of your work was on target, you skulk away to do better. You accept the metaphor. Then the authors play a very entertaining trick. They postulate a culture which uses the metaphor of argument as dance. In such a culture, “people would view arguments differently, carry them out differently, and talk about them differently. But we would probably not view them as arguing at all” The result would have the goal of being “balanced and aesthetically pleasing”

So I would like to dance around the topic of research and, particularly research in depth. This came up because a proposed bibliography of mine seemed to have too many references and surely mining or drilling down to the depths of the subject should necessarily require focus. This, without being explicit, implies the metaphor of research as mining (or perhaps well drilling). The metaphor has merit in many (perhaps most) contexts and the comment was a welcome and useful caution not to wander off topic. (remember, we are dancing here, not warring).


I dutifully reflected on this and wondered why it seemed best to have a large bibliography. Indeed, I seem to need one and it is growing as I work. One thought is that my work is both cross disciplinary and, within each discipline spans a number of topics. I feel more like a hunter gatherer seeking berries and fruits wide and far for dinner than a miner. I think that is a more fitting metaphor for the task at hand. It seems that depth comes from completeness as much as it comes from a laser focus. That said, reflecting on mining, that metaphor will also serve as long as I’m mining for something very valuable (diamonds?) or very sparsely spread. Yes, an open pit mine will do.

Regardless, the caution was well intended, apt, and something to keep an eye on. This tiny paper is simply a different caution: that we should be very careful when we apply metaphor, particularly when they are implicit and not something we have consciously explored.

References and Rights


• Lakoff, G. Johnson, M. (1980) Metaphors We Live By Chicago: University of Chicago Press

• Lakoff, G. Johnson, M. (1999) Philosophy in the Flesh New York: Basic Books


• Cover image: “Open pit of the Rio Tinto Rössing uranium mine, Namibia” by jbdodane uploaded to Flickrused under the creative commons Attribution- NonCommercial 2.0 Generic licence

The Animal Project

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And a bit about good acting

I had the good fortune to attend a screening of this film with the Director (and friend), Ingrid Veninger, the cast and much of the crew. The evening kicked off with a presentation about making the film and ended with Q&As

The film was, in part, an experiment in writing a script for the actors. This began by seeking out a set of actors who were diverse and interesting people each providing individual character archetypes to form a set that could be the base of an interesting story.

One result is that every viewer will be able to see some aspects of themselves and their story somewhere in the film. They might laugh, cry or just shake their heads knowingly. Whichever is the case, they will become involved. Brilliant filmmaking.

The film also reflects brilliant acting. During the Q&A one question was: “what did you learn about acting from this work?”. Several of the cast (led by Hannah Cheesman, if I recall correctly) Immediately exclaimed: “Don’t act”. The implication is that acting is not a pretense of a something, it is being that thing.

Basil Hoffman said: ““Acting is many things, but for one concise description of good acting, this is my definition: Acting is disciplined truthful behavior in contrived situations.” (Hoffman, 2009)

Aaron Poole plays Leo. In one scene he reflects on  the challenges of being a single dad, reflects on his lost wife and sinks to his knees by his couch saying “I need help”. This is disciplined, truthful behaviour. Anyone who has gone to this place in their lives will feel this moment to their core.

So, what does Leo do? He wraps himself in his courage (literally, see the picture to the right with Aaron in his lion costume) and goes out to find and hug his son.

The cast provide many other moments of truth. Your special moment might be eating poutine,  kiss you right now!, or watching the bunnie project. One thing is sure, you will be gifted with such moments. Every member of this cast fully embodies Hoffman’s definition.

DO be sure to see this film.

By the way, the picture of Leo is a production still by John Gundy and makes quite an addition and conversation piece on our cabin wall. So also be sure to wrap yourself in your bravery and face life.

For an extra treat, watch the bunny project: