September 25, 2005
Eng 393 - Harris
In the world today, technology is forever changing. Computers and electronics
bought mere months ago become old and obsolete in the blink of an eye. With the
movement of technological advancement, information becomes more abundant and
accessible. The field of information systems (study of the computer systems that support
everyday information flow) directly affects daily lives around the world - for schools,
businesses, and corporations alike. The efficiency and effectiveness of an information
system is pertinent to the operations of an institution. With information playing such an
important role this day in age, it is becoming more and more personified through the use
of metaphors - which is defined as the substitution of one idea or object with another,
used to assist expression or understanding (knowgramming.com). By expressing the
similarities of technology and information in our common lives, society is able to relate
to the usefulness and importance that this field brings to us.
Using metaphorical references gives new representation to an object, a place, an
event, etc... The substitution between two things almost gives a new definition or
meaning to the phrase created. Take for example “couch potato;” surely this doesn’t
mean a potato grown from a couch (knowgramming.com/metaphors), but rather it defines
a person who is lazy and unwilling to move from the confines of his/her seat. A “rug rat”
isn’t a rat that lives or plays in a rug or on rugs (knowgramming.com/metaphors), but
rather it refers to babies due to their inability to walk and so they spend most of their time
crawling on the rug or on the floor. When people say “money talks,” they aren’t referring
to the idea that your dollar bills or your twenty dollar bills can speak to you or anyone
else (www.des.emory.edu). It means that money can speak louder than any words can,
whether it is for payment, a bribe, or even a donation. The discussed idea of new
definition and meaning is especially evident in the world of information systems.
Effect on Society
Dependence on machines and technological advancements grow more and more
each day. Systems are built to better lives and simplify work. Some of the manual labors
that once existed now become automated. It is evident that information systems have
changed the way of living through the years. As a result, the internet is called the
“information superhighway” (philosophy.uoregon.edu/metaphor/iclacnf4.htm).
However, this doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a roadway that individuals take to work or
school. It’s simply a metaphor that describes how one can travel through the net to a
different destination (i.e. jumping from a website in America to a website in Denmark).
A highway also represents an innovation that simplifies travel. It was created as a faster
and more efficient way to get from one destination to another. The internet being
regarded as the information superhighway has its merits. Through the keyboard and
mouse we are able to search thousands of websites and retrieve millions of resources on
subjects that before took us days, if not weeks to get from a local library; it builds a
“highway” from homes and offices to information sources at a click of a mouse button.
The information system as an efficient and simplifying entity comes into light
when it is referred as “the information system is a mill,” (www.econ.uba.ar). A mill is
defined as a factory, any machine, or building fitted with machinery for manufacturing
processes (Oxford, 1977). A mill is an example of an entity or institution that provides
an efficient and simple way to produce goods. The information system being referred to
the mill is for its capability to large quantities of information efficiently and effectively.
Sometimes the most subtle things represent a type of similarity to everyday life.
The desktop of a computer where you can throw away “trash” into the recycle bin,
represents a likeness in our lives that no one would think about
(philosophy.uoregon.edu/metaphor/gui4web.htm). The simple pick up and dropping of
trash into the trashcan can be signified through the computer in the process we know as
“drag and drop,” where one drags the item and drops it into the recycle bin. This
similarity created by software programmers such as Microsoft and Apple, personifies the
usage of personal computers to real life. It can be viewed as a way of alleviating the
learning curve in having to think too much about the technicalities of operating a
computer. Rather than finding a file and deleting it manually by command lines or text, a
user is given the same motion of throwing out trash on his PC as one would do in real
Future and Beyond
Technology is constantly evolving and along with it information systems must
evolve too. Information systems will continue to influence institutions for years to come.
The continued use of metaphors in describing and furthering of technological innovations
will create a better understanding of the concepts and usages behind what would be
“Funny Metaphors.” Welcome to the Adventures of a Sci-Phi Pilot. 1997. 18 September
“Common and Silly Metaphors.” Division of Educational Studies, Emory University. 2005. 18
September 2005 <http://www.des.emory.edu/mfp/303/303metaphors.pdf>
Rohrer, Tim. “Conceptual Blending on the Information Highway: How Metaphorical
Inferences Work.” 1997. 16 September 2005
Rohrer, Tim. “Metaphors we compute by: bringing magic into interface design.” 1995. 18
September 2005 <http://philosophy.uoregon.edu/metaphor/gui4web.htm>.
Gazendam, Henk. “Information System Metaphors.” 2000. 18 September 2005
1977Unpublished PhD Thesis, Eindhoven: Technische Hogeschool Eindhoven.
The audience possesses a basic fundamental knowledge of computers and Information
Systems. They are educated adults and UMBC students. Their ages range from 17 to 55
years and include both males and females. In depth knowledge in computers is not
needed for the enjoyment of this paper. This report was created to bring attention to the
importance and effect of information systems in our everyday lives. The information
provided is available to any individual interested in computers and information systems.
The audience will gain insight on the significance of information systems and how
metaphors are used to demonstrate that ideal.