Encyclopedia of World Problems - Archived Information

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Patterns and Metaphors

Metaphors are a special form of presentation natural to many cultures. They are of unique importance as a means of communicating complex notions, especially in interdisciplinary and multicultural dialogue, as well as in the popularization of abstract concepts, in political discourse and as part of any creative process. They offer the special advantage of calling upon a pre-existing capacity to comprehend complexity, rather than assuming that people need to engage in lengthy educational processes before being able to comprehend. The Patterns and Metaphor section of the Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential is an attempt by the UIA, since the 1980s, to explore the role of metaphor and pattern in relation to governance, understanding of world problems, articulation of more appropriate organizational strategies, transformative conferencing and dialogue, and knowledge organization.

For instance, to take the example of 'Blindness', the Encyclopedia uses the physical template definition as the "Inability to see or respond to visual cues". However, blindness also manifests itself as a metaphor for social life: "Individuals and groups may be blind to conditions or configurations of events in their environment and thus be unable to adjust their behaviour usefully in relation to them. This can inhibit human and social development. It renders those so afflicted vulnerable to catastrophic accidents."

The Patterns and Metaphor section of the Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential details this metaphor and over 1,300 others and the 4,500 relationships between them - from Ambiguous Boundaries, Boats and Ships and Cycles of Religious Festivals, to Unity and Diversity, Voice, and War.

To enter the free database of problems click here. More information is available at Patterns and Metaphor Project: a summary. Academic discussions on this topic written by Anthony Judge are available on his external website at Documents relating to Metaphor for Governance, Documents relating to Culture and Aesthetics and Documents on Identity through Metaphor. Applications of governance through metaphor include The Universal Declaration of the Rights of Human Organization, an experimental extension of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child Within, an exercise in adapting the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1990).