Putting metaphors to work

John Carroll, Mary Beth Rosson

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Metaphor has proven to be one of the richest and most robust ideas in the design of computer applications and user interfaces. The basic idea is very simple: present functionality in such a way that the user can access and apply specific prior knowledge while learning and using a novel tool. But the practical and theoretical ramifications of this idea both in the brief history of human-computer interaction and in its current prospects are quite considerable. In this paper, we first summarize a view of the relevant history. We then develop the notion that metaphors should be conceived of as bound to contexts of use: The recognition and interpretation of metaphors typically depends upon the establishment of a meaningful task context. We think there is a need to focus consideration of metaphors on the scenarios of use from which they arise. We suggest that this reconception of metaphors as bound to scenarios of use converges with recent developments in scenario-based specification and object-oriented design, and that it provides new opportunities for putting metaphors to work in the specification, design and implementation of systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)112-119
Number of pages8
JournalProceedings - Graphics Interface
StatePublished - Dec 1 1994
EventProceedings of the 1994 Graphics Conference - Banff, Alberta, Can
Duration: May 18 1994May 20 1994

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Computer Graphics and Computer-Aided Design


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