Semantic Leaps: Frame-Shifting and Conceptual Blending in Meaning Construction

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Basically this notion rests upon the assumption that human imagination is a pivotal function of the human mind rather than confined to the whimsical activity of dreams or the creative activities such as poetry. Our daily encounters with reality present us with a range of situations that ask us to create new meaning, and sometimes even require us to adjust or reinterpret our culturally entrenched modes of thought and expectations. The notion of conceptual blending offers an exciting insight into the semantic principles underlying such mental activities.

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In the sense that it theorizes on how learning and new knowledge are acquired through sensuous experience of everyday situations, blending theory has much in common with pragmatist aesthetics as interpreted by Petersen et al. In line with this work user imagination and active sense-making are a central concept in achieving aesthetic experiences. Furthermore, aesthetic experiences, along the line of pragmatist thinking, form the basis of forthcoming and more sophisticated experiences. Though not further developed in this paper, blending theory shows promise in providing ground for developing operational tools to more accurately and intentionally design for aesthetic experiences.

Fauconnier describes the basic principles of conceptual blending as follows:. A conceptual blend operates in two input mental spaces to yield a third space, the blend. Partial structure from the input spaces is projected into the blended space, which has emergent structure of its own. Yet frames and scripts only account for some of the partial structures in a mental space.

Mental spaces are equally organized by image schematic patterns arising from our repeated perceptual and bodily interaction with material objects and the world at large. Basically an image schema is defined as a recurrent spatial structure that gives coherence to our experience Johnson, But image schemas are not restricted to the phenomenological domain. One of the key insights of Lakoff and Johnson , is that we constantly map image schemas onto higher-level semantic domains in thought and language, and that this is to a significant degree what makes these more abstract domains understandable and meaningful to us.

A mental space construct typically represents a set of image schemas, on the one hand, and frames and scripts, on the other. Since scripts and frames, to a large extent, are products of varying cultural factors, while image schemas are thought to be invariant embodied structures, we might then begin to understand the interplay of cultural frames and embodied interaction by exploring the way in which mental spaces are built up.

To expound this idea we can expand a little on an example borrowed from Johnson , p. Depending on the number of times the buyer has actually bought a new car, the invoked frame might even be scripted into a more detailed narrative sequence of the activity itself: a buyer going to a car lot, inspecting different car models, choosing and test driving, bargaining over the price, and buying or not buying the car. We have depicted this mental space construct in Figure 1. Figure 1.

Image schema and script structure organizing a mental space construct. Imagining different enactments of this situation also enables us to notice the crucial role that experiential information from the immediate context play in the concrete shaping of a mental space.

If a woman, for instance, rushes to a car dealer and jumps straight at buying a new car without even testing it, asking about its performance or the price, her deviance from the expected action sequence could then possibly lead to one of the following judgments, each of which represents a new mental space. Not only is it the structure of the event that is culturally significant, but also the execution of the various elements, such as inspection and price negotiations.

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This rich array of different interpretations does not only illustrate how culture and embodied experience act as two co-constitutive factors in online meaning construction but it also reveals what online meaning construction is essentially about: the dynamic setting up and reinterpretation of mental spaces for purposes of local understanding and action cf.

Fauconnier, , p. We have schematized this process in Figure 2, depicting the partial structures with black dots. Figure 2. Conceptual blending as a network of mental spaces. Note, here, that the blend develops emergent new structure that does not exist separately in either of the two input spaces. As we shall see shortly, this may actually involve modifying existing cultural frames. This happens through three interrelated cognitive operations as described in Fauconnier , pp. It consists in cognitive work performed within the blend, according to its own emergent logic.

Interestingly, Fauconnier and Turner , pp. Input spaces.

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  • Interacting with the desktop interface cue people conceptually to blend two inputs: A mental space for ordinary office work input 1 and a mental space for computer commands input 2. On the basis of so-called cross-space mappings between counterpart elements from the two inputs the solid lines in Figure 2 composition makes new relations available in the blend. A trashcan is attributed the delete command, a printer icon the print command, and so forth the dotted diagonal lines.

    Through completion background knowledge of the culturally entrenched frame of office work can be recruited into the blend thereby helping the user to understand the course of his interactions. Lifting, moving and dropping a document into a new folder thus draw heavily on our mental conception of traditional workspace, not on the technical device itself. The experience of the desktop interface also reveals how elaboration leads to emergent new structure in the conceptual blend.

    As all of these blending processes are located in the individual mind of the user there is clearly a mentalistic bias underlying blending theory. In so doing, he avoids the tendency of treating the input spaces as purely mental constructs p. The usefulness of the notion of material anchor will become evident in our subsequent case analysis.

    Here it will enable us to show how the form of a specific architectural genre such as a public aquarium may contribute with input structure to a conceptual blend. Our hypothesis is that this blend is a likely outcome of inviting visitors to use an interactive exhibition hydroscope inside the aquarium. To illustrate and ground our argument in concrete experiments the following section describes a prototype installation for exploring self-constructed fish in the setting of a public aquarium.

    The prototype installation is part of a larger project set up to explore and challenge interactive exhibition spaces. We provide a full description of the prototype installation constituted by a station for construction and moveable interactive devices for exploration. However, we will for the sake of clarity in argument focus on the explorative part of the prototype, the hydroscope.

    The prototype installation was subject to two periods of trial use where the time between the periods of trial use was used for design iterations based on the experiences of the first period. The description of the prototype installation is based on the current version and design changes, revisions between the two versions are put in perspective of our overarching argument.

    As earlier mentioned in this paper use experiences were documented in video recording of uninstructed use and ad hoc semi-structured interviews were used to gather information of experiences Dindler et al. Among the big attractions are large-scale aquaria with a variety of tropical sharks. The centre is predominantly based on visual means and a special atmosphere is created around the different types of fish.

    For instance, the sharks can be seen from a glass tunnel running through the bottom of the tank where you get the feeling of being immersed in the marine environment. The rationale for our design case was to explore a different range of means by which visitors could relate to fish and marine life. In particular, our design work evolved through the use of playful construction and exploration. Our objective was to provide visitors with a new perspective on the centre.

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    Rather than explicitly communicate information about marine life we looked to create a space where visitors could imagine how marine life could be like. In a very literal sense we constructed a setup where visitors could experiment by constructing their own fish from individual parts and exploring its qualities. Having constructed an imagined fish from different parts, visitors are able to release the fish into a digital ocean where it will live alongside fish created by other visitors.

    The physical pieces can be assembled to an imaginary fish on top of an RFID tag-reader, and when the user is satisfied with the constructed fish, it can be released into the virtual sea. The tag-readers are built into a special table with a dome display viewing into the virtual sea universe. The dome view is provided through a display on top of the table Figure 3b. The construction set is developed on the basis of five different fish species, deconstructed into the following types of pieces: body, head, tail, swim bladder front fin and back fin.

    Each piece is linked by the RFID tag to information and a digital fish part that appears on the dome display. On the dome display the partly finished fish is shown together with information about its physical strengths and weaknesses. This is supplemented with a graphical assessment of its abilities to survive.

    Figure 3. To view the fish in the digital ocean, visitors have to use the hydroscopes that inhabit the exhibition spaces. During the design process several solutions for creating the digital ocean were envisioned. Initially, the digital ocean was conceived as a large projected floor surface, where the entire ocean was visible.


    This would provide visitors with an overview of the ocean and allow them relatively quickly to find different fish. The design of the hydroscope, promotes a somewhat different agenda. The hydroscopes do not provide overview and they do not make it easy for visitors to find fish or navigate the ocean.

    Rather, the hydroscopes were designed as a way for visitors to explore the hidden universe of the digital ocean. Instead of revealing the ocean and the constructed fish, they encourage visitors to actively explore the ocean and to imagine what is hidden beyond the range of the hydroscopes. Dependent on the properties of the constructed fish, they will find their way to the most appropriate waters in the digital ocean. As navigating the hydroscope requires users to move it through the physical space, the connection is made between the physical layout of the locale and the digital space of the ocean.

    Alongside the rim of the central compass of the hydroscope interface Figure 4b simple arrows provide hints of underwater characteristics such as the bed of river, low and deep waters. We deliberately chose not to mark the physical floor according to the mapping of the seabed visible through the Hydroscopes as the slow gradual discovery of different waterbeds is seen as an attractive pointer for spurring curiosity.

    Figure 4. The architectural design of specific building types is generally believed to reflect cultural frames, which presupposes certain behavioural and experiential patterns cf. Shore, , p. Among such building types are clearly museums or centres made for exhibition. In these places cultural beliefs about ways of choreographing the learning experience will be reflected in the spatial and interior design.

    Culture thereby manifests itself in material structure.

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    Then, upon visiting the place, this material structure may serve as an external stimulus prompting the user to derive and reconstruct the institutionalized belief system as a frame in a mental space. However paradoxically it may sound, bringing an interactive hydroscope into this marine centre is somewhat inconsistent with this cultural frame, and forces users to perform cultural frame shifting in order to interpret the use of the hydroscope. In the following we theorize on this user experience and we use blending theory to unpack its internal configurations and governing principles.

    The architectural space and interior design of the Kattegatcentret might be seen as a material anchor that embodies a dominant cultural model of how to exhibit things to a public audience. Like most other exhibition spaces, the Kattegatcentret is primarily organized into a vertical surface for visual information and a horizontal ground surface for bodily movement and action.

    That is, the relationship between visual perception and movement is asymmetrical with vision acting as the most privileged sense for acquiring new knowledge. At the same time, these material structures are reflected in the props for presentation that we expect to find in a traditional exhibition space.

    Whether experiencing paintings on the walls in galleries, historical items in showcases or living creatures in aquariums the picture remains the same: Something is held up rectangularly in front of our eyes, while the rest of the body is tacitly directed to stand passively in a fixed upright posture. However, the in-front-of pattern of the aquarium anchor is opposed by the structures of the hydroscopes. The hydroscopes clearly deviate from the rectilinear organization of traditional exhibition design as they transfer visual information under the horizontal surface for movement.

    Navigating with the hydroscopes thereby presupposes not a Cartesian, but an active body whose movements and kinesthetic experiences play a crucial role in the interactive learning process. This is an emergent cultural model for learning that is becoming more and more influential in museum institutions and learning environments. To account for how they are mentally conceived and experienced it is necessary to employ some of the other concepts we have introduced.

    As already mentioned, the material structure of the aquarium is most likely at first to activate a mental space organized by the culturally shared [AQUARIUM] frame.

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    However, we theorize that the interactive use of the hydroscopes is experienced to be inconsistent with this first mental space and, therefore, requires a reinterpretation of the situation. Our evaluations from video material revealed that users were not immediately able to orientate and locate their fish in the mixed reality environment. Instead they began curiously to explore different ways of relating the visual information seen in the hydroscope with their movements on the floor. Following from the framework we have laid out we can see this unfolding experience as a sign of interpretative labor in the user corresponding to the set up of a second mental space.

    This mental space is a cognitive reaction to the presentation of a problem and its purpose is to optimize the choice of the next action. If we analyze the two mental spaces at an image schematic level reflecting how material structure is bodily experienced , then we see that the inconsistency between the hydroscope and aquarium experience result from two very different senses of containment.

    We might even speak of an image schematic tension. A graphic representation of this tension can be found in Figure 5 where we have magnified the image schematic structures of the two mental spaces for the sake of clarity.

    Conceptual Blending

    Figure 5. Image schematic tension in user experience. In the case of the mental space 1 for the surrounding aquarium context, what gives coherence to user experience is a CONTAINER schema A , which organizes the whole scene conceptually according to specific in-out orientations and entailment structures. Thus, the aquariums restrict certain forces water, fish, sharks, etc.

    This fixing of location means that the contained object becomes accessible to the view and closer scrutiny of the visitor. Because of the relatively unrestrained forces and limited contextual clues, the roles of being contained are thereby blurred or perhaps even reversed. Here, the user experiences the diffuse feeling of, whether it is s he or the animals that is contained indicated by the dashed line between fish and visitor. You might even say that the users get close to orient themselves as from a fish-eye point of view.

    Our video material shows, for instance, children and adults playing and collaborating to share discoveries around the hydroscopes. We take these empirical data as supportive of the idea that users were able successfully to reorganize new experiential structures and meaning into their culturally entrenched [AQUARIUM] frame. Such a semantic reinterpretation would in fact be a highly imaginative endeavor whereby the conceptual tension would have to be developed into a conceptual blend.

    In such a network, two input mental spaces yield a third blended space comprised of organizational structures from both inputs. Sign in. Get my own profile Cited by View all All Since Citations h-index 46 32 iindex 85 Articles Cited by. Language and cognitive processes 13 1 , , Language and cognitive processes 13 6 , , Journal of cognitive neuroscience 17 3 , , Conceptual structure, discourse, and language, , Articles 1—20 Show more.

    Help Privacy Terms. A global reference for human genetic variation Genomes Project Consortium Nature , 68 , Semantic leaps: Frame-shifting and conceptual blending in meaning construction S Coulson Cambridge University Press , Time course of word identification and semantic integration in spoken language. Getting it: human event-related brain response to jokes in good and poor comprehenders S Coulson, M Kutas Neuroscience letters 2 , , Blending and coded meaning: Literal and figurative meaning in cognitive semantics S Coulson, T Oakley Journal of Pragmatics 37 10 , , Right hemisphere sensitivity to word-and sentence-level context: evidence from event-related brain potentials.

    A special role for the right hemisphere in metaphor comprehension? Meaningful gestures: Electrophysiological indices of iconic gesture comprehension YC Wu, S Coulson Psychophysiology 42 6 , , Right hemisphere activation of joke-related information: An event-related brain potential study S Coulson, YC Wu Journal of cognitive neuroscience 17 3 , ,

    Semantic Leaps: Frame-Shifting and Conceptual Blending in Meaning Construction Semantic Leaps: Frame-Shifting and Conceptual Blending in Meaning Construction
    Semantic Leaps: Frame-Shifting and Conceptual Blending in Meaning Construction Semantic Leaps: Frame-Shifting and Conceptual Blending in Meaning Construction
    Semantic Leaps: Frame-Shifting and Conceptual Blending in Meaning Construction Semantic Leaps: Frame-Shifting and Conceptual Blending in Meaning Construction
    Semantic Leaps: Frame-Shifting and Conceptual Blending in Meaning Construction Semantic Leaps: Frame-Shifting and Conceptual Blending in Meaning Construction
    Semantic Leaps: Frame-Shifting and Conceptual Blending in Meaning Construction Semantic Leaps: Frame-Shifting and Conceptual Blending in Meaning Construction
    Semantic Leaps: Frame-Shifting and Conceptual Blending in Meaning Construction Semantic Leaps: Frame-Shifting and Conceptual Blending in Meaning Construction
    Semantic Leaps: Frame-Shifting and Conceptual Blending in Meaning Construction Semantic Leaps: Frame-Shifting and Conceptual Blending in Meaning Construction
    Semantic Leaps: Frame-Shifting and Conceptual Blending in Meaning Construction Semantic Leaps: Frame-Shifting and Conceptual Blending in Meaning Construction
    Semantic Leaps: Frame-Shifting and Conceptual Blending in Meaning Construction

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