When What We Do Become What We Say

Talk by Linda Greve, Centre for Teaching and Learning

2017.10.03 | Anne-Mette Pedersen

Date Tue 12 Dec
Time 11:00 13:00
Location IMC Meeting Room, Jens Chr. Skous Vej 4, Building 1483-312, 8000 Aarhus C


Metaphors as anchors in joint epistemic action

How can it be determined if a group co-creates and negotiates a common metaphorical concept or if they stick each to their own concept?

Providing toy bricks as a shared mode besides language and gesture has been elaborated in a number of studies (Heracleous & Jacobs, 2008; Jacobs & Heracleous, 2006; Jacobs, Oliver, & Heracleous, 2013). However, the effect on co-creation and the following resonance of the buildings is not accounted for.

Metaphor and metaphoricity in conversations as opposed to written or planned language has been studied in depth, but not with the focus on negotiation and co-creation of metaphoricity (L. Cameron & Deignan, 2006; L. J. Cameron, 2007; Lynne Cameron et al., 2009; Jensen & Cuffari, 2014).

What is suggested by this study is, that for a concept to be co-created by a group, shared modes are not enough. What analysts must be aware of is how concepts travel between modes and participants in an ecological and distributed interaction. For a negotiation and co-creation to take place, using joint epistemic action (Bjørndahl, Fusaroli, Østergaard, & Tylén, 2014; Clark & Chalmers, 1998; Kirsh & Maglio, 1994) integrated with metaphoricity in language and gesture establishes the attractors necessary for a temporarily stable and shared concept (Johnson, 2013).

The analyses points to metaphoricity as an ecological phenomenon embedded in our daily actions in accordance with affective behaviors, environmental artifacts, cognitive embodied dynamics and situational affordances of social interaction. It emphasizes metaphors as a doing and highlights how metaphors becomes anchors (Kahnemann & Tversky, 1973) in the conversations, constraining the co-creation process as well as providing affordances.


The implications of these findings are a new perspective on analyzing metaphoricity in conversation and a more nuanced approach to analyzing the effect of shared modes. Further it points to how ecological cognition is performed in groups. What groups do in gesture and epistemic action influences how they conceptualize, and thus what they do become what they say, if what they do is distributed on modes and participants.


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Greve, L. (2016a). Distributed, Negotiable and Complex - Towards a Definition of Shareable Knowledge. Journal of Organizational Knowledge Communication, 3(1).

Greve, L. (2016b). Using Metaphors as a Management Tool. In Handbook of Metaphor and Language (1st ed.). Routledge.

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Jacobs, C. D., Oliver, D., & Heracleous, L. (2013). Diagnosing Organizational Identity Beliefs by Eliciting Complex, Multimodal Metaphors. The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 49(4), 485–507. doi.org/10.1177/0021886313485999

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Johnson, M. (2013). The Body in the Mind: The Bodily Basis of Meaning, Imagination, and Reason. University of Chicago Press.

Kirsh, D., & Maglio, P. (1994). On Distinguishing Epistemic from Pragmatic Action. Cognitive Science, 18(4), 513–549. doi.org/10.1207/s15516709cog1804_1



Linda Greve, PhD, Educational it consultant

Centre for Teaching and Learning