limits we now face. In addition to being especially aware of how certain metaphors
marginalize awareness of important characteristics of the cultural commons, we also
brought into the discussion the nature and role of root metaphors in the process of
cultural reproduction: root metaphors such as progress, individualism, mechanism,
economism, and now evolution. These root metaphors serve as powerful and largely
taken for granted conceptual frameworks that exclude other vocabularies and thus other
forms of social organization. For example, the word, “progress” is both an image
metaphor as well as a root metaphor that provides the vocabulary for thinking and
communicating about a wide range of cultural activities––including thinking about the
introduction of toxic chemicals that are altering life processes. The patterns of thinking
and values supported by the dominant root metaphors are seldom challenged even though
they have historically been affiliated with many practices that we now know to be
detrimental to the environment (i.e. reliance upon digital communication that foster
cultural amnesia, the hybridization of seeds, and so forth).
Similarly, tracing the root metaphors provides a source of insight about the
structures of meanings in our everyday oral exchanges. Particular words or expressions
are often symbols of power in which tacit assumptions are embedded. If one examines
the use of words over time, it is possible to get a sense of changing worldviews, along
with the inconsistencies or obscurities that go along with them. History offers us a view
into the complexity of meanings in which words that have been used for centuries now
express radically different or variable meanings from which was proposed from the
beginning (Williams, 1976 as referenced in Dawson, 2005).
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