Research Output

Metaphors and models: conceptual foundations of representations for interactive systems design.

  When system developers design a computer system (or other information artifact), they must inevitably make judgments as to how to abstract the worksystem and how to represent this abstraction in their designs. In the past, such abstractions have been based either on a traditional philosophy of cognition OF cognitive psychology or on intuitive, spontaneous philosophies. A number of recent developments in distributed cognition (Hutchins, 1995), activity theory (Nardi, 1996), and experientalism (Lakoff, 1987) have raised questions about the legitimacy of such philosophies. In this article, we discuss from where the abstractions come that designers employ and how such abstractions are related to the concepts that the users of these systems have. In particular, we use the theory of experientalism or experiental cognition as the foundation for our analysis. Experientalism (Lakoff, 1987) has previously only been applied to human-computer interaction (HCE) design in a quite limited way, yet it deals specifically with issues concerned with categorization and concept formation. We show how the concept of metaphor, derived from experientalism, can be used to understand the strengths and weaknesses of alternative representations in HCI design, how it can highlight changes in the paradigm underlying representations, and how it con be used to consider new approaches to HCI design. We also discuss the role that "mental spaces" have in forming new concepts and designs

  • Type:


  • Date:

    28 February 1999

  • Publication Status:


  • Publisher

    Taylor & Francis

  • DOI:


  • ISSN:


  • Library of Congress:

    QA75 Electronic computers. Computer science

  • Dewey Decimal Classification:

    004 Data processing & computer science


Benyon, D. & Imaz, M. (1999). Metaphors and models: conceptual foundations of representations for interactive systems design. Human-Computer Interaction. 14, 159-189. doi:10.1080/07370024.1999.9667268. ISSN 0737-0024



abstraction; distributed cognition; activity theory; experientalism; systems development;

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