// Latest Posts

Sleepwalking into pandemic polarisation

I was musing about emerging talk of a division between experts when it comes to dealing with Covid-19. This has been in the air for a while but came more to the fore after the publication of two open letters by two groups of experts. As an article in the British Medical Journal, entitled tellingly …

Dimmer switches and circuit breakers

Since the beginning of this pandemic I have been writing blog posts charting the metaphors used to think and talk about it. Most of these metaphors are based on well-known experiences of floods, storms, wars and journeys – or air, water, earth and fire. However, I have recently noticed some other metaphors which are a …

Metaphors and realities: Coronavirus and climate change

We have been surrounded by global disasters this year, inflicted on us by ‘invisible enemies’. These invisible enemies have been made visible in two ways. In the case of the pandemic, disaster metaphors related to floods, fire and storms have made the coronavirus visible. In case of climate change, real floods, fires, storms and droughts …

Who killed granny?

A trend seems to be emerging, albeit not a failsafe one, in the management of the coronavirus pandemic. There are countries/nations/regions like New Zealand, Germany and New Mexico (and these are just the ones I sort of listen in to) that have done something right when it comes to dealing with the spread of Covid-19. …

Mutant algorithms

I was talking to a friend in the United States. She told me the story of a friend who normally just talks about motherhood and apple pie, but suddenly wondered about algorithms. So, my friend asked me how I would explain algorithms. That reminded me of discussions I had a year or so ago with …

Gene drives and societal narratives

Some days ago, I came across an interesting virtual conference (HT @Sarah_A_Hartley) about gene editing which includes a session on ‘societal narratives’. I have written quite a bit about societal narratives of gene editing, but more recently I became involved in the issue of ‘gene drive’, that is, “a system of biased inheritance in which …

The meaning of lockdown

The other day, my father in Germany, who is quite old, phoned me and asked what lockdown meant.* ‘Lockdown’ is now used in Germany instead of more native words like ‘Ausgangssperre’ (exit barrier, if you like). He especially wondered about the ‘down’ bit, as he understood the ‘lock’ bit and also had heard about ‘locking …

‘A fire raging’: Why fire metaphors work well for Covid-19

This is a post by Elena Semino, University of Lancaster. It was first published on the website of the ESRC Centre for Corpus Approaches to Social Science (CASS) on 1 July, 2020. It provides a thorough and fascinating analysis of fire metaphors used during the pandemic. *** Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, metaphors have been …

Gene writing: Between art and nature

In the past, I have written a bit about genomics, synthetic biology and gene editing, from the perspective of language and culture. So, when Matthew Cobb alerted me to a new thing called ‘gene writing’ at the beginning of July, I pricked up my ears. I told myself that I should write a blog post …