This paper offers a philosophical analysis (rather than an empirical study) of metaphors in connection with information technology. A tripartite typology of metaphors is presented along with an explanation of their role in information systems and related fields. A metaphor may be (1) a figure of speech, (2) a symbol for something, or (3) a semi-metaphor, a comparative verbal or visual device that is, for all practical purposes, self-explanatory, and hence relies less on imagination or aesthetic intuition for its effect. It is suggested that the impact of a metaphor on an individual is similar to experiencing a gestalt. The field of IT is rife with metaphors; many examples are discussed or categorized in connection with the theory introduced below. This theory can have an influence on how best to create metaphors which facilitate greater understanding of what a product can do with respect to developers, new users, and customers.
Friedman, William, "A Theory of Metaphors in Information Technology" (1998). AMCIS 1998 Proceedings. 278.