Internet metaphors  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Internet metaphors provide users and researchers of the Internet a structure for understanding and communicating its various functions, uses, and experiences. An advantage of employing metaphors is that they permit individuals to visualize an abstract concept or phenomenon with which they have limited experience by comparing it with a concrete, well-understood concept such as physical movement through space. Metaphors to describe the Internet have been utilized since its creation and developed out of the need for the Internet to be understood by everyone when the goals and parameters of the Internet were still unclear. Metaphors helped to overcome the problems of the invisibility and intangibility of the Internet's infrastructure and to fill linguistic gaps where no literal expressions existed.

"Highways, webs, clouds, matrices, frontiers, railroads, tidal waves, libraries, shopping malls, and village squares are all examples of metaphors that have been used in discussions of the Internet." Over time these metaphors have become embedded in cultural communications, subconsciously shaping the cognitive frameworks and perceptions of users who guide the Internet's future development. Popular metaphors may also reflect the intentions of Internet designers or the views of government officials. Internet researchers tend to all agree that popular metaphors should be re-examined often to determine if they accurately reflect the realities of the Internet, but many disagree on which metaphors are worth keeping and which ones should be left behind.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Internet metaphors" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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