Metaphors we fly by: 2 weeks at the University of Surrey

How time flies! (that is a metaphor right there but I will get to that later). With a mixture of sadness and gladness, today is my last day in Guildford where I have been on a research visit to the University of Surrey for the past two weeks. It has been a very good and productive two weeks on many levels. But it has sometimes felt a bit lonely and on many occasions I have yearned to get back home. So I am glad I can now head back to Sheffield and reunite with my sweet wife and kids today.

My visit to the University of Surrey was made possible through the generous funding I won from the Sheffield Methods Institute at the University of Sheffield and for which I am most grateful. The purpose of the 2 weeks visit was to engage in discussions with researchers at the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management (SHTM) and the Department of Sociology (DoS), in order to develop a set of procedures/framework with which to analyse metaphors used in tourism policy and planning. Moreover I used the visit to establish collaborative research networks at the SHTM and made some progress on how to extend my research note paper into a full length article for Annals of Tourism Research journal. I have had some really brilliant conversations over my ideas about how to bring metaphor analysis into tourism studies and the usefulness of such an approach. As one researcher at the SHTM said, tourism studies need an injection of fresh ideas and the advances been made in linguistics and metaphor research has much to offer tourism.

The starting point of my research visit is this: metaphors are pervasive in everyday conversations and many have already argued that human conceptual system is metaphorically structured. Thus how we look, see, understand and reorganise the world around us is shaped by the metaphors we choose to use consciously or unconsciously. At the most basic level, a metaphor is when one concept from a different domain is used to represent another. For example, “how time flies” (as I used in the opening sentence of this post) is a metaphorical expression because seemingly unrelated concept (flight) is associated with another concept (time). We use metaphors all the time without realising it because our thought process are built for them. Consider some of the most common examples: love is war, love is a journey, apple of my eye etc. All these are metaphors and the frame what we say and how we want others to understand. During my visit, I held discussions in the Department of Sociology and explored how metaphor analysis differs from (but can build on the strengths of) semiotic and conversational analysis. A crucial point that I took from our discussion was to always look out for ‘absences’ – i.e. those metaphors that are not used in a given text could be as important as those metaphors that end up being used.

My curiosity was sparked as to the viability of applying metaphor analysis to the tourism and climate change discourses in both popular media and in the tourism literature. I followed up this idea with researchers at the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management where I got positive feedback. A metaphor analysis could bring a number of insights into how the issue of tourism’s contribution to climate change is framed by both believers and sceptics. The time at the University of Surrey allowed me to delve deep into the literature on metaphors, linguistics and the analysis of language more generally and it looks like a very exciting field with possible applications across a range of disciplines. The tricky part, which I will continue to work on going forward, is to settle on specific steps/framework/protocol with which to identify and analyse the metaphors to be found in the tourism-climate change literature/discourse. I already have a skeleton sketch of such a protocol which I will be refining over the coming months as I apply to a set of debating articles on tourism-climate change scepticism.

In terms of socio-cultural experiences in Guildford or at the University of Surrey, I did not have many. However, there were two occasions when I had to chase people to return their bags which they’ve left on the bus. It was both funny and sad in a way because I felt people were looking at me ‘weirdly’ running and shouting. The two people involved were both women. The first woman already looked like she had a lot on her mind when I got on the bus. I do a lot of observation when I am out and about thanks to my undergraduate degree in Sociology and Social Work that opened my eyes to the wonders of observation. So this first women I saw had a bag with I think her jacket in which she forgot to take along when she got to her bus stop. As the bus was about driving off I sprinted off to the door holding the bag and asking if it is her and telling the driver to wait which he did and then opened the door so I go hand the bag over. The second woman probably works at the University of Surrey because that is where we both got on the bus. She was already on her phone as she boarded the bus and kept her phone conversation going to the main bus station in the town centre. With her phone stuck to her ear she left the bus and was walking away briskly. I actually exited the bus and then realised that she left her bag so I went back into the bus and told the driver that I think she has left her bag. Then I took the bag sprinted out of the bus and turned to run after her while doing “sssssshhhh (as any Ghanaian can show you how)…sssshhhhh EXCUSE ME!?!?!?!”. I took someone walking behind her to get her attention. And then I held the bag up and asked if it was her bag. With phone still stuck to her ear she was initially not sure and then after a brief moment the coin dropped and she realised that “oh yes it is my bag, thank you”. Whew!!!

Oh and before I forget, on the last Friday I had the opportunity to very briefly attend a conference on “Extractive Industries for Development”. The one presentation I sat in was an interesting talk about low value minerals and metals (neglected minerals) like sand and stone quarrying. I also met a nice little Ghanaian PhD student community there. They all probably deserve a blog post ….soon!

For now I say, Adios Guildford…..till I see you again.




2 thoughts on “Metaphors we fly by: 2 weeks at the University of Surrey

  1. Pingback: What is the summary of your PhD thesis? | The Unplanned PhD Planner

  2. Pingback: Look out, the book proofs are in: Sustainable Tourism Policy and Planning in Africa | Emmanuel Akwasi Adu-Ampong

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