ArtSciLab Paper Presented at IEEE VISAP Conference

Analogy and Conceptual Blending are Part of a Visualization Toolkit for Artists and Scientists: Introducing the Cognitive Space Transfer, an ArtSciLab paper by Jack Ox, was presented at the IEEE VIS 2014 Arts Program, VISAP’14: Art+Interpretation in Paris, France, held November 9th-14th 2014.

Below is an abstract:

Analogy and Conceptual Blending are Part of a Visualization Toolkit for Artists and Scientists: Introducing the Cognitive Space Transfer


Jack Ox, University of New Mexico


This paper demonstrates knowledge representation mapping techniques common in both the domains of art and science. Analogical mapping systems take information from a source domain and map that data to a target domain located in another perceptual mode. I also explain conceptual blending, in which information from different sources combine into a new emergent structure. The theories that describe these visualization processes are conceptual metaphor theory (CMT) and conceptual blending theory (BT), which were orginally created by George Lakoff, Mark Johnson [15], Gilles Fauconnier and Mark Turner [4] more than thirty years ago. My own work of visualizing music also began in the late seventies, coincidentally during the same period of time that CMT and BT were being conceptualized and written down. I will illustrate the use of analogy as a basic visualization tool through describing visualizations of extant music, including the twentieth-century, intermedia masterpiece––the Ursonate by Kurt Schwitters. The cognitive space transfer is an important part of this process; it is a type of conceptual blend. I developed this method while creating art works, but predict that it can also contribute a rich, qualitative dimension to scientific visualization that adds in a substantial way to the story told by the information.


Analogy, cognitive space, conceptual blend, metaphor, knowledge representation, model, visualization.


Even the most austerely ‘scientific’ models operate through analogy and metaphor. The Rutherford-Bohr model depicts a hydrogen atom as a miniature solar system. Darwin’s concept of ‘natural selection’ is analogous to the ‘artificial selection’ process practiced by animal breeders [2].

Beginning in the seventeenth-century and continuing through to the present, science has developed strong analogical processes in order to create new knowledge and make concrete, originally abstract concepts. Scientific models are analogies [5, 11]. The mode of re-expression, or representation, is usually other than linguistic, for example visual and/ or sonic. A model is always a partial mapping; part of creating a successful model is the knowledge of what to filter out from the mapping process. It must be limited because including all information would be an uninteresting duplication of the original [11]. By looking at data in a new mode or domain, researchers are able to see it in different ways, sometimes bringing about a conceptual change that is dramatic enough to cause a frame shift.


[2] T. L. Brown, Making Truth; metaphor in science, Urbana and Chicago: U. of Illinois Press, 2003.

[4] G. Fauconnier, and M. Turner, The Way We Think; Conceptual Blending and the Mind’s Hidden Complexities, NY, NY: Basic Books, 2003.

[5] D. Gentner, and M. Jeziorski, “The shift from metaphor to analogy in Western science,” Metaphor and Thought, A. Ortony, ed., pp. 447-480, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993.

[11] R. Harré, J. L. Aronson, and E. C. Way, “Apparatus as Models of Nature,” Metaphor and Analogy in the Sciences, F. Hallyn, ed., pp. 1-16, Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2000.

[15] G. Lakoff, and M. Johnson, Metaphors We Live By, Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago, 1980.