Minding the gap: on metaphors to the transition from imagination to reality


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    Considering metaphors such as minding the gap, zigzag, looping,
    and cycles. Discussed in Coffee Hour #2 with Tanya Zittoun, Coffee Hour #4 with Mike Cole,
    and the April 28, 2023 session with Bernard Schneuwly.

    Here is the link to the videos for Coffee Hours 2 and 4:

    Archive: Five Coffee Hours on Imagination and Creativity in Vygotsky’s Works

    Here is the link to the April 28th session:

    Imagination and Creative Activity of the Adolescent with Bernard Schneuwly (April 28, 2023)

    Reply to this message to participate in the ongoing conversation on this topic,

    Beth Ferholt

    This is not the most pressing thought but I do want to try out this new feature on the site!
    Metaphors are something I am thinking a lot about this summer. In part because I read Temple Grandin’s new book on visual thinking: Do some of us think in metaphors and others not? Also, Mike’s Mind the Gap paper is a favorite of mine for a few reasons, but in part because I like to discuss it with children when we discuss the relationship between reality and imagination in playworlds. Young children love to speak (and think?) in metaphor. Hope summers are going well, looking forward to the fall talks! Beth

    • This reply was modified 10 months, 1 week ago by Beth Ferholt.

    Beth, thank you for engaging on the forum. I feel like providing a tool in which people can quickly post and follow a discussion can help us to better understand the site’s needs and possibilities.


    When we were talking about Cognitive Linguistics with Henry Shonerd and Mark Johnson
    as our guest speakers, we talked about the limited applicability of any particular metaphor, with some being ‘richer’ than others.. How well do metaphors like Minding the Gap, Cycles and Loops, and Zigzags describe the dynamic interplay of imagination and reality?
    In “Imagination & Creativity in Childhood” (1930), Vygotsky described a cycle wherein
    elements from the external world (reality) are internalized, recombined as a new product of the imagination, and then through physical activity reintroduced to the world..

    Maybe this is too mechanistic of a model:
    Data goes in – processing occurs – output is generated

    This is different from the metaphor of Minding the Gap, which seems to me to be
    about filling in missing information to make sense of sensorymotor stimuli, rather than generating some new ‘output’ or activity.


    Francine, In response to your question about the richness of some metaphors more than others, you point to minding the gap’s connection between motor, sensory and cognitive activity. This is a perfect example of a fundamental commitment of Cognitive Linguistics to the embodiment of language and the mind. The saccades of visual processing are a zig zag between motor and sensory processing that evokes the interplay between imagination and the world in dialog. This also points to the “porosity” of the semantic space in language, that is that meaning potential of language is connected to non-linguistic aspects of cognitive processing, in this case motor imagery.


    I want to add that my reply is as much motivated by Beth’s comment on children’s love and use of metaphor. Metaphor is pervasive at all ages. Broadly speaking it is what Cognitive Linguistics calls a “blending” process, whereby concepts in one domain are projected on to concepts in another. That we do this all the time with such ease and effectiveness in our language use is amazing, given the complexity of conceptualization involved. I would ask Beth if she has found any research on the ontogeny of metaphor.

    Beth Ferholt

    I have not but I am very curious! Thank you for this question. Beth


    I am glad to hear that the forum tool s starting to serve its purposes.


    I am wondering why I am not getting email notifications when someone responds to me. Maybe I am forgetting to click the box to notify me via email.

    Michael Cole

    Francine et al
    I believe that the phrase, “minding the gap,” while clever, is misleading because it “brings to mind” the announcements in railroad and subway stations to mind the physical gap created by technical system of transportation. The gap appears and then “the mind fills it in” or “bridges across it.” This fits with the idea that minding the gap is only “filling in information.”
    This way of interpreting the metaphor totally neglects the fact that the human eye creates via saccadic movement the resulting gap it must resolve in order to maintain, or regain, coordinated action. We know for sure that if the gaze becomes fixated on an aspect of the external world, the world disappears. Discontinuities are not caused ONLY by external events, but by the organism itself, so does life itself. This view generates as a consequence, what Lenin and Bernard refer to as a zig-zag, Tania refers to as looping, Suvorov refers to as into-image-making, and Vygotsky’s two cases of men caught at one or the opposite side of ‘reality’.


    I finally got a response via email to a comment I made in this Forum, in this case it was Mike’s comment right after mine. What’s strange are the times assigned to the comments. What’s strange are dates (sometimes) and times tied to the comments.


    Good to hear you got the message. I suspect that the hours reflect the time zone in which the person who posted was while posting. 🙂


    Mike thought the time was Greenwich Time. Anyway, it doesn’t interfere with communication. I think this forum approach is going to work well for us. I am regularly getting notifications in my email

Viewing 13 posts - 1 through 13 (of 13 total)
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