#ReframeCovid round table:
An open initiative to (re)think the metaphors used to talk about pandemic
The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted, among many other things, the importance of effective communication in health emergencies, as well as the central role of metaphor in that communication. From the beginning of the pandemic, governments, public health agencies and the media around the world have made use of metaphors to talk about the virus, its effects and the measures needed to reduce its spread (e.g. battles, front lines, heroes, etc.). Dominant among these metaphors have been war metaphors, which present the virus as an enemy that needs to be fought and beaten. Previous research has shown that war metaphors may be effective to convey the seriousness of a new crisis and to emphasize the need for unity and collective sacrifice. However, these metaphors have also been found to have limitations and potentially unwanted effects, for example by discouraging self-restraining behaviours in situations where such behaviours would lead to better health outcomes (e.g. Flusberg, Matlock & Thibodeau 2018; Hauser & Schwarz 2015; Hendricks, Demjén, Semino & Boroditsky 2018). Much in the same line, war metaphors in the context of the pandemic also attracted an unprecedented amount of criticism from commentators in the mainstream media and social media, for a variety of reasons.
#ReframeCovid was born as an open, collaborative and non-prescriptive initiative to collect alternatives to war metaphors for Covid-19 in any language, and to (critically) reflect on the use of figurative language about the virus, its impact and the measures taken in response. The initiative was first launched as a Twitter conversation with the hashtag #ReframeCovid and continues now with a crowd-sourced collection of currently over 400 multimodal examples of alternative metaphorical frames from more than 20 languages.
This round table at the RaAM 2020 virtual conference will be an opportunity to present the #ReframeCovid initiative and to reflect on the role of metaphor in communicating about and conceptualising the pandemic. Four speakers involved with the #ReframeCovid initiative will address and discuss the questions listed below, with ample space for Q&A and debate with the attending audience.
Questions to be discussed:
1. What is the role of a metaphor researcher in coronavirus times? Why #ReframeCovid? A meta-ethnography of the initiative.
2. What are the main source domains of the metaphors collected via the #ReframeCovid initiative across different languages?
3. What aspects of Covid-19 as a broad target domain are captured by these metaphors?
4. What evidence can be found in the #ReframeCovid collection of the interplay between metaphor and context, and of conventionality and creativity in metaphor use?
5. To what extent can we trace an evolution over time and discourse contexts in the #ReframeCovid collection of metaphors?
6. Wrap-up topic: agenda for future #ReframeCovid research and call for action.
Flusberg, S. J., Matlock, T. & Thibodeau, P. H. (2018) War metaphors in public discourse, Metaphor and Symbol, 33:1, 1-18.
Hauser, D. J. & Schwarz, N. (2015) The war on prevention: Bellicose cancer metaphors hurt (some) prevention intentions, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 41:1, 66-77.
Hendricks, R. K., Demjén, Z., Semino, E. & Boroditsky, L. (2018) Emotional implications of metaphor: Consequences of metaphor framing for mindset about cancer, Metaphor and Symbol, 33:4, 267-279.
Webpage of the #ReframeCovid initiative: https://sites.google.com/view/reframecovid/
Crow-sourced collection of non-war related metaphors for Covid-19: bit.ly/ReframeCovid
Twitter conversation: https://twitter.com/hashtag/ReframeCovid?src=hash