TED Talks that will not change your life. En undersøgelse af metaforer i TED Talks

Stine Elling Jørgensen

Student thesis: Master thesis


Abstract The thesis investigates the use of metaphors in popular science and the way such usage shapes and forms the opinions and attitudes of the general public regarding topics and interventions that are controversial and could have far-reaching consequences. The thesis propose that a certain use of metaphors raise problems regarding the general public’s ability and capacity to critically evaluate and engage in a qualified discussion regarding these controversial and untried interventions. At the same time, we see an increasing migration of popular science towards online platforms, where TED Talks is a recognised and well-known media. These factors qualifies an investigation of how metaphors are used in TED Talks. I carry out a qualitative study of three selected TED Talks which is theoretically founded on the conceptual metaphor theory and parts of framing theory. The study identifies TED Talks that deal with controversial technological interventions and seeks to find use of metaphors that can be categorised in the following sets of metaphors: War, health, mechanism and control. The study also establishes whether the metaphors are used in a micro- or a macro perspective. The study finds that metaphors related to ‘mechanism’ primarily are used in a micro perspective where their function is to simplify complex knowledge and increase its accessibility. On the other hand, metaphors related to ‘war’, ‘health’ and ‘control’ are primarily used in a macro perspective. Metaphors related to ‘war’ frame and highlight the risks and uncertainties related to the controversial interventions, whereas metaphors related to ‘health’ frame the overall health conditions of our planet. The study also finds that metaphors related to ‘control’ frame the importance of taking safety measures against the applications of controversial interventions. The findings show that metaphors used in a macro perspective can affect and influence the public debate and that the TED Talks examined take stances that are both for and against the application of controversial interventions. This entails that popular science as put forward in the TED Talks draw a complex picture where is is indeterminable whether the application of controversial interventions is at all a good or a bad idea. Rather, it creates better conditions and possibilities for a general qualification of the public debate regarding these matters. The thesis holds that a sensitivity towards complexity and ambiguity in popular science is essential if the public and population at large should be able to relate to and understand scientific findings and possibilities, so that political decision making is based on a democratisation resistant to the logics of mass media.

EducationsCommunication Studies, (Bachelor/Graduate Programme) Graduate
Publication date28 Jun 2016


  • Lakoff og Johnson
  • Metaforer
  • Entmann
  • Kvalitativ undersøgelse
  • Framing
  • TED Talks