Frames, Metaphors & Politics: George Lakoff

Nathalia Ramos

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Often referred to as the “father of framing,” Professor George Lakoff is a renowned cognitive linguist whose work has contributed to a new understanding of the ways that conceptual frames and metaphors shape our social and political lives. Lakoff retired as Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley in 2016 and is currently Director of the Center for the Neural Mind & Society. He has authored dozens of books, including Metaphors we Live By with co-author Mark Johnson, Moral Politics, and most recently, Don’t Think of An Elephant! Know Your Values and Frame the Debate.  

Nathalia Ramos (Berggruen Institute) and Max Henning (USC Brain & Creativity Institute) spoke with Professor Lakoff to get his take on the strategies that both Democrats and Republicans are using to frame this election and, beyond that, how developing new frames is key to reviving civil discourse in this country and building a flourishing & sustainable future.  

*Clarification: This interview was recorded last week (Oct 20, 2020), and in the discussion the speakers are referring to the Town Hall debates which held on Oct 15 in separate locations. 

composed by Arswain
machine learning consultation by Anna Tskhovrebov
commissioned by the Berggruen Institute
premiered at the Bradbury Building
downtown Los Angeles
april 22, 2022

Human perception of what sounds “beautiful” is necessarily biased and exclusive. If we are to truly expand our hearing apparatus, and thus our notion of beauty, we must not only shed preconceived sonic associations but also invite creative participation from beings non-human and non-living. We must also begin to cede creative control away from ourselves and toward such beings by encouraging them to exercise their own standards of beauty and collaborate with each other.

Movement I: Alarm Call
‘Alarm Call’ is a long-form composition and sound collage that juxtaposes, combines, and manipulates alarm calls from various human, non-human, and non-living beings. Evolutionary biologists understand the alarm call to be an altruistic behavior between species, who, by warning others of danger, place themselves by instinct in a broader system of belonging. The piece poses the question: how might we hear better to broaden and enhance our sense of belonging in the universe? Might we behave more altruistically if we better heed the calls of – and call out to – non-human beings?

Using granular synthesis, biofeedback, and algorithmic modulation, I fold the human alarm call – the siren – into non-human alarm calls, generating novel “inter-being” sonic collaborations with increasing sophistication and complexity. 

Movement II: A.I.-Truism
A synthesizer piece co-written with an AI in the style of Vangelis’s Blade Runner score, to pay homage to the space of the Bradbury Building.

Movement III: Alarmism
A machine learning model “learns” A.I.Truism and recreates Alarm Call, generating an original fusion of the two.

Movement IV: A.I. Call
A machine learning model “learns” Alarm Call and recreates A.I.Truism, generating an original fusion of the two.