The things I’d love to write about are not primarily topics on which I feel I have something to say, but rather topics which confuse and fascinate me, and thus which I would like to investigate through the exercise of writing.

All tools, including clocks and computers, have both practical and metaphorical or symbolic dimensions. This is true for reasons also noted by Weizenbaum: "tools, whatever their primary practical function, are necessarily also pedagogical instruments. They are pregnant symbols in themselves. They symbolize the activities they enable, i.e., their own use. ...A tool is also a model for its own reproduction and a script for the reenactment of the skill it symbolizes." The experience of using any tool changes the user's awareness of the structure of reality and alters his or her sense of the human possibilities within it. Weizenbaum mentions the tool's effect on an individual's "imaginative reconstruction" of the world. In a technological culture, that effect extends beyond the phenomenology of individual experience to large elements of the society as a whole. In cases such as the clock or the automobile it can help create wholesale changes in culture.

Language is a prominent element in this "imaginative reconstruction." Complex tools like computers and cars evolve complex languages for talking about their functioning, their repair, and their design. Beyond the demands of practical interaction, linguistic metaphors drawn from tools and machines are extremely commonplace. One may speak of "hammering home" a point in an argument, "cutting through" bureaucratic "red tape," ''measuring" one's words, having a "magnetic" personality, "steering" someone in the right direction, an argument's being "derailed" or "on track," and so on. Tools and their uses thus form an integral part of human discourse and, through discourse, not only shape material reality directly but also mold the mental models, concepts, and theories that guide that shaping.

Tools shape discourse, but discourse also shapes tools. In fact, I will argue that tools like the computer must be considered elements of discourse, along with language and social practices. Metaphors can be not merely linguistic but experiential and material as well. This is what makes metaphors such as the computer political entities.

Paul Edwards, The Closed World