A metaphoric bridge: Understanding software engineering education through literature and fine arts

Discourse Researh

This research contributes to the literature on understanding software engineering education from the perspective of liberal arts through the discussion on the pedagogic application of metaphors to convey complex concepts by drawing on the attributes of concrete known concepts (often – from different knowledge domains). Metaphors are defined and examples from everyday life and literature are used to contextualize their functionalities and possible application mechanisms. A chronology of the major theories of metaphors focusing on linguistic, cognitive and communicative aspects of contemporary discourse sets the theoretical background. To understand how metaphors can help educators, their major functions are clarified using examples from software engineering and computing. The plethora of technical metaphoric expressions is evidence of their importance in informatics and computer technology education. We describe several use cases of harnessing visual metaphors from the fine arts to teach programming and data management classes to computer science majors. These demonstrate how metaphors can be used while discussing such topics as code organization, code readability and modifiability, code aesthetics, software versions, and software project workflow. There appears to be a trend to using metaphors in the sciences and new technology domains, and given their ability to convey meaning and bridge terminology gaps, we argue this should be encouraged and further work carried out.