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Gradient Blends: The Art of Discerning and Doing the Appropriate Thing

O'Doherty Jensen, Katherine (2002) Gradient Blends: The Art of Discerning and Doing the Appropriate Thing. In: Hougaard, Anders and Nordahl Lund, Steffen (Eds.) The Way We Think, Vol I. Odense Working Papers in Language and Communication, no. 23. University of Southern Denmark, pp. 245-265.

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An appropriate or ‘proper’ option in everyday life according to the folk account is a matter of knowing just how far will not be going too far, and acting in a manner that is ‘fitting’, ‘spot on’ or ‘hits the mark’. It is argued here, with reference to sociological studies of food culture and food practices, that discernments of appropriate consumption are blends, in which structure mapping regards the alignment of relations between grades of things (e.g. foods and beverages) and grades of feelings, resources, events or people as well as other beings. These meaning constructions are largely non-discursive, tend to remain implicit, and are communicated performatively and analogically by appropriate uses of consumer goods, as distinct from apt usage of language. The character of menus, meals and food preferences as constituted by ‘gradient blends’ enables us to understand both the coherence and mutability of any given food culture as well as the creativity of its construction. It would seem likely that this account might fruitfully be applied to other fields of human practice, including the production of ritual, art and non-verbal play. Meanwhile, blending theory presents a profound challenge to current sociological and anthropological accounts of consumer culture.
Note: this article is addressed to a readership of cognitive linguists, in particular researchers in the field of ‘conceptual blending theory’. The theory presented here does not address the issue of consumer preference for organic foods, but is currently being employed for this purpose (DARCOF II, Project VII.13.) For a more popular Danish language version of the argument see: K O’Doherty Jensen (2003) ‘Hvad er “rigtig” mad?

EPrint Type:Book chapter
Keywords:Consumption, consumers, 'blending' theory, food assessment
Subjects: Knowledge management > Research methodology and philosophy > Research communication and quality
Research affiliation: Denmark > DARCOF II (2000-2005) > III.8 (DISTRUSTING) Distribution channels for organic foods and consumer trust
Denmark > KU - University of Copenhagen > KU-LIFE - Faculty of Life Sciences
Deposited By: O'Doherty Jensen, Associate Professor Katherine
ID Code:1594
Deposited On:08 Oct 2003
Last Modified:12 Apr 2010 07:28
Document Language:English
Refereed:Peer-reviewed and accepted
Additional Publishing Information:This paper was originally presented at the first major international conference on 'blending theory', sometimes called 'conceptual integration theory', held at the University of Southern Denmark in August, 2002. Acceptance of papers was based on peer-reviewed abstracts, assessed by a committee of blending theorists at University of San Diego, California. The paper subsequently constituted part of a Ph.D. thesis, and is reproduced in: Katherine O'Doherty Jensen (2003): The Contribution of Cognitive Semantics to the Development of Sociological Theory of Food Culture and Food Practices. Copenhagen: Samfundslitteratur Grafik, pp. 121-138.

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