At this moment no reliable procedure exists which can detect conventional metaphor in visuals. Some scholars have identified and analyzed conventional metaphors in images and movies while relying on their professional expertise and introspection, but a coherent and reliable method is still lacking. In order to offer a tentative classification of metaphor conventionality in visuals, we apply a rule of thumb procedure even though we are aware that this process still remains largely based on experts’ opinions.
Verbalizing a visual metaphor in a A-IS-B format is definitely a very difficult task for several reasons, one above all being: at which level shall I consider expressing the metaphor? Shall I take into account all the available information (including the time and setting in which the image appears)? Shall I stick to what is depicted? At which level of abstraction do source and target need to be expressed? We hereby rely on Steen’s model of metaphor, discussed in Sorm, Steen (in preparation), which distinguishes 3 dimensions of meaning: conceptualization, expression and communication. As for the communication dimension, for which Steen’s model of metaphor would distinguish a deliberate and a non-deliberate use of metaphor, we think that visual metaphors might always be deliberate, even though not always consciously produced as such. For this reason, at least for the time being, our annotation scheme takes into account only the two following dimensions: conceptualization (what do we understand?) and expression (what do you see?).
In principle, we believe that it might be possible to verbalize a visual metaphor at each of the three dimensions. The conceptualization of a visual metaphor is played on the chords of its perceived conventionality or novelty, while the expression of a metaphor is played on the chords of the perceived familiarity or creativity of the visual means that have been chosen to represent the metaphor’s domains. Moreover, also the visual realization of the metaphorical relation between the two domains is annotated on the dimension of the expression (see Forceville 1996, Phillips and McQuarrie 2004).
With VisMet 1.0 we hope to raise scientific awareness about this methodological issue. In particular, VisMetBaby’s aim is to facilitate the public sharing of comments and insights with the community of experts and non-experts that will help us produce a more reliable procedure in the future.
Before we start annotating
Before doing the annotation, take look at the information that is already available about the picture.
- Take a look at the context: when was the image published and why?
- Take a look at the style: other images of the same author
- Take a look at the author: what is his background?
Begin the annotation by just looking at the entire image, including visual and verbal elements. What/who is being depicted here, what he is doing, where he is doing it, and so on. If the denotative meaning is ambiguous and allows more than one interpretation, then give alternative descriptions. We call this the expression level of the image. This level consists of:
Ways to represent a domain of the metaphor: with or without a symbol.With Symbols – Without Symbols
This distinction identifies ‘familiar’ ways to express in the visual modality some of the mappings or one of the domains of a metaphor (through symbols and other aspects that are known to a general public), from more creative ways. We mark a visual metaphor as ‘with symbols’ when either the source, the target domain or the necessary context to understand the message identified at the expression dimension is represented through a symbol, i.e., a conventionalized visual sign that would trigger that specific concept also in absence of other contextual cues. We accounted as symbols the following elements:
- • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_symbols
• cultural icons (famous photographs, movie posters, famous paintings, fairy tale figures)
• graphs, charts, pie charts, words
• shapes of countries, flags/persons that represent countries, currency for countries
• dove for peace, cupid for love, green reaper for death, red flag for revolution
If you believe you are dealing with a symbol that should be on the list, consult the annotators to include it on the list of ‘potential symbols’. If you encounter the symbol more often or have a theoretical conviction about the symbol, it may graduate to the list of ‘official’ visual familiarity markers.
- • clock/hourglass > time
• scissors > financial cuts
• brains > mind, thought
• bills > money, economy
• labyrinth > lost
• on/off buttons > start/stop something
• shopping cart > consumer society
• bars > captivity
• safe > keeping something important/secret
• mouse/phone/tablet > modern technology
• band-aid > fixing
Representing visually an idiomatic expression, or using a verbal anchor that works as a key for understanding the image.Yes- No
We only label images as containing linguistic familiar, when an existing linguistic expression of double signification or a word is crucial for the understanding of the metaphor. Linguistic familiarity should be annotated on the expression dimension, and thus should be somehow depicted, not derived from the underlying conceptual dimension.
To annotate linguistic familiarity:
- 1. name the incongruous and most salient units in the image (ex. footsteps, sardines, head, cloud…) and search them in this dictionary of idioms: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/
If an idiom that matches the image is returned, then mark the image for familiarity (here intended as the representation of a linguistic expression).
- 2. Take a look at the word in a dictionary to see if double signification plays a role in the image.
Sometimes the images that encompass a linguistic expression are just representations of the literal meaning of that expression (mainly for artistic outcomes, for example “walking in his father’s footsteps” realized in a nice illustration), other times the linguistic expressions are exploited to convey a specific message (mainly in advertisements, for example “give a hand to wwf” and there is a zebra painted on a hand). In images, we suggest that the familiarity of certain visual expressions is given by the presence of “popular” and thus easily recognizable ways to express specific concepts (source or target domains).
Metaphors are figures of thought if they pertain concepts (and relations between concepts) that are independent from the expression in one specific modality. Therefore, conventional metaphors derived from the observation of linguistic expressions (e.g. LIFE IS JOURNEY) should be found also in visuals. We only annotate the, for the message the image want to convey, most important metaphor.
Conventional - novel
We suggest a procedure aimed at identifying the presence of conventional metaphors (i.e. conceptual metaphors listed in the literature and already identified in linguistic expressions) in images that seem to include visual metaphors. Thus, we annotated the images featuring visual metaphors either as conventional or novel (when no conceptual metaphor can be identified).
Exemplar analyses based on 4 images:
- Look at the image and detect the incongruous units (name those things that «look strange» and their «strange properties»).
- Go on Wordnet (http://wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn) and search for synonyms, hypernyms and related terms of the incongruities that you found (to cover alternative conceptualizations).
- Look at this comprehensive list of conceptual metaphors.
Search for the keywords retrieved from Wordnet and list the metaphors that contain those keywords.
- Check each conventional metaphor against the image and decide whether it applies. If at least one applies, the image is annotated for conventionality and the conventional metaphor that is found is indicated.