Tag Archives: Semiotics

Ideas/Concept – Newton’s Cradle

As mentioned in an earlier post, I wished to use the image of the school plimsols hanging in the tree because it reminded me of my awkward school years as a child.  I was also surprised by how much these memories still effect how I perceive the world around me and how negative experiences can continue to haunt an individual and impact one’s  life regardless of the years that pass.

On watching the plimsolls swaying in the wind, it reminded me of a Newton’s Cradle – the shoes acted as the suspended spheres while the laces took the place of the wires.

Newton's Cradle. Photograph by Helanie Moore
Newton’s Cradle. Photograph by Helanie Moore

In terms of semiotics and visual metaphor, I felt that the Newton’s Cradle could also signify a singular, central figure surrounded by ongoing tension.

This could be applied to life experiences and in the case of the narrative I had created with the regard to the shoes, it could also relate to how a vulnerable adolescent may feel at school.

In David Chandler’s book Semiotics: the basics he highlights how the visual metaphor is used in film and advertising:

Metaphor need not be verbal.  In film, a pair of consecutive shots is metaphorical when there is an implied comparison of the two shots. For instance, a shot of an aeroplane followed by a shot of a bird flying would be metaphorical, implying that the aeroplane is (or is like) a bird.  So to would a shot of a bird landing accompanied by the sound of an airport tower and of a braking plane […] As with verbal metaphors we are left to draw our own conclusions as to the points of comparison (Chandler, 2007, p127)

There is also the idea of time passing with the continuous ticking as the spheres hit each other.  This could relate to the idea of how earlier experiences can be carried throughout life – consciously and subconsciously.  Also, as a child – I know from my own experience that time seemed to pass really slowly and it felt like I was at school forever.  However, as an adult I have noticed that it seems time passes a lot quicker – even though there is no actual slowing or quickening of time in reality.

Chandler also cites linguist George Lakoff and philosopher Mark Johnson’s principles of metaphor which I could consider in my work:

Text taken from: Chandler, D. (Semiotics: The Basics) p128
Text taken from: Chandler,  D. (2007) Semiotics: The Basics. New York: Routledge, p128

In their book Metaphors We Live By Lakoff and Johnson also discuss how one’s “conceptual system […] is fundamentally metaphorical by nature” and is not something we are necessarily aware of (Lakoff & Johnson, 1980, p3).  I found this train of thought extremely interesting in terms of how our conscious and subconscious perception works and how this relates to how one makes comparisons to things they come across on a daily basis without even realizing – much like my own experience of the plimsolls and Newton’s Cradle.


Chandler,  D. (2007) Semiotics: The Basics. New York: Routledge

Lakoff, G. & Johnson, M. (1980) Metaphors We Live By. Chicago: University of Chicago