Category Archives: Exercise: Spider diagrams

Exercise: Spider Diagrams

A4_Page_32The ‘Seaside’ – as a family we’ve been to the seaside a number of times. I generated all of the black ideas shown just out of my head. I then asked my 9-year-old daughter (who is, of course, a Seaside ‘expert’) and her responses are in Pink. My wife’s contributions are in green.

What is immediately obvious is the lack of overlap between my daughter’s and my own ideas. We  had some things in common – Beach Huts, Castles, Boats, Shells, Crabs… Other things like Fairgrounds and Arcades comes from my own personal experience of seaside resorts as an adult (mainly on tour with a ballet company and visiting out of season… they can be very grim places in the winter).

My daughter contributed a huge number of things that are specific to her own experience – “Shady posh avenues in town”. She thought of a few classics – like Ice-cream and Fish and Chips as well as her own individual items.

A Google Image Search inspired:

  • Punch and Judy
  • Cliffs
  • Promenade
  • Bikini
  • Sun cream

Overall I found the Seaside easiest – it has many clear ‘objects’ and visual references easily to hand.

A4_Page_33Childhood was harder and when my daughter added her own child’s view of childhood it became daunting because we had so few matches – there seemed to be an endless number of quite personal views of childhood.

When I did the exercise I was thinking ‘generically’ – ‘a childhood’ rather than specifically of MY childhood… BUT… when I compared the things my daughter thought of I realised that we were again both drawing on personal experience and phrasing those items in a more generalised way.

For example I wrote ‘bike’ but my actual mental image is a very specific bike: a purple raleigh ‘Budgie’ with only a front brake, the rear wheel was slightly larger than the front, the saddle was long and black, it had no gears and I rode it for years. My daughter’s bike was a ‘Little Mermaid’, it was blue-green, had two brakes, a rear rack and a front basket.

What can I say about that? My childhood contained ‘Purple’ in the form of the bike. My daughters’ contained ‘Blue-Gree’ also in the form of a bike. Is there a ‘childhood colour’? Experiences differ.

The red marks here are my brother-in-law who seems, again, to be drawing heavily on his own experience.


A4_Page_34Our own experience of anger now reveals something… this is the brain trying to look at itself – an in this case it’s difficult. ‘Angry’ is a ‘state of mind’ – it’s not easy to analyse yourself but in a different mood!

I found this very hard – trying to find words that related to angry led often ‘off topic’ to things associated with anger that don’t necessarily work in reverse – many things were the result or side-effect of anger like violent, damage, loss of control, but anger is an emotion – it is felt inside rather than being an action or an object and it was much harder to pin down the words that were really connected.

My daughter, interestingly, cam up with ‘Literacy’ because she’s learnt about the word ‘Anger’. A meta-meaning.

She also recalled a book in which one of the characters was angry… a label to describe the character.

A4_Page_35Festival was more like beach, but less familiar. Festival has a few different meanings – it could be Notting Hill or Glasto – so each of those evokes a different range of ideas. I have no experience of either of those types of Festival.


After Tutor Feedback

One of the notes I got from my tutor was about anger – she suggested that I think also about ‘how it emanates’, and gave an example “Incandescent” as being visually descriptive of the result of someone being angry. With this in mind here are some more words…

  •  Shaking
    • of fists
    • other people
    • furniture
  • [Red-faced]
    • Blood boiling
    • Tight skinned tension
  • Stormy, storming
  • Hopping
  • Bull in a china shop
  • Unfettered
  • Unbridled
  • Electrified
  • Boiling over
  • Thunderous

There seems to be a lot more ground to cover on this word. Angry is different to the other two words – Festival and Childhood are more like objects that can be described… anger is a feeling, you can’t point to it. These words are derived from the visual impression of the angry person. In this sense it is indirect – via an intermediary – but all closer to our visual experience of the world rather than only relying on our inner experience.

This reveals how powerful the ability to make a connection from visual to inner experience might be. Reacting to an image is the making of that connection by the viewer… I see a visual representation of anger and I connect with the emotion it describes. We do this all the time when reading a person’s mood by looking at their face.

123680-600x423-mad1 angermanagementforkids angry-face1 new-study-reveals-people-hate-angry-women-and-like-angry-men-1444424367

These people are angry. More words inspired from these images are

  • Accusing
  • Stern
  • Warring
  • Deadly
  • Glare
  • Fixated
  • Energised
  • Tightly wound spring
  • Harsh response
  • Harmful intent