A tale of two images: the quest to create a story-based image indexing system

Pauline Rafferty, Fawaz Albinfalah

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
307 Downloads (Pure)


– The purpose of this conceptual paper is to consider the possibility of designing a story-based image indexing system based on users’ descriptions of images. It reports a pilot study which uses users’ descriptions of two images.

– Eight interviews were undertaken to investigate storytelling in user interpretations of the images. Following this, storytelling was explored as an indexing input method. In all, 26 research subjects were asked to create stories about the images, which were then considered in relation to conventional story elements and in relation to Hidderley and Rafferty's (2005) image modality model.

– The results of the semi-structured interviews revealed that the majority of interpretations incorporated story elements related to setting, character, plot, literary devices, and themes. The 52 image stories included story elements identified in the first part of the project, and suggested that the image modality model is robust enough to deal with the “writerly” images used in this study. In addition, using storytelling as an input method encourages the use of verbs and connotative level responses.

– User indexing is generally based on paradigmatic approaches to concept analysis and interpretation in the form of tagging; the novelty of the current study is its exploration of syntagmatic approaches to user indexing in the form of storytelling. It is a pilot, proof of concept study, but it is hoped that it might stimulate further interest in syntagmatic approaches to user indexing.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)605-621
JournalJournal of Documentation
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • indexing
  • image indexing
  • image retrieval
  • semantic image retrieval
  • stories in images


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