February 2007
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Straight or curved lines?

There is a nice short film on YouTube with T. Buzan explaining Mindmaps. Once I ignored the sales pitch from the background, I was fascinated how impressively he himself argues for an organic look of mindmaps that are supposed to inspire new thoughts. The branches must not be straight because this is too rigid.

I have long been thinking about why some types of concept maps just don’t have a creative appeal (#64). Even many mind maps out there look much too rectangular, formalized, and rigid, and the option “organic” is hidden in a distant corner of the settings. Perhaps these mindmaps sometimes serve as a compromise between creative people who authored them, and some left-brained deciders to whom they are presented and who would not understand them otherwise.

Recently there was a great collection of 100 visualization methods in a periodic table. After sorting out the approx. 40% that are only usable for very special purposes and sometimes include very domain-specific methodological advice, I was surprised how many of the remaining ones were hierarchical, tree-like, cartesian, or even linear, despite everyone emphasizing networks and complexity.

The reason is probably that most of them are meant as end product to be presented to some audience rather than as think-tool and stimulation for further thoughts (at least among the 60% general purpose types). So, does the rich abundance of tools shrink to just a handful when needed for the creation stage, not many more than the rich picture and the cognitive mapping (elements “Ri” and “Cm” in the periodic table) ?

My favorite idea about visualisations is letting the “rigid” lines and the curved lines coexist (#120): elbow connectors for hierarchical relationships, and curved connectors for “see also” type and cross references. This also allows to extract the simplifyable parts of tree-like or otherwise straight and rigid structures for presentations, while retaining the complex full version for further eliciting new ideas.

5 February 2007 | Visualization | Comments

4 Responses to “Straight or curved lines?”

  1. 1 Argey 5 February 2007 @ 3:50 am

    What do you think of 3D mindmaps for creativity? I use 3D Topicscape ( http://www.topicscape.com )for producing a landscape of ideas and information and find that associations between topics are clearly seen by their placement on the ground, without the need for lines - straight or curved.

  2. 2 x28 5 February 2007 @ 2:12 pm

    Thank you for the hint which was new to me. In a certain stage of thinking, placement may indeed be more important than lines. It depends on one’s style how much to rely on connector lines and how much to prefer wide contexts over narrow contexts. I think this is correlated, ans I usually need many lines.

  3. 3 james souttar 23 February 2007 @ 8:35 pm

    Interesting! I also had some thoughts about the ‘problem’ of connecting lines in a recent piece on my blog: Lines and boxes.

  4. 4 x28 24 February 2007 @ 9:31 pm

    Thank you for the challenging example. I tried to model it in a prototype of DeepaMehta. I think it is not sufficient to switch foreground and background for connections, but to switch between their visual and their verbal representations, and to selectively reveal them from a background database into the visual context (in DeepaMehta: “What’s related”). This will mitigate the shortcomings of atomized “text drawn from a database” that you described so well in your book about encyclopedestrianization.

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