January 2013
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Linear

Mapping is not for everyone, as Jenny plausibly demonstrates. Since I myself am a big fan of mapping and of all kinds of visualization, I tend to agree with Howard (in her comment section) and believe that (almost) everyone benefits, after pushing on through the internal resistance. But Jenny is not yet convinced that the time is worth it. So, how would I try to convince her? This is an interesting challenge which forces me to think about what are MY main benefits or reasons, why am I convinced that it is worth the effort?

As a first response I think it has to do with constraints: feeling constrained by other ways of expression, and overcoming these constraints by spatial visualizations.

Why sounds “linear” thinking so deterrent to me, in contrast to “lateral” ? Because when I think of linear, I picture myself in a long depressing corridor


where many steps are mercilessly required before a subgoal is reached that allows me a next step, to the next subgoal.

Long linear forums threads are an example that often feel like this: I have to read through all of the posts to understand the hidden connections among them. More generally, language itself is linear, and as Robert Horn says, it is a funnel, and rich embodied impressions have to be squeezed into it.

The cramping contraints are also perceivable when I am forced to use a hierarchical order instead of a more liberal network arrangement, or if an obtrusive user interface urges me to connect a new topic to some existing branch of a mindmap (as even Mindmanager does, even with floating topics). This aversion does not mean that I assign many topics to more than one pigeonhole. But I need to be able to do this, otherwise I feel just this strangulating constraint. (And no, using tags instead of categories does not help, because the long chaotic list of tags will end up in a long, alphabetic, deterrent linear list again!).

30 January 2013 | Visualization | Comments

6 Responses to “Linear”

  1. 1 Jenny Mackness 31 January 2013 @ 5:53 pm

    Hi Matthias - I suppose we are all different :-) I do know that I could be more efficient in handling large amounts of information and seeing connections between them - and maybe mapping would do that for me.

    On the other hand I don’t feel constrained by a linear approach or find it depressing. The structured walk down the corridor seems like progress to me and I know that it is in my control - I can branch off at any time - but even when branching off I am still following a linear path.

    However I appreciate that it’s difficult to get a view of ‘the whole’ working in this way. But I also know from working in many different teams, that some people who can see the whole, simply can’t see the detail.

    But I know that mapping and thinking visually is your natural way of working. Can you remember what it was like when you first started? Have you ever felt any resistance to it?

  2. 2 x28 31 January 2013 @ 8:52 pm

    Thanks, Jenny, especially for bringing in the aspect of what is in our control. Sorry that I can’t remember when I first started using visualizations. But certainly I have not felt resistance then, because it was not at school, so it was “in my control”.

  3. 3 Kathleen Johnson 7 July 2013 @ 5:45 am

    Matthias:
    I too have been thinking that moving from linear to a networked configuration is probably a worthwhile thing to do. I can’t give concise reasons. I think it will be an evolution that humans will make along with internalizing systems thinking. That is why I am so excited about the Personal Brain work. And I wonder how we can teach our students to less linear in their work. The personalBrain is multihierarchical and uses the best of tags and structured vocabularies (types). I would like to know more about your tool as well See you in Howard’s class.

  4. 4 x28 10 July 2013 @ 2:04 pm

    Kathleen, thanks for your interest. I share your excitement of the Brain software, and I had not yet thought of its combination of tagsonomy and taxonomies (despite earlier interest). My tool differs from TheBrain in that it’s no extension for the cortex but for the hippocampus, see this post.

  5. 5 Kathleen Johnson 11 July 2013 @ 5:14 am

    Is your tool for pc’s as well? I imagine so. I would like to try it but after the TKT course. Information architecture has been my passion for 30 years.

  6. 6 x28 11 July 2013 @ 10:52 am

    Yes, it is platform independent (Java). I’ll look forward to you trying it!

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