Maps of the mind

I have a friend whose life revolves around mind maps. That is how she chooses to represent her thoughts and actions, and plan the ones that are still to come.

So, I thought would be nice to write a short post about them- mind maps, or just maps. Maps as spatial representations of thoughts. Orhan Pamuk writes in Istanbul: “The ottoman miniaturists have seen Istanbul not as a volume or as a scenery, but as surface, as a map (the same as the divani poets praised and loved the city not as a real space, but as a word)”. He recollects this time when what we might see as a city with its daily life, or as a tourist destination etc. was seen and represented as something different. It became part of an abstract order where things could be looked at as words/concepts, that were integrated in a larger story. Literally.

Thinking through maps or similar visual representations involves looking differently at the world, and moving differently as a consequence. It is an approach that challenges our imagination and learnt patterns as it does not see independent things, but it builds networks, relationships, it displays directions. Similar to a board game, it takes one into a journey with a trail that needs to be followed. One that can branch out in several directions, involving choices along the way. And each choice creates new routes, in an endless game limited only by its embedded pattern of ramification. In this respect, the Medieval thinkers were masters at the game, and they created some exquisite examples, from texts written with letters, in the form of animals, to genealogies and astrology manuscripts.

All this is not interesting just as a historical information, but it can provide inspiration for modelling current scientific knowledge, and for representing it as well.  And it works wonderful as, similar to optical illusions where you can have 2 different images, depending on what your focus is, with such maps you have structure and content in the same time, unfolding before your eyes. Like in the attached photo, they can take you from hipsters to goats in no time, a performance which can not be achieved in what we might call our normal way of understanding the world 🙂

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