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Last edit: 05-03-17 Graham Wideman

Intelligence and Change in Enterprises

Thinking With Diagrams
Article created: 99-03-01

Assorted Pointers

Semantic Networks

There have been several groups studying Semantic Networks. I have been affiliated with the SemNet Research Group (developers of SemNet software) at San Diego State University.

Home page for SemNet software.
View some sem nets on Biology Topics

There are several other software efforts, some almost commercial, that are in similar or neighboring territory. (One day it would be useful to assemble a current list.)

Diagrammatic Reasoning

Thinking with Diagrams is a topic of research studies. Pointers:

Diagrammatic Reasoning : Cognitive and Computational Perspectives  by Janice Glasgow (Editor), N. H Ari Narayanan (Editor), B. Chandrasekaran (Editor) Paperback - 780 pages (October 1995) MIT Press; ISBN: 0262571129

"Diagrammatic reasoning refers to the understanding of concepts and ideas by the use of diagrams and imagery as opposed to linguistic or algebraic representations. This volume brings together 23 recent investigations into the cognitive, the logical, and particularly the computational characteristics of diagrammatic representations and the reasoning that can be done with them. Following a foreword by Herbert Simon and a general introduction by the editors, chapters are arranged in four individually introduced sections: historical and philosophical background; theoretical foundations; cognitive and computational models; and problem solving with diagrams."

Gateway to the Diagrammatic Reasoning Site

Thinking-With-Diagrams in Design Professions

Use of diagrams for thinking and communicating in design work of many kinds is well established, of course. Of note are the many lessons that may be learned from the drawing vocabularies and conventions that have evolved -- lessons such as:

Robert Horn's Trove of Diagrammatic Treasures

Author/professor Robert E. Horn has compiled a considerable body of ideas on this subject.  Two very approachable books cover the subject, and making extensive use of diagrams in the process.

Mapping Hypertext Lexington Press 1989 (yes, pre-WWW).  This book is perhaps the original "bible" for Information Mapping's methodology. Back-cover blurb: "The technology of hypertext offers the very real potential of helping both business and society deal productively with the information explosion. Mapping Hypertext illuminates the promise and reality of hypertext and information management, bringing hypertext together with a complementary methodology critical to its success: Information Mapping's method for highly graphical presentation, an intriguing visual simulation of hypertext. Mapping Hypertext will change forever the way people approach information organization and the hypertext revolution."

Mapping Hypertext is probably hard to find, but it is notable considering its pre-web date!

Visual Language: Global Communication for the 21st Century MacroVU Inc. 1998 (yes, almost current) "A larger synthesis in how people communicate is occurring.    A wide variety of visual and verbal representation systems is coming together." [...] "Boundaries are disintegrating between smaller sublanguages--diagramming, cartooning, advertising, graphical computer interfaces, and countless others." [...] "The primary goal of this book is to investigate the properties of visual language that make it a language..."

Robert Horn is apparently no longer associated with IM, but here's the link anyway:   Information Mapping home page

Robert Horn and  MacroVU Inc. Home Page   Of considerable interest is the foray into big diagrams for "argumentation analysis".

Other Mentions

Edward Tufte: Probably everyone interested in diagrams is familiar with Edward Tufte, but in case not...

The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, 1983
Envisioning Information, 1990
Visual Explanations, 1997

Richard Saul Wurman: The fellow behind the Yellow Pages Smart Pages, Access travel guides, and the TED conference.

Information Anxiety 1989 "Information Anxiety is produced by the ever-widening gap between what we understand and what we think we should understand. It is the black hole between data and knowledge, and it happens when information doesn't tell us what we want or need to know."

Information Architects 1996  "This is a book about explaining. Using over 100 examples of information design, the book reveals the heart of good explanation, showing that inside every one, beneath every clever application of technology and style, lies a disciplined process of logic and common sense."  Very richly illustrated.

Information Design 1999 (Wurman appears as author of the foreword?) Not yet out as of this writing, but amazon shows a table of contents that includes a chapters from a who's who of information design... including one Robert Horn... what a coincidence!

... all of these and much much more available at, of course.

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