Scott's Workblog

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February 07, 2006

Diagrams, bricks, and other maps of the imagination

People roll their eyes whenever I walk in the direction of a whiteboard - I'm becoming quite notorious as a relentless drawer of boxes and arrows. Catherine Howell is talking educational technology diagrams and one of mine happens to come up. Actually, two of mine, the rather dour Brick Wall of JISC was one of mine originally, too. But then, that was never meant to be a diagram, more of a sort of visual list.

But I digress. Catherine makes some fine points about diagrams. I've done my fair share of formal notation over the years, and still make UML 2.0 architecture diagrams and the like, but these are never quite as expressive as idiosyncratic personal diagrams. They also leave less for the viewer to interpret - which is the whole point of formal notation of course!

One of my favourite books on this topic is You Are Here:Personal Geographies and other Maps of the Imagination, a volume on the topic of idiosyncratic mapmaking. Its got some truly stunning maps in it, but none the Ordnance Survey would approve of.

In some ways I'm sorry for doing the Wall of Bricks, but in a way its very blankness is its message; a framework doesn't tell a story, and foundations are not a home. When you bring services together and something is designed, or emerges, such as a community, a course, or a new model for knowledge sharing, then thats worth a good diagram. Though I think "deck of cards" is a better metaphor than "wall of bricks" - its all in how you make the play, after all.

Kerry and Neil's psychedelic repository diagram is something else. In its animated form its vaguely reminiscent of one of the levels in Ratchet and Clank 3 on the PS2.

I'm drawing a lot of pictures now for the PLE project at the moment; they aren't as visually pleasing as my VLE of the Future, but we'll see if the model they depict makes sense. Maybe I need to put the dragons and mermaids on the map.

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