I’ve been playing around with different ways of visualizing my intellectual influences. Inspired by Höök and Lowgren’s diagram of intermediate level knowledge objects, I decided to create the following in order to visualize my work and its influences:
Research is an aggregate of theory, methodologies, tools, and texts, and with this visual I want to try and tease out the discrete threads. Since this is early stage work in progress my hope is that smarter folks than me will have some good feedback and critique.
Update [7.1.2017]. Well, this project is expanding into a technological artifact. There is a third dimension along which these items can be graphed. Right now I’m calling it the ‘disciplinary dimension,’ which covers the different originative disciplines of each theory methods, etc.
So, in the updated sketch, you’ll see a new axis reflecting disciplinarity, and you’ll see some new lines added to represent a three-dimensional space into which my intellectual influences (which I guess also constitute my conceptual and theoretical standpoint as a researcher) can be organized and re-organized. The goal is to create a tangible artifact to support the organization and exploration of this space:
Inspired by Phillip K. Dick’s VALIS trilogy, I’m calling this artifact a holoscope… a tangible family of thought. I highly recommend reading the whole VALIS trilogy, but, for reference, here is the way Dick describes a holoscope in The Divine Invasion:
After dinner he spent some time with the holoscope, studying Elias’s most precious possession: the bible expressed as layers at different depths within [a] hologram, each layer according to age. The total structure of Scripture formed, then, a three dimensional cosmos that could be viewed from any angle and its contents read. According to the tilt of the axis of observation, differing messages could be extracted. Thus Scripture yielded up an infinitude of knowledge that ceaselessly changed. It became a wonderous work of art, beautiful to the eye, and incredible in its pulsations of color. Throughout it red and gold pulsed, with strands of blue.
The color symbolism was not arbitrary but extended back in time to the early medieval Romanesque paintings. Red always represented the father. Blue the color of the Son. And gold, of course, that of the Holy Spirit. Green stood for the new life of the elect; violet the color of mourning; brown the color of endurance and suffering; white, the color of light; and, finally, black the color of the Powers of Darkness, of death and sin.
All these colors could be found in the hologram formed by the Bible along the temporal axis. In conjunction with sections of text, complex messages formed, permutated, re-formed. Emmanuel never tired of gazing into the hologram; for him as well as Elias it was the master hologram, surpassing all others. The Christian-Islamic Church did not approve of transmuting the Bible into a color-coded hologram, and forbade the manufacture and sale. Hence, Elias had constructed the hologram himself, without approval.
It was an open hologram. New information could be fed into it. Emmanuel wondered about that but he said nothing. He sensed a secret. Elias could not answer him, so he did not ask.
What he could do, however, was type out on the keyboard linked to the hologram a few crucial words of Scripture, whereupon the hologram would align itself from the vantage point of the citation, along its spacial axes. Thus, the entire text of the Bible would be focused in relationship to the typed out information. (pgs. 71-72)
Reference: Dick, P.K. (2011). The Divine Invasion. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Ted Nelson is another significant source of inspiration in this effort. Check out this clip of Ted discussing the core of his work:
Developing some alternate way of visualizing the relationship between intellectual influences ought also to incorporate some way of promoting critical thinking about the interplay between those influences. Perhaps prompts to develop arguments about the relationship between a given pair of influences?