“I do spend a lot of time in the world wondering about how the things I’m seeing are … laid out. I’m often filled with a desire to see things from overhead. My problem is that often the things I want to see from overhead aren’t really visible from overhead. They’re obscured by tree cover or roofs or soil or streets; or they’re things that can’t be seen, sounds, smells, temperatures, rates. And more important than how they’re laid out is what I imagine might be behind the layout, the interconnections among things. That’s what really interests me, how all the parts of a system conspire to produce the world we experience. It’s not cause and effect, its causes and effects, their complex intermingling. I do believe there’s a spatial dimension to everything, so anything can be the subject of mapping. Even though the pattern might seem self-evident, even then it often turns out to be useful to lay it out.” – Denis Wood
With cartography as a model, any drawing can become an open framework for collecting and relating classes of information in layers. Such a drawing can continue to evolve. One can add new layers of information or expand in scope to include new spaces, times, or other dimensions. One can analyze, revise or refine relations within single class of information. One can explore the relationships between classes. If a set of dependencies between layers are understood, one can reorganize the drawing to emphasize a particular class of information and the others will reorganize accordingly. If graphic conventions are defined and agreed upon in advance of drawing, any number of collaborators can contribute.
This complex two-panel diagram of western philosophy contains just a few classes of information: (a) names in text, (b) lines of relation, (c) tones to represent schools of thought, arranged on the page in (d) time.
The information and its relations generates the drawing’s image. If new data were added, the image would evolve.
Once an image of information appears, derivative questions can be asked. Why are there periods of relative simplicity and relative complexity in this history? Is there any relationship between moments of complexity of relationships (lines) and the longevity of schools of thought (tones)? Etc…