The Humane Representation of Thought

New representations of thought — written language, mathematical notation, information graphics, etc — have been responsible for some of the most significant leaps in the progress of civilization, by expanding humanity’s collectively-thinkable territory.

VIMEO 115154289 A Bret Victor presentation titled The Humane Representation of Thought (October 2014).

But at debilitating cost. These representations, having been invented for static media such as paper, tap into a small subset of human capabilities and neglect the rest. Knowledge work means sitting at a desk, interpreting and manipulating symbols. The human body is reduced to an eye staring at tiny rectangles and fingers on a pen or keyboard.

Like any severely unbalanced way of living, this is crippling to mind and body. But it is also enormously wasteful of the vast human potential. Human beings naturally have many powerful modes of thinking and understanding. Most are incompatible with static media. In a culture that has contorted itself around the limitations of marks on paper, these modes are undeveloped, unrecognized, or scorned.

We are now seeing the start of a dynamic medium. To a large extent, people today are using this medium merely to emulate and extend static representations from the era of paper, and to further constrain the ways in which the human body can interact with external representations of thought. But the dynamic medium offers the opportunity to deliberately invent a humane and empowering form of knowledge work. We can design dynamic representations which draw on the entire range of human capabilities — all senses, all forms of movement, all forms of understanding — instead of straining a few and atrophying the rest.

# Related

Related: The Utopian UI Architect link

Also related: Synaesthesia and embodied learning. Simone Gumtau and her colleagues at Portsmouth University have worked on creating an embodied learning environment for children on the autism spectrum. link

Also related: Montesorri's work with young children. Children between the ages of 4 and 6 use the Trinomial Cube as an introduction to algebra.

Forthcoming paper due this month - Williams, R., Gumtau, S. & Mackness, J. (Jan 2015). Synesthesia: from cross-modality to modality-free learning and knowledge. (Accepted for publication in Leonardo Journal html )

VIMEO 15387871 MEDIATE - Simone from Digimites on Vimeo

And it relates to Iain McGilchrist's work on the Divided Brain and his claim that our thinking /learning is left-hemisphere dominated and that we ignore the work of the right hemisphere (which takes a more holistic view of the world using all our senses) at our peril. See the-master-and-his-emissary

# See also

- Bret Victor Quotes References to baby-steps towards some of the concepts mentioned: Dynamic reality (physical responsiveness): - The primary work here is Hiroshi Ishii's "Radical Atoms": - but also relevant are the "Soft Robotics" projects at Harvard: - and at Otherlab: - and some of the more avant-garde corners of material science and 3D printing Dynamic conversations and presentations: - Ken Perlin's "Chalktalk" changes daily; here's a recent demo: Context-sensitive reading material: - "Explore-the-model" reading material: - - - - - Evidence-backed models: - Direct-manipulation dynamic authoring: - - - - Modes of understanding: - Jerome Bruner: - Howard Gardner: - Kieran Egan: Embodied thinking: - Edwin Hutchins: - Andy Clark: - George Lakoff: - JJ Gibson: - among others: I don't know what this is all about: - -