Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Visual mapping timeline: an exercise in crowd-sourcing.

Dr Pascal Venier is curently a
Lecturer in French and International History at the School of Languages & Centre for European Security within the University of Salford, England.

A social media and Mind-Visual mapping professional practitioner and consultant; Pascal is a fellow Visual mapping colleague and is integral to the furtherance of this arena. Wallace Tait: Visualmapper

I was really delighted when Wallace Tait invited me to write a guest post for Visualmapper. Accepting to write a post is one thing, coming up with an idea is another one. As I had difficulties in this respect, I I decided to ask my Twitter network if anyone could suggest a good theme. One of my tweeple, @marionchapsal, a very keen mindmapper herself, suggested that, as an historian, I perhaps ought to write something about the history of visual mapping. I immediately thought this was a superb idea. On thinking about it further, I however very quickly realised that this was perhaps more tricky than I initially thought. As this was outside my real area of expertise, it would certainly take a considerable amount of background research.

In quite a typical way of how Twitter can contribute to help with the generation of ideas, I however just as quickly came up with a way to go round this problem. Firstly, I remembered reading a tweet by @pgsimoes who was drawing attention to a new web 2.0 site, Timetoast, which makes it easy to create and share timelines online. I was already familiar with the SIMILE software, which allows for the creation of web widgets for visualising temporal data, but had been hoping for a while, that such a software hosted in the cloud would become available, as I could see a real potential for it and it would be very useful for me in connection with my history teaching at the university. Secondly, in another tweet, Wallace Tait, the Visualmapper himself, had also recently pointed towards a post on Philippe Boukozba's blog about "A visual map created by Walt Disney 53 years ago". From those two tweets came the idea of preparing this timeline in a very collaborative way by conducting a little experiment in crowdsourcing.

It is necessary to start this mindmap somewhere and a couple of blog posts provide us with a starting point, namely Michael Tipper's Tony Buzan did not invent Mind Mapping! and Origins of Mindmapping software. I shall limit my own contribution to only one date, which would be Joseph Novak's Concept Map (1972).

What I would therefore like to do is to ask the readers of both the
Visualmapper and the Hypershifters to tell us, what they consider as the most significant dates in the history of visual mapping broadly defined and to provide pertinent links to accompanying illustrations and documents on the web. It would have been nice to create such a timeline on Timetoast, but it will unfortunately not be possible, as it is currently necessary to have a precise date to enter, which includes not only a year, but also a day and a month, and such data will probably not be available for some of the entries. It will therefore probably be best to present the timeline in question in the form of a mind map. The first iteration looked like this.

Visual mapping timeline 1

And the current version looks like this;

What would you suggest adding? It is possible to directly make changes to the map, using Mindmeister's wikimap function, if you already have an account or create one for this purpose. An other option is to suggest additions in the comments of this blog post.


Anonymous said...


Putting this piece of history up for crowdsourcing in a map is a good idea.

I think that if it builds up with solid references, this map has a good chance to become a regularly referred to source on mapping history, but for that it would be good to have detailed sources so that people can view and judge for themselves.

May we know where the 1968 date for Buzan came from, please? I haven't seen anything earlier than the 1970s for that myself.

Thanks for the link to my 'Origins of mind mapping software' page, btw. I have a collection of other historical mapping material that might be useful to this project here: with comments added by some who were involved in the early days of mapping.

One of the commenters was Dr.Wes Perusek, Director, OSGC(NASA) Invention Innovation Centers Project. I have ever since been trying to get more information about "Idea Sunbursting" that he wrote to me about ( see comments here: ), but he didn't reply to a couple of emails I sent.

There's a collection of interesting early (really early) visual thinking examples here

I have long beleived that the Disney map is highly significant, because it is so close to a concept map and predates the work of most modern mappers, yet is already in a highly sophisticated form of development. Its author being who it was, it seems likely that the original was even coloured.

The master list of mind mapping &
information management software

Pascal Venier said...

@VicGee Many thanks for your comments, encouragements and contribution. I have updated the mindmap accordingly.
I would really be great to find more about Wes Perusek's Idea Sunbursting.

JB Piggin said...

I'd like to suggest tidying the classical section: some key dates are available from the contents page of my history of macro-typography site:
I would say that all the examples which I set out on that page are visualizations of relationships.

The 37 diagrams of Cassidorus (
) come closest to mind maps, particularly his analysis of issues of fact and law, where you can see that he uses a pre-existing Roman law-school diagram and tacks his own note on to say that he considers one of the concepts to be wrongly linked. The protesting block of text on top of it is a kind of early post-it note:

Of the other diagrams, the Great Stemma is the oldest to have a confirmed date and is conceptually very interesting because it combines a timeline, 15 "family trees" and a unique visualization idea called the fila. I read a paper last month in Oxford demonstrating a new date for the Great Stemma, pre 427, which is much earlier than had been assumed by past scholarship.