Thursday, May 31, 2012

Life Friendly: Pascal Venier guest post

Àgata Alcañiz is a Catalan Artist whose art practice is informed by her commitment to the environment. She has been focussing since 2004 on developing her Environmental performance art project, exploring the human impact on the natural environment. My meeting with her was undeniably the result of a serendipitous effect. It so happens that I was in an online chat conversation with Fred Garnett, He of the Heutagogic Archives, 9 After 909, and many other things, when he forwarded an email invitation for an event which was to start the following day in Manchester, which involved Mind-Mapping. I immediately commented by saying that I would definitely would be attending the event, being myself very interested in Mind-Mapping, which I have practiced for years and on which I even run workshops for doctoral students at the University of Salford. It so happened that Fred was, at the same time, speaking with Àgata and told her about my interest. This is how Àgata expressed an interest in meeting up as she would welcome advice on Mind-Mapping and I went to the Chinese Arts Centre to discuss the use of Mind-Mapping in her project.

The Life Friendly Residency at the Chinese Arts Centre in Manchester, which took place from 24 April to 5 May 2012, involved a group of artists who explored the theme of How Life Friendly can the Arts Be? All this is based on the Life Friendly concept developed by Nadine Andrews from Culture Probe. In her own words,

“Life-friendly means to live and work in ways that support life - all life – to flourish, to create a world that is environmentally sustainable, socially just and spiritually fulfilling. Rather than going for the usual ‘less bad’ approach of reducing our negative impact on the world, which doesn’t solve our global problems but just ekes things out for longer, life-friendly re-frames it in the positive. It seeks to have an actively benign or restorative impact on ourselves, on other people and on the rest of the natural world: win-win-win.


The aim of the residency was to try and "grasp how the Chinese Arts Centre and artists can make their practices friendlier". In the first week, the program Àgata Alcañiz defined for herself involved exploring the Life Friendly concept, by conducting research. Firstly, this involved conducting a series of interviews with Nadine Andrews, who has developed this concept, but also asking the staff of the Chinese Arts Centre to provide their insight into what they were looking to improve, the artists involved in the residency, but also, and perhaps foremost the “centre's audience, who are also a primordial part of the centre's experience.” Such videos were screened during the residency’s first week opening and made available online.

In the second week, Àgata had been looking at how the Life Friendly concept could be developed. After listening to the interviews she had conducted in the first week, she decided to create a mind-map which would synthesize the views elicited and to which everyone would be invited to contribute during the Open Studio Days on 4-5 May 2012. The idea was for the mind-map to be exploring how to go about making the Chinese Arts Centre a friendlier space, "how to improve the well being of the staff and artists working in it and its visitors" and "how it can be friendlier with the wider environment". In keeping to her environmental commitment Àgata had decided that the mind-map which was to be drawn on a wall at the Chinese Art Centre would be only using sustainable materials such as locally sourced charcoal and once finished the mind map would be washed with water and a bio-degradable cloth.


When we initially met on 3 May, Àgata and I discussed her project and the different possibilities for creating a digital version of the collective Mind-Map which would be drawn on one of the walls of the studio. We agreed that I would be coming to assist during the two days of the open studio and would try to capture in digital form the Mind-Map as it would evolve.

I spent two days at the Chinese Arts Centre on 4 and 5 May 2012, to assist artist Àgata Alcañiz, as she worked on the mural Mind Map on the theme of How Life Friendly can the Arts Be? It was for me a most fascinating experience to spend time with artists of the collective, in particular Maya Chowdhry, Penny Skerrett, Jessica Mautner and James Brady.

Àgata started the map which progressively took shape. Members of staff at the Chinese Arts Centre, other artists, as well as visitors to the Life Friendly open studio event also contributed. In the meantime, Àgata also interacted on Twitter to try and elicit contributions beyond the walls of the studio.

The Life Friendly Residency Mind Map

It was extremely exciting to see how the map progressively came into being, as contributors' ideas started flowing on how the Chinese Arts Centre could be made to become a friendlier space, how its staff, artists and visitor could be made to feel more confortable, but also how it could become more environementaly friendly.

The Life Friendly Residency Mind Map

My role during this two days was to transcribe the nodes of the mural map in a digital format.

Life Friendly Residency Mind Map 5

During our initial conversation, Àgata and I discussed how it would be possible to create a digital version of the Mind Map. It was felt that the best option would be to allow people to contribute online to the map. However, as the logistics of such a process were difficult to set up, at what was a very short notice, we decided that it would be unpractical to create the sort of wikimap, I had for instance used in my little visual mapping timeline experiment, using MindMeister. We decided instead that the best option would be to use dynamic Mind Mapping software TheBrain.

Life Friendly Residency Map 6

A most fascinating feature of TheBrain is that it is possible to animate any map using the wander function and display it on a screen. Here is a screencast Life Friendly Residency Mind Map animation created with TheBrain.

This screencast is also available on Vimeo

Another invaluable benefit of using TheBrain has been that it was possible to upload an online version of the Mind Map, using TheBrain Cloud Services.

thebrain snapshot

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Is the mind mapping arena suffering from an identity crisis?

Is the mind mapping arena suffering from an identity crisis? 

Due to the plethora of Visual mapping products on the market; and many are simply plagiarized versions of the leading Mindjet MindManager product; what is the relevancy of this arena if all the products simply look, feel and perform with the same functions and capabilities.

Something to think about for sure. What's your thoughts? 

This is the Question I have asked at Linkedin recently and the response may be of interest to the wider visual mapping arena. For the thread, go to: 

Here's Olin Reams excellent response with a special offer for your perusal; maybe his response will motivate your input too. Feel free to join the Visualmapper group at Linkedin and add your thoughts to the discussion.

 Olin Reams First I would like to respectfully remove some of the mysticism about mindmapping products. I do this having run sales for Mindjet in the Americas and Far East for almost 5 years as Mindjet was developing and now at CS Odessa for almost 6 years as General Manager of the Americas. I would suggest that I have spoken to more customers on what they want to accomplish than any other sales and marketing professional involved in mind mapping. There might be a couple that are close, but not many.

1) There are a lot of mind mapping tools available for one’s use I stopped counting at about 60 products two years ago.

2) They all have basically the same interface, but they do not do the same thing there is a huge variance.

3) When they do the same thing they do it with varying results.

4) No one product has a superset of all the functionality that is encompassed by the range of mind mapping products.

5) There are really only 4 (maybe 5 products) that combine a good mix of features, support, years in business, and roadmaps charting customer demands. Mindjet, ConceptDraw ( I will let you fill in the rest of the blanks).

So why ConceptDraw?

1) Good history, we are on version 7, and have versions for the Mac and PC.

2) Buy the product for the PC and want to move to Mac? What is your cost? There is no cost, people who purchase our products are able to do that. Want to move from PC to Mac same thing – no cost involved.

3) Our product will open and MS Project, MS PowerPoint, and MJ MindManager files.

4) We do not tier our mind map product offerings looking to increase the price point, we just have one product. This helps customers who are trying to guess what version of a particular brand to buy. Our suggested retail price for the US is $199 (includes all minor updates, support, plus access to our ConceptDraw Solution Park).

5) ConceptDraw MINDMAP integrates with our other products ConceptDraw PROJECT ($219, project management), ConceptDraw Pro ($249, business graphics & drawing); we sell this as a bundle for ($499).

6) Our ConceptDraw Solution Park has in the last 12 months released 32 new solutions for our current generation of products at no additional charge to our customers, plus we have added additional functions to all 3 of our products at no additional charge to current customers. Our current generation of products does more for our customers then they did 12 months ago. And this is at no additional expense.

7) ConceptDraw releases functionality during the lifespan of the product, we are not on a major release schedule every 12 months to get customer upgrades. Our major upgrades occur when there is a major upgrade in overall products.

8) If you wanted to purchase MS Project (standard $599.95, MS web site, MS Visio (standard $249, MS web site), MJ MindManger (Windows $399, Mac $249 MJ web site), the list purchase price for Windows would be $1247.95. List price of CS Odessa Office (ConceptDraw MINDMAP, ConceptDraw PROJECT, & ConceptDraw PRO is $499). That is a savings of about 60% and it runs on Mac and PC.


To judge the state of the “mind mapping” market based on one or two offerings is a disservice to the market. It is like judging the technology market looking only at HP.
By the way CS Odessa is not a mind mapping company we are a productivity company.


I am the General Manager for the Americas at CS Odessa, so there is no mystery on what side my bread is buttered on.


Anyone who emails me at oreams (fill in the character) between now and June 4th, 2012 I will have our store people send you a link to purchase at $399 USD. You are responsible for tax. In the subject line put $399 and in the body put the country you are located. I will have our store people generate links and email them to you.