From physical pinwalls to digital landscapes

May 16, 2023

From physical pinwalls to digital landscapes: The evolution of knowledge notation

As humans, we are constantly on a quest to understand and absorb new information. When we grasp a new concept or engage in an enlightening conversation, it often feels as though we have acquired a precious nugget of knowledge. It seems as if this newfound understanding is etched into the core of our minds, ready to be summoned whenever necessary. However, this retention can prove to be ephemeral.

As time passes and we expose ourselves to fresh information or experiences, our once tangible piece of knowledge becomes progressively elusive. It feels akin to a book slowly submerging into the depths of an extensive library within our minds, becoming increasingly difficult to locate. Over time, this knowledge begins to fade, leaving behind only a psychological imprint that too gradually vanishes.

The real challenge emerges when we find ourselves in a situation where we need to recall that knowledge. The route to access it becomes crucial. If we're familiar with the path, we can retrieve and utilize this information.

This article aims to highlight the importance of notating knowledge and the use of expansive tools such as whiteboards, physical walls, or their digital counterparts as aids in this process.

The Power of Proximity

What fascinates us is the influence of proximity. Simply placing two elements side by side can ignite fresh ideas and connections. After all, humans are natural connection-making machines. Items casually placed next to each other can stir emotions, evoke senses, and suggest interpretations.

Our ability to decipher graphical information is the result of millions of years of evolution. The process of translating visual data into comprehensible knowledge is intricate and enigmatic, and being fully aware of the underlying mechanisms is no easy feat. However, by experimenting with various forms of graphic and textual information, we can strive to understand how our minds map these large canvases of data.

The Romance of Walls

In popular culture, it's usually the eccentric characters in detective movies who use these expansive canvases to explore, investigate, and study. This practice of taking notes, a form of notation, has a unique allure to it. Using a wall as a medium provides multiple avenues to express ideas, challenging the traditional linear note-taking method and making connections that are typically remote.

The Reconfigurability of Perspective

Just as we can change our perspectives, we can rearrange the elements on these physical canvases to alter the narrative. This parallels the formation of words from individual letters; the sequence in which we read them can entirely shift their meanings.

In architecture and industrial design, this practice is common. It offers a wealth of opportunities for students and reviewers to present and explore projects, creating non-linear narratives. This innovative method of organizing knowledge paved the way for the creation of FileMap.

The Birth of FileMap

While working on an architectural expo competition, I noticed the difficulty the team faced in tracking various digital files and folders and explaining our progress to newcomers. This prompted me to develop a pinwall presentation, which significantly improved our workflow. However, I realized that once printed, it was static, no longer aligned with the changing source files. This prompted me to question the conventional file system and its user interface.

We asked, "Could we visually represent our project files and materials without breaking the link? Could we create a graphical representation that offered the same tactile experience as a brainstorming pin wall while maintaining a direct connection to the file system?"

The Vision of FileMap

Our goal with FileMap was to digitize the tactile qualities of a creative pinwall, freeing designers, architects, and artists from the rigid and restrictive nature of traditional file systems. We assembled an exceptional engineering team to bring this concept to life, creating a tool that links the source project to a versatile and visual digital representation environment.

Any change in one reflects in the other, ensuring a single source of truth for the project ideas and concepts. This offers remarkable possibilities for visual access, modification, and exploration of narratives, aligning perfectly with the hierarchical tree structure of conventional file systems.

However, we are always driven by the fundamentals, constantly exploring how the medium and our mental responses interact. We are continually questioning how to push the medium forward and how we can make it resonate with the complex and beautiful landscape of the human mind and imagination.

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