From Physical Pinwalls to Digital Landscapes

May 23, 2023

From Physical Pinwalls to Digital Landscapes

When we first engage in a conversation or learn a new concept, it feels as though we've mastered it. It seems as if this newfound knowledge will forever be etched in our minds, ready to be accessed whenever we need it.

However, this feeling can be fleeting. As time passes, especially when we expose ourselves to new information or emotional shifts, the initial piece of knowledge becomes increasingly elusive. It's like a book slowly sinking into the depths of a vast library in our minds, becoming harder to locate. Over time, the knowledge starts to fade, leaving behind only a psychological imprint that also gradually disappears.

Yet, when we find ourselves in a situation where we need that piece of knowledge, the pathway to it becomes crucial. If we know the route, we can retrieve and utilize that piece of knowledge.

We often underestimate how much we forget and how easily we lose track of things. There's a stark difference between passive listening and actively diagramming and extracting the main points of a piece of knowledge. By abstracting certain things and connecting them to existing knowledge contexts, we can anchor them more firmly into our consciousness.

In this article, we delve into the importance of notating knowledge and explore the use of infinite spaces like whiteboards, walls, or their digital counterparts as expansive knowledge tools.

What has always fascinated me is the power of proximity. Simply placing two things side by side can spark new ideas and connections. We are, after all, connection-making machines. Items modestly placed next to each other can trigger emotions, evoke senses, and imply meanings.

Our ability to make sense of graphic information is a testament to millions of years of evolution. The process of mapping what we see in our minds is complex and mysterious, and it's not easy to be fully conscious of the underlying mechanisms. However, we can strive to be more aware of what happens when we experiment with various forms of graphic and textual information on these large canvases.

We can effortlessly add numerous pieces of information, create a mind map, and reflect our initial thoughts. We can layer connections, ideas, assumptions, feelings, and notations to fully express ourselves. The result is a revelation. We start to see patterns and connections that weren't apparent before.

There's a certain romance to these walls. In thriller and detective movies, it's often the eccentric character who uses these walls to explore, dig, and research. But if we think about it, taking notes is a similar act. It's a way of notating. The brainstorming wall, with its rich medium, unlocks multiple ways to express ideas, breaking free from linear note-taking and helping explore connections that are normally very remote.

Another aspect of this format is its reconfigurability. Just as we can reconfigure our perspectives in our minds, we can rearrange the elements on these physical walls to change the narrative. This is similar to how we structure letters to form words. The sequence of words and the way we read them create completely different meanings.

In architecture and industrial design, placing images on physical walls is a common practice. This practice provides a rich opportunity for the reviewer and the student to present and explore the project. New non-linear narratives are also possible through this format.

FileMap was born from such a practice. I was working with an architecture company on an architectural expo competition. After several weeks of concept design, I realized that there was a massive number of digital files and folders related to various concepts. The current design team was having a hard time tracking those concepts and files, and explaining our progress to newcomers was a challenging task.

I printed a lot of paper and created a pinwall presentation, which significantly improved our process. However, I realized that printing something meant that it was frozen in time. As soon as we changed something,

the physical representation was no longer aligned with the source files. This disconnect led me to question the conventional file system and its user interface. Why couldn't we visually represent our project files and materials without breaking the link? How 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?

With an exceptional engineering team, we turned this concept into reality, creating FileMap. This tool seamlessly 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 opens up an amazing level of possibilities for visual access, versatile modification, and exploration of idea narratives while aligning perfectly with the hierarchical tree structure imposed by conventional file systems.

Our aim with FileMap is to bring the tactile qualities of working with a creative pinwall into the digital environment, freeing designers, architects, and artists from the rigid and restrictive nature of traditional file systems. However, we always return to the fundamentals, constantly exploring how the medium and our mental responses work together. We question 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.

<h3>From physical to digital: The birth of FileMap</h3>

The limitations of physical representations, such as printed graphics, inspired the creation of FileMap—a digital platform that seamlessly integrates with conventional file systems. It provides a visual representation of projects while maintaining a direct connection to the source files, enabling real-time updates and fostering a single source of truth.

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