This is a diagram features from a junior high school history textbook. It is headed ‘Mind Map or Concept Map’. A mind map, the young learners are instructed, “allows you to organizes and present your thoughts on a given topic. It is a great way to brainstorm information individually or in groups”. A concept map, on the other hand, “organizes ideas in a hierarchical branching structure using words and captions” and concepts “can be linked with phrases such as ‘results in ‘contributes to’ ‘impacts on’”
But what is this? A mind map or a concept map? Free association or hierarchical branching? The text does not disclose it.
Yes, ‘citizens’ and ‘metics’ were two kinds of ‘members of society’ in ancient Athens – but they were not equals, and they were not the only kind of ‘members’. There were also slaves, for instance.
And what do the links mean? Is jewellery ‘a kind of’ clothing? Or does clothing perhaps ‘result in’ or ‘contribute to’ jewellery? What do we make of this?
Mindmaps were an invention of advertisers in the early 1950s to assist in creative brainstorming, hierarchical branching structures a tool for rigorous, scientific classification. But here the distinction is not so clear.
In the age of Enlightenment, John Locke wrote “To express methodical and rational thoughts, a man must have words to show what connexion, restriction, distinction, opposition, emphasis &c, he gives to each respective part of his discourse”. New words were invented as a result. Words that still pepper academic discourse. Words like ‘however’, ‘notwithstanding’, and ‘consequentially’
In diagrams we have just two kinds of links, lines and arrows, to express a multitude of relations. Should we invent different arrows to signify ‘results in’, ‘impacts on’, contributes to’ and so on? Or should we enjoy the creative drift of the and the cognitive labyrinth it leads us into?