Software for mindmapping and information organization

Visit the FREE
Visual Thinking Center

Roots of visual mapping

This is the start of a historical survey of visual mapping. It kicks off with one well-known classic example, and follows up with a very interesting map that has more recently come to my attention. I've written about origins of mind mapping before, but now I'm assembling samples. I've also mentioned elsewhere (see the comments) that I'd like to get samples of Idea Sunbursting that Dr. Perusek wrote to me about.

Digging back in the history of visual representation of ideas

Write a comment about this article

The first is the Tree of Porphyry - a form of presentation of a taxonomy that embodies a hierarchy, much as a mind map does. Porphyry of Tyre was a Greek philosopher who lived from c.233 to c.309, C.E. . This particular example is from a Philosophy course at the University of Washington.

Then there is a facinating business map from the great Walt Disney. I use the term business map with care. Although it looks very much like a concept map, I wouldn't classify it as one, because instead of showing how concepts are linked and describing the relationships, it shows how business units of The Walt Disney Company contribute to each other's activities. I wouldn't myself call it a mind map either.

Aside from its sparkling clarity of business vision, it is interesting because of its date, 1957: Before Cornell University and Novak did work on concept maps, before Buzan had turned his Mind to Mapping and even before Idea Sunbursting.

I came across this on Peter Duke's site, dukeMedia. He saw it presented by a senior Disney executive.

(Click the image for a full-sized version)

Next, my thanks to M.H.F. who commented against my "Who invented mind mapping" article that a novel published in 1931 in England included this conversation:
"Mightn't it be a good idea if everyone had to draw a map of his own mind - say, once every five years? With the chief towns marked, and the arterial roads he was constructing from one idea to another, and all the lovely and abandoned by-lanes that he never went down, because the farms they led to were all empty?"
"And arrows showing the directions he wanted to go?" Quentin asked idly.
"They'd be all over the place," Antony sighed...

Google tells me the book was Charles Williams' "The Place of the Lion". Interesting hints and use of the words, but an early example that's suggestive of visual mapping rather than being an actual example. Getting from that description to an actual practical mapping style is quite a step.

Write a comment

We have all heard, I'm sure, how Leonardo da Vinci, Winston Churchill and others used something like mind maps. I'd love to have examples to put up here. Anyone having further early examples, is welcome to send them for addition here (with acknowledgement and link back) to roygrubb [at] the above domain.

RClariana at psu dot edu 2010-04-20 22:43:30
National Public Radio - Mind mapping described in 1924

Excerpt form a letter written by Jacques Raverat to Virginia Woolf September 1924 from Vence, (Vence is in the south of France, just 10 miles north of Nice) as reported on NPR on May 23, 2004 by LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

`My dear Virginia, one of the things I find most difficult about writing is that it has to be essentially linear. I mean you can only write or read one thing at a time, and even memory doesn't alter this fact. Now that's not at all the way my mind works. When you write a word like "neopaganism," for instance, it's as if you threw a pebble into a pond. There are splashes in the outer air in every direction, and under the surface waves that follow one another into dark and forgotten corners of my past. You are not only a writer, but a printer, and you'll see how difficult it would be to represent this odd phenomenon. One could perhaps, in the middle of a large sheet of paper, write the word "neopaganism" and then radially bits of sentences like this: Shame at the absurdities of my youth. Apologies if they really annoyed you. But almost impossible to believe that you can have taken them seriously. A desire to defend it. A desire to counterattack. Etc. Etc. And all this you see simultaneously, though even so it's only what happens on the surface.'

vic at mind-mapping dot org 2010-04-20 23:39:51
Excellent, thank you. This is even closer to modern mind mapping than the Williams' example I gave in the article.

It's a good description for such an early time, and it makes me wonder if Raverat went on to put it into practice.

One of the debts that mind mappers owe to Buzan is surely that he not only made them concrete but used his great marketing skills to popularise them and spread them globally.

There's more about this here:

Vic Gee (@VicGee on Twitter)
The master list of mind mapping &
information management software
Verna Allee 2011-06-02 11:02:35
I love this early map from Disney. It is actually closer to value network mapping than mind mapping or concept maps. Here is a description of value network mapping.
   Three ways to get the most comprehensive news about mind
   mapping software:
       Blog     RSS feed     Roy on Twitter

Writing, come what may

There's only a brief mention of mindmapping here, but it's obviously important to the author. Anyway, to me it's a great article on getting moving with writing. I hope you find it so, too.

Project estimating – Mindmaps are a tool in the armory

The key to getting something useful out of this article is to read the author’s title carefully. Mind mapping simplifies the process of project estimating -- it doesn’t simplify the actual task-time estimation. Every project manger knows that the work of a project must be broken into separate and manageable units for estimating. To look at a project and think “That’s about a week’s effort” is a recipe for frustration and missed targets. Mindmaps, spider diagrams and bubble charts are excellent for the first phase of breaking a project into manageable parts. For me mindmaps, as strictly defined by Buzan’s rules, are less suitable than spider diagrams for this type of analysis, but we can assume that Dr. Mariaraj is not being too strict in his use of the term below.

Tony Buzan has defined these "rules" for Mind Mapping:

I believe these rules are well worth following if you use mindmaps for learning. They are very hard to follow completely and rigidly - and its not worth trying I have found - if you use mindmaps in adult life, in your work or projects.

Who invented mind mapping

This comes up from time to time - usually in the form of "Buzan didn't invent mind mapping".

Underlying theory of Concept Maps

Here are links to important scholarly papers by Joseph D. Novak and Alberto J. Cañas on Concept Maps, their theory and construction.