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Classification and visualization of knowledge; light from a forgotten past

This paper is based on an ongoing project to investigate how knowledge has been visualized in different times and places. Its focus is on how, over the fourth to the sixteenth centuries in Europe, literate societies used mental images to support memory in visualizing and classifying the knowledge embodied in texts, in order to make it part of their own knowledge store, to organize it for retrieval, and finally to create and communicate new knowledge.

In this paper I:

  • define information and knowledge and their visualization, and propose a model of their relationship and the processes involved;
  • identify critical stages in the interaction between humans and technologies to support these activities;
  • note close analogies between earlier practice and what would today be termed information design;
  • suggest the relevance of these ideas and practices to today’s problems of organizing and communicating knowledge, and propose some practical approaches to making use of them.
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