June 14, 2004

Time Out for the Fair

Yesterday I walked half a mile down the hill to Berkeley's Live Oak Fair, so named because it takes place in Live Oak Park, a block up from Wavy Gravy's house. I go every year. It's free. And fun.

All manner of crafts are on display, from ceramics to exotic clothing to handmade jewelry to vibrant framed photos of bears, coastal fog, and mountain tops. (That's scuplture made of forks to the right.) Four aisles of booths. This being Berkeley, the shoppers wore Birkenstocks, dashikis, face paint, Free Tibet t-shirts, mu-mu's, peace symbols, tie-dye, and other proto-hippy accoutrements.

On the other side of the creek, a four-piece combo played wonderful music while people noshed on smoked salmon caesar salad, pesto pizza, and Polish sausages. Kids splashed around in the creek itself. (The creek comes above ground a block upstream and disappears back underground at the perimeter of the park. Environmental activists are "daylighting" Berkeley's five major creeks.)

Finding Tom Killion and his woodcut prints of Hawaii and the California coast was a treat. I first admired Tom's work in a beautiful book, The High Sierra of California.

From Tom's http://www.tomkillion.com:

"Tom Killion describes his technique, tongue-in-cheek, as "faux ukiyo-ë" to emphasize his aesthetic debt to the landscape prints of early 19th century Japan, but also to acknowledge his embrace of early 20th century European / American wood-engraving and book illustration techniques and styles as well. Among his influences are both the Japanese ukiyo-ë landscape masters Hokusai and Hiroshige, but also European and American wood-engravers such as Eric Gill and Rockwell Kent. Killion carves his images into cherry, all-shina plywood, Amsterdam linoleum and other block materials using Japanese handtools. He prints his often elaborate, multi-colored images on handmade Japanese kozo papers using oil-based inks and a German hand-cranked proofing press."




At the booth, Tom had a set of proofs showing each stage of the making of the print you can see over his left shoulder in the photo. I took a photo of each proof, thinking they'd make a nifty animation. Unfortunately, I'd need to use a camera stand to do this right. The results (caution: large files) are in the Comments section below.


Click to see the animation


The Proofs

and of course:
Posted by Jay Cross at 04:29 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 11, 2004

Cognitive Mapping

Bob Horn, inventor of Information Mapping, visualized and described hypertext long before the Web was invented. His "maps" of connections and thoughts explain concepts better than any 10,000 words, often nearly instantaneously.

Many a workshop or conference on strategy or a reorganization or a new product launch could be replaced by a good cognitive map and a discussion. I imagine the lessons would stick better, too. Workshops try to fancify and retell what's going on. PowerPoint reductionism. Cognitive maps, by contrast, attempt to diagram the real thing.

Three years ago, Bob Horn, Jim Spohrer, and a bunch of other polymath geniuses got together under the auspices of the NSF to discuss the convergence of cognition, biology, nanotech, and information technology. The common thread of Nano-Bio-Cogno-Info? It's all code. This is better than science fiction.

I had the good fortune of chatting at length with Bob right after he returned from the NSF session several years ago. The event was a catalyst for his thinking deeper about unravelling the Human Cognome. Cognome? You got your genome and your bionome. Why not?

Today I was delighted to see where Bob has taken this. Here's his preliminary cognitive map of for researching the Human Cognome itself.

A small chunk:

Bob suggests these major themes for study of the Human Cognome.

  • Cognitive prostheses for human limitations.
  • Reduce fragmentation of social-psychological disciplines.
  • Visual language to manage complexity.
  • Understanding each other's worldviews.
  • Sequencing the Human Cognome.

Posted by Jay Cross at 06:34 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 10, 2004

Art Break

The world would be a more attractive place if every company devoted a moment at least once a month to art and humor.

Posted by Jay Cross at 08:58 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 12, 2004



Newsmap reflects what's on the Google News Aggregator. Just go there and browse around. You can choose the news from the US, UK, India, France, Germany, etc. You can pick World News, National, Tech, Business, etc. As you glide over the mosaic, the headlines appear as pop-ups.

It's fun to check out different culture's take on events, say comparing Italian health coverage to New Zealand's, or Indian's viewpoint of tech and the US's.

Imagine this technology coupled to Technorati and RSS. A new way to avoid info glut: "I only read the morning color bars."

Check the references if you're into the sort of thing. Ben Shneiderman's recemt;u updated Treemaps for space-constrained visualization of hierarchies is a great read.

From a pointer by Peter Merholz

Posted by Jay Cross at 11:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 21, 2004


Posted by Jay Cross at 10:11 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Still speechless

Yesterday's itinerary: Fredericton, Boston, Atlanta, Oakland.

Canadian peacekeepers leaving Fredericton for Haiti.

It may not look like it, but this is Canadian bacon.

The pub as community networking center.

Chinese scallop scavengers. Or maybe they're eLearning guys.

The Saturday morning market in Fredericton. Local producers, fresh goods, community gathering point. I bought cheese for the flight with Delta, which now considers food an extra-charge add-on.

Stunning views of the Maine coast.

A passenger with time on his hands.

Provisions from Legal Seafoods at the Delta terminal in Boston.

Steamers are not served in California.

"I'll have clams to start and then some clams for lunch."

On the way back, sleep deprivation kicked in and I drew pages of models and insight that I hope looks as cool in a few minutes as it seemed at the time.

Einstein said "There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle."

I find it miraculous to depart from a town in Atlantic Canada in the early afternoon...

The St. John's River at Fredericton.

...and to awaken in Berkeley, California, the next morning.

Redwoods and maple in the backyard on Poppy Lane in Berkeley.

View south from my living room.

Posted by Jay Cross at 09:28 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 09, 2004

3D, the New Ransome Note?

When laser printers first came out, many people began turning out memos that used as many font faces and sizes as possible. These garish "ransome notes" obscured the message they were trying to communicate. Let's hope history doesn't repeat itself now that it's drop-dead simple to create 3D headlines like these:

Here, try it yourself:

The complete package, which also does 3d objects, buttons, and vector graphics, costs $45. Here's more information.

Advice to would-be designers: Don't put too much chrome on the car.

Posted by Jay Cross at 08:03 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 08, 2004

Concept Map

Very cool, a concept map about concept maps. Click for full size image.

Posted by Jay Cross at 01:32 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 20, 2004

Edinburgh Sites

Sunshine in Edinburgh. This is the castle.

The last resting place of David Hume.

On the facade of St. Giles

Along the Royal Mile

These were all over

Bill's favorite pub

Posted by Jay Cross at 09:37 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 03, 2003

Mr. Picassohead

Years ago, Electronic Arts brought out a game called Pinball Construction Set. This was pre-Windows, and great visual experiences were rare. I spent countless hours dragging bumpers and rails to create my own personal pinball games. I'd play a while, then modify the game. It was a wonderful metaphor. Make-your-own-game. And then make it better.

Ruder Finn has just released a Picasso Construction Set called Mr. Picassohead, and it is great fun. Perhaps even better than Pinball Construction Set. A Flash ap, it's free and the learning curve is about five seconds. You simply must try this.

Here's my first Picassohead:

I bet I could develop a Technical Proposal Construction Set if I wanted to.

Thanks to Stephen Downes for the pointer.

Posted by Jay Cross at 12:26 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 09, 2003

Surfing Safari


These were sparked from reading today's New York Times.


Lamborghini's site is a quirky work of art. Absolutely beautiful. Great history. Fun to play in. Yet I could find no way to buy a car. (Not that I have a spare $160,000 for the cheap one.) More screen shots in the continuation.

Ducati lets you listen to the scream of its superbikes. I like the way they provide small pop-up windows with details like this. Unfortunately, I have to switch browsers to see them since my default browsers, Opera and Mozilla, shut out pop-ups.

This is Italian art. Why can't everything be this much fun?

Posted by Jay Cross at 01:25 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

October 02, 2003

Nissa la bella

Photos from Nice

Nothing like a trip to a new land to recharge the batteries!

Posted by Jay Cross at 02:00 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

September 01, 2003

Leonardo's Laptop

I’m reading Leonardo’s Laptop by Ben Shneiderman. Ben was a fellow keynoter at the I-KNOW Conference in Graz earlier this year.

The big message is “Computing today is about what computers can do; the new computing will be about what people can do.”

Leonardo da Vinci excelled in science and art, as he detailed in the notebooks he always carried. Today he’d carry a tablet computer of some sort. The book looks at computing in learning, business, healthcare, and government, always asking What would Leonardo do?

The old computing was about mastering technology. Remember when people talked about how big their hard drives were or the clock speed of their processor chips? The new computing is about getting people together. We’ve gone from formulating database queries to participating in communities of practice. Teachers no longer teach; they guide. Sales people don’t sell; they form relationships. Shneiderman says “This Copernican shift is bringing concerns about users from the periphery to the center. The emerging focus is on what users want to do in their lives.”

I agree that “The new computing is about collaboration and empowerment—individually, organizationally, and societally,” but it’s also the way the world is starting to work. The computing is a reflection of the users rather than some new invention.

Great line: “The shift in attention is from AI to UI.” From artificial intelligence to user interface. The UI is “you” and “I.” The desired outcome is not a HAL 9000 that replaces man; it’s more like the old Outer Limits punchline: “To serve man.”

Shneiderman posits a universal creative process:


Then he sets up four tiers of relationships

SelfFamily and friendsColleaguesCitizens

He puts these into a grid: an activites and relationships table (ART). Seeing how the cells play out in learning, business, government, and medicine fill most of the rest of the text.

Family and friends

“Memorizing dates for Napolenon’s rule, names of the U.S. presidents, or rivers of Africa is less relevant in an age of ubiguqitous information. The new education accenturates critical thinking, analytical strategies, and working with people. This goals are tied to improving communication skills and creative problem solving.”

“The case for active learning was boldly stated in 1971 by the Canadian educator Wilard Wees in his aptly titled book Nobody Can Teach Anybody Anything:
bq.Whatever knowledge children gain they creat themselves;
whatever character they develop they create themselves.

“I’ve come to see that the sound of learning is not my voice lecturing but the buzz of team discussions during a collaborative exercise.”

“Asking a good question is one of the golden keys to learning. Educational psychologists talk about meta-cognitive skills: the capacity of students to reflect on what they know and what they don’t know.”

The old business was about making a profit; the new business is about making a profit.

Posted by Jay Cross at 10:29 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 11, 2003

Scott McCloud

Lots of people talk about getting out of the box. Cartoon philosopher Scott McCloud does it. He breaks free of the rigid format of comic books in wonderful ways. I was just rereading part of I Can't Stop Thinking. Great stuff. Freeform comics free the mind.

Posted by Jay Cross at 09:07 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 06, 2003


This morning Marc Rosenberg sent an email suggesting I take a gander at something called Star Tree from Inxight. Less than an hour ago I started playing with it (a free download) and I am hooked. Star Tree produces maps like this one:

I’ve loved these morphing tree displays since I frist saw the Plumb Design Visual Thesaurus.

Inxight Star Tree Studio lets you roll your own. Check out this Internet Time Group site map. Is that cool or what?

Posted by Jay Cross at 01:05 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 14, 2003

Blogger Party

The Blogger Party
26Mix, San Francisco

May 13, 2004


Give me a half dozen mojitos, por favor


Jason, his wife Allison, and the back of some woman's head.

Unflattering portrait of Rebecca Blood. (Sorry, Rebecca.)

Peter Merholz.

Anil Dash

She told me her husband made it for her.

Posted by Jay Cross at 02:09 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 27, 2003

Paris in the Spring

Paris in the
the Spring

Yesterday a fellow who has been in the language training business here for 25 years told me of a new prospect who was delighted to hear him say, “We don’t do eLearning.”

French companies are required to put aside 1.5% of salaries for training. Not a bad idea for the States to follow.

A conversation about networked training for professionals switched from English to French. It seemed odd to be chatting about formation (training en Francais.) My French is spotty but I understood exactly what was meant by regurgitation.

Posted by Jay Cross at 02:01 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 06, 2003

Sight Mammals

The February issue of T+D magazine arrived in the mail this afternoon. I have to admit that I beamed with pride on finding this first in the list of features:

    Sight Mammals
    By Jay Cross
    People learn from words and pictures as well as--or better than--from just words. Here's how to create drawings, graphics, or other visuals to enhance your own or your audiences's absorption of information.

Executive Summary / Free PDF

You see*, I believe that over-reliance on the alphabet impedes our understanding of how things work, and that favoring graphics over text can make the world a better place to live. Words are just words. Visuals are often a better approximation of reality.

"This is not a pipe." (It's a picture of a pipe.)

Of course, you've heard my rant on this if you've visited the Center for Visual Learning here at Internet Time.

A year ago, the topic of visual learning grabbed me by the shoulders and shook me to the core. Having proposed visual learning as the focus of the April 2002 meeting of the eLearning Forum, I set out to get my arms around the subject.

Sherrin Bennett, who had recorded, or rather interpreted visually, our eLearning Forum sessions for the previous year, helped me understand the potential of the field. When I met David Sibbet, founder of The Grove Consultants and more or less the inventor of group graphics, Sherrin coincidentally was in the next room. David is an inspiration -- I'd appreciated his work before but hadn't recognized it as his.

Word of the eLearning Forum session led to meetings with Bob Horn, inventor of Information Mapping and author of Visual Language. Among other things, Bob conceptualized how the web would work before Tim Berners-Lee got his first job. Wow! Yet another luminary.

To round out the eLearning Forum event, Dave Gray, the founder of Xplanations (you've seen their work in Business 2.0 and other places), flew in from St. Louis and linked graphic presentation to business performance.

A few days before the eLearning Forum meeting, I wanted to document all the things I'd been learning. ("Can you see what I see?") I wrote a piece called Envisioning eLearning.

eLearning Magazine liked the first half of what I'd written, and it become the Guest Editorial in the November issue. T+D was more interested in the meta-skills and broader implications; Sight Mammals is drawn from the second half of my original story. By the way, I didn't dream up the title Sight Mammals, T+D did, but I love it!

    Executive Summary: Sight Mammals

    Humans are sight mammals, proposes e-learning guru Jay Cross. They learn almost twice as well from images and words as from words alone. Visuals engage both hemispheres of the human brain. Pictures translate across cultures, education levels, and age groups. Yet, most content of corporate learning is text. Schools spend years teaching how to read but only hours on visual literacy. It’s high time for us to open our eyes to the possibilities, Cross asserts.

    Visual literacy—whether on paper or electronic—accelerates learning because the richness of the whole picture can be taken in at a glance. Visual metaphors unleash new ideas and spark innovation. Having a sharper eye increases the depth of one’s perception. Rather than walk you through the nuances of color, tone, texture, proportion, and so forth, Cross shares several ways that visuals have contributed to his own learning.

    People can create pictures as well as look at them. Cross often draws mind maps to brainstorm on his own and to clarify his thinking. He also assembles simple pictures to convey concepts, using PaintShop Pro. The article shows approaches to using visuals that you can adapt.

Double entendre intended.

Posted by Jay Cross at 07:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 03, 2003

Powers of 10

For a wonderful visual treat, you must look at this Powers of 10 exhibit. This Flash piece expands on the famous film by Charles and Ray Eames from fifty years ago.

This is a small slice of the Molecular Expressions gallery of micro-photographs.

Posted by Jay Cross at 01:11 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 30, 2002

See what I mean?

The current issue of eLearning magazine concludes with a guest editorial by yours truly entitled See What I Mean? Click "More" to see it. Caution: it's 211K.

Posted by Jay Cross at 09:06 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 10, 2002

Global culture

Last month at TechLearn I pinned this button to the strap of my over-the-shoulder bag in jest. "Content Wanted" struck me as an epistemological joke. It makes the assumption "Other things being equal," but in reality, other things never are. Content can no more exist apart from context than forest from trees. Content and context are not a dichotomy; they are inseparable. Wanting content is like wanting temperature without the weather, taste without the food, or vision without the viewer.

Mind | Matter
Form | Substance
Content | Context
Subject | Background

Trying to separate the inseparable is, I think, a peculiarly Western idea, often attributed to Rene Descartes, who broke apart cogito from sum.

My recent foray in Europe, especially my participation in a panel on the cross-cultural aspects of learning, got me thinking about how Western we are making most eLearning. Separating style and substance is the rallying point of the standards movement, as if one could create and infinite number of forests by simply reshuffling the trees. (Meta-tag that timber!)

My gut tells me there are more powerful ways of thinking about this but they elude me at the moment. Join me, if you will, in a contemplative exercise. Check out these award-winning Persian blogs. Unless you read Farsi, you won't be distracted by the words.

Posted by Jay Cross at 05:54 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 09, 2002


Posted by Jay Cross at 02:30 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 20, 2002

Sight without eyes

Wired magazine has lost the zest it purveyed in the early days but it still comes up with some zingers.

"The brain doesn't care where visual input comes from. So why not see with a camera jacked into your tongue?" asks Michael Abrams in the December issue.

The fact is, visual information doesn't have to go through the eyes to get to the brain. Our sense organs are mere input devices--wet USB ports. The basic premise, known as plasticity, is that the brain can adapt to new data channels by rewiring itself. It's a short step from there to sensory augmentation and substitution. New devices are extending pilots' perception of space, giving rudimentary sight to the blind, restoring balance to people whose vestibular systems have failed, even enabling orgasms. "A nerve spike is a nerve spike," says Paul Bach-y-Rita, professor.... "The brain doesn't give a damn where the information is coming from."

Now if you've ever wondered about reality beyond the visible spectrum, seeing with your elbow can really get you twisted.

Why not crank up the brain implants to take in radio waves? Use your head as a phone? See in the dark?

Furthermore, can you trust your eyes? Photographs are now a form of fiction. How about what you see when you peer at your dog? It's confusing world. All bits.

Posted by Jay Cross at 04:46 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 06, 2002

A new kind of software

Stephen Wolfram's A New Kind of Science is a mind-blowing book. Not that I've read it -- I'm perhaps 50 pages in, a mere grain in the sandbox of this monster tome. But already I've been overwhelmed as Wolfram explains that every scientist before him has gotten it all wrong, and his notions will revolutionize not only physics and chemistry, but economics, sociology, and psychology, too. (My marginal note to myself: Cojones.)

In a nutshell, Wolfram's thesis is that nature can't be described by a bunch of equations. In the real world, processes interact -- and each come away changed. Algorithms make a better worldmeme. Wolfram posits that just about anything can be explained by the interaction of a few simple programs.

If that's all there were to it, Wolfram might have a shot at surpassing Hawking's Brief History of Time for the least read popular book ever published. But today on Wolfram's web site, I happened upon The New Science Explorer.

The Explorer is software that lets you perform Wolfram's experiments as you read along. Wow! For $65, you can follow the original research. I ordered a copy immediately. Maybe when I retire to a desert island, I'll have time to work my way through all of Wolfram's work. This is the way science should be learned!

Posted by Jay Cross at 04:57 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 04, 2002

Visual Thesaurus Update

Navigation has been improved on Plumb Design's Visual Thesaurus. It's worth a visit. You put in a word, e.g. "learning." Here's a snapshot of what you see:

I love tracking a word in this environment -- or even letting it go off on its own, linking one word to the next.

Posted by Jay Cross at 08:46 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 02, 2002

The Airline Trail

Stan Malcolm has been photographing the Air Line Trail, a railroad straight as an arrow from Boston to New York. The right-of-way is now a beautiful state park. Stan's album of photos over the course of a year is inspiring. Go ahead, take a look. And then settle back for thirty minutes of bliss as you click through the collection.

Posted by Jay Cross at 10:48 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 01, 2002



Grokker builds precise and detailed knowledge maps containing visual cues and relationships between the data. The map itself contains powerful metadata that vividly describes the “nature” of the data collection. The Grokker product enables map generation and the ability to collaborate, extend, edit, delete, save, and share any attribute or subset of the map

Posted by Jay Cross at 08:34 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 17, 2002


InfoRomanticism on the Internet
Romantic sensibility in the design of online content

To stimulate the visualization of potential answers, apply the art of drawing. This takes the form of hard sketches. Other synonyms include models, diagrams, renderings, thumbnails, storyboards, flat prototypes, studies, and "wireframes" (a term that I recently picked up). The benefit of drawing is to quickly provide a relative map of elements, text and graphics, in a playful format to expedite exploration of ideas. Drawing promotes an organic growth of concepts. Toggling between risk-taking and discovery-making is inherent here. Such a conceptual evolution provides an engaging platform to determine distinction and relevance of a variety of approaches. This, in turn, streamlines a concept's approval and translation into code.

Posted by Jay Cross at 06:48 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 14, 2002


This evening I read Bill Horton's Illustrating Computer Documentation, the Art of Presenting Information Graphically, On Paper and Online. (1991)

What a practical book! Now out of print, you can buy an electronic copy for $20 from Bill's website. Such a deal.

Most animals are color-blind. Only human beings, a few other primates, day-active birds, reptiles, fish, mollusks, and bees see in color. Frogs, salamanders, dogs, cats, horses, and sheep are all color-blind. Color helps us deal with a complex, ever changing environment rapidly and surely.

Bill goes on to give lots of information about color, some of it, ah, eye-opening. What freaks me out is how little use of color one finds in books, cases, "white" papers, and so forth.

The next chapter, Enriching Graphics, describes such things as how to number graphics and captions. Captions! Authors will spend hours getting the words just right or diddling over a comma, but dash off captions as if they were a useless bother. I have news: People read subheads, then captions, and then, if they're still on board, the body copy.

Captions are some of the most important words an author can write.

Pictures are more powerful than text. When a page contains graphics, they are noticed first, studied longer, and returned to more often than text. Labels, annotations, and captions to graphics are read more often than body text or headings. Yet most page designs used in computer documentation and other technical documents treat graphics as secondary and even as an unwelcome violation of the pure design of the page.

Fortunately, ...enlightened writers and graphic designers now realize that their job is not to put words on paper or to make pretty pictures but to communicate. They are taking steps to put text and pictures together into effective pages."

So many reminders. Page design. Cultural nuances. Symbol libraries. On and on. Illustrating Computer Documentation is chock full of rules of thumb and practical advice.

Posted by Jay Cross at 12:55 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 11, 2002

Engineer's UI

Posted by Jay Cross at 06:20 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 04, 2002

New Definition of Literacy?

Stephen's Web features an article today entitled The New Literacy.

Academics are wringing their hands over the decline in student literacy. Professors lament that their charges can't write a sentence, follow the rules of grammar, or read a complex passage. Last year researchers found that most of the students on the campus of a California State University lacked the skills to read the textbooks in their heavy backpacks.

Perhaps the current crop of students fill in for reading with other forms of literacy. They are "polyfocal."

That is, very rarely do they direct their attention in a focal, concentrated way to any single text or medium. When they watch television, they also listen to music and read or carry on conversations; traveling on the bus or Mass Transit Railway they read and listen to music-most commonly they 'read' while chatting, watching television and listening to music on CD." Observe a teenager, and you'll see what we're talking about.

Stephen Downes says,

It seems to me that for an information age student the most definiing characteristic of written text is that it is slow. Not quite as slow as listening to voice mail messages, but when compared to the rapid-fire pace of information transfer most of us are used to, it is achingly slow. The words struggle to pass from one to the next, a disappointingly linear presentation of what would more usefuly be a multi-streamed layering and threading of information, context and content. Today's students see no reason to wait. If there is a lull in the information stream coming from one direction, they quickly shift focus to another.

Stephen purports that

What the critics of new media are missing is what may be called hyper-grammar. Textual language is bound by rules of syntax and semantics, with reference and meaning tightly constrainted by systems of representation. It is not a thought, in text, if it cannot be articulated without a subject and a predicate. It is not related to another thought, in text, if it cannot be logically conjoined. Waves of meaning are washed aside when the experience is rendered into words. That experience, so quaintly called "filling in the gaps with your imagination" by the literati, is lamented by the older generation when it is lost. And frustrating for the young, who would like to know what the author really meant with just that turn of a phrase.

Today's reader works with a much wider grammar. Even such simply typographic conventions, such as the use of italics, bold and capitals, can add new meaning to a text. The addition of symbols, such as smileys, convey emotion or sentiment. The breaking of linguistic rules - like this - can add urgency or clarity. The dropping of nouns, verbs or pronouns can express coreference (essentially, placing two separate thoughts into a single context). True, the haste with which people type online can result in a myriad of interesting typos and other errors - but then the error rate in a message also designates its degree of formality (conversely - to remove the errors reduces all text to the same sterile state of formality).

Perhaps taking in many short bursts of information in parallel is superior to the text-only communication we are accustomed to. Stephen concludes, "The new literacy may not be an even greater grasp of the fine points of language, but rather, a capacity to move beyond the limits of text and to manipulate experience directly."

Robert Horn tells the story of a medical student at Stanford who whizzes through medical texts, taking in their messages by reading only the pictures.

There's not so much wrong with having a short attention span for a person who can grok deep meaning in tiny bursts of time.

Posted by Jay Cross at 01:55 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 27, 2002

OLL Nielsen & Flanders

On Wednesday morning, I dragged myself out of bed to listen to Vince Flanders and Jakob Nielsen critique webpages in what was falsely billed as "USABILITY WRESTLEMANIA."

Vince is author of Web Pages That Suck and a very funny fellow. (When Gloria met Vince and said, “Hi!”, Vince replied “Not since 1970.”) Jakob is a useability guru whose own site is visually dull because he refuses to use graphics.

Jakob and Vince gave two-minute reviews of websites. Live. We start with the California Department of Motor Vehicles. Confusing. Activities and information buttons intermingled.

U.S. Airways. Let’s make a reservation. Unlike the DMV, you can tell where you are. Reservation is up front while most people would want to do research first. Which Hartford airport? The page would not work for the visually impaired, because the “Continue” button would have dropped off the right side of the screen. One of the Hartford choices is a private airport that U.S. Air does not fly to.

What are the three worst things designers do? Vince:

    1. You gotta know your target audience. You should be able to figure out what someone is doing within four seconds. The Suttleworth site addresses the needs of the designer, not the reader.
    2. Inappropriate use of technology. See webpagesthatsuck.com.
    3. Poor navigation.

Vince’s best things people do.

    1. Target audience. You’re all going to die! Buy life insurance.
    2. International Herald Trib site. Select font size, one or three columns. An amazing tour de force. (Glish.com enables you to change font face.)
    3. appropriate tech. slide a frog.

Jakob pointed out these web sins:

    1. No prices. Not providing information people need to know.
    2. Big blocks of text.
    3. Inflexible search. Needs prioritization.

Jakob’s “what people do well”

    1. Search boxes are more prevalent
    2. Fewer gratuitous, bandwidth-hogging images
    3. Real-time update inventories, “Only two copies left”

Too bad Vince and Jakob wouldn't wrestle or even argue. (Their websites praise one another.) Vince at least showed up with garish wrestling garb. I had hoped they'd dig into some eLearning pages, but I guess that's a bit much to hope for when the vendors in the Expo are footing part of the bill. Can't bite the hand that feeds and all that.

Related links on web design

Design Not Found

Bad Designs

Interface Hall of Shame

Usable Web

Posted by Jay Cross at 09:14 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 14, 2002

Seeing what works

Last night I read an article by Ruth Clark in The eLearning Developer's Journal that clarified several things my gut had told me were important to design. Read it yourself, but just to tantalize you, I'll summarize part of her Six Principles of Effective e-Learning: What Works and Why.

Over the past decade, Richard Meyer and colleagues at U.C. Santa Barbara have measured the effectiveness of text, graphics, and sound in multimedia learning. He found that:

  • A combination of text and relevant graphic improves learning 89% over text-only.
  • Animation with narration (sound) was 80% more effective than animation with written captions. Caution: using both sound and a written caption overloads the senses and degrades learning performance.
  • Too much is too much. Superfluous graphics cut learning rates in half. Similarly, students learned 69% better with lessons that were light on text than on full-bodied versions.
  • Treat the learner as a human being, using you and I, informality, and a human-life avatar or guide, and learning increases.

    Posted by Jay Cross at 03:44 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 09, 2002

CA Award Winner

Color, Contrast & Dimension. A beautiful site and Communications Arts award-winner.

Posted by Jay Cross at 12:55 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 04, 2002

Empowering the visual sense

Here's a simple little application that opens the mind to the possibilities in the near-term future. The application is called Small Blueprinter.

You slap together a diagram of a building in seconds. (Hey, this is only windows and doors.)

Push a button for an isometic view:

Push again for a walkthrough. This is the view from my front door at sunset.

I only stumbled across this fifteen minutes ago. It's a mind-strecher, no?

Posted by Jay Cross at 09:20 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 26, 2002

I'm developing a resource section

I'm developing a resource section on visualization. My opening is:

envision. 1. To know in advance: anticipate, divine, foreknow, foresee, see. See FORESIGHT, SEE. 2. To form mental images of: conceive, envisage, fancy, fantasize, image, imagine, picture, see, think, vision, visualize.

Roget’s II: The New Thesaurus, Third Edition. 1995

envisioning. 1. Seeing from a fresh perspective. 2. Looking at relationships and non-linear sequences. 3. Imagining and prototyping new ideas. 4. Focusing and documenting the flow of group discussion. 5. Shortening the time it takes learners to say, "Now I see." 6. What visionaries do.

Internet Time Group, 2002

Posted by Jay Cross at 08:29 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 20, 2002

from Lockergnome this morning: Zone-Tour

from Lockergnome this morning:


    Photography is another love of mine (surpassed only by my love of computers). Maybe it isn't photography itself that catches my interest, but maybe it is more the possibility of stepping outside of the norm and seeing things that most other people don't see. This web site, zone-tour.com, is the essence of what I am talking about. Its developers call it an urban exploration to show you a world otherwise hidden and out of mind. Most people don't think of the world that exists beneath their feet or on the roof of their building... but these people do! They spend their time taking pictures and videos of these out-of-the-way of places to show the rest of us who have never thought about them. Check out the pictures of an old German bunker in France, or look through the pictures of the Stanton Sub Station in New York. All the photos on this web site are beautifully taken and you can even do a search on the web site by country to see if there are any "hidden worlds" near you.
Posted by Jay Cross at 09:47 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 31, 2002

Australia's Living Heritage, Arts of

Australia's Living Heritage, Arts of the Dreaming
Jennifer Isaacs, JB Books

I read this picture book/essay while on vacation in Australia. It describes Aboriginal art from baskets to rock carvings to bark painting to body painting to decorated weapons to sculpture.

"All Aboriginal art is symbolic; much of it is geometric of non-figurative." In fact, it's quite a surprise that the art of the oldest continuous culture in the world (40,000 - 60,000 years old) expresses itself in a form that could be mistaken for "modern" abstract art. Lots of circlues and dots and wavy lines, generally recounting one's personal creation myth and ancestor stories.

Western eyes often miss the frame of Aboriginal art, for it often incorporates found objects from nature. A pile of rocks two blocks down the road from a painted boulder may represent the eggs of an emu.

We tend to look primarily for images that we recognize and that relate to our own perceptions of the world, perhaps ignoring the importance of other evidence relating to another world view. The existence of so many tracks, circles and other marks at most of the rock engraving sites highlights an aspect of Aboriginal perception that differs from that of Europeans. Because it was so necessary for hunters to undestand and relate to the tracks and marks left by every living creature, the engravings frequently showed the 'marks' made by people and animals, rather than presenting representational images of their forms. Examples are the obvious foot tracks, tail marks of the kangaroo, egg indentations to indicate a clutch of emu eggs, arcs and circles to denote seated people and a campfire.
Posted by Jay Cross at 01:18 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 12, 2002

Lego man. Very cool.

Lego man. Very cool.

Posted by Jay Cross at 09:08 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 24, 2002

Nifty visual summaries of "lessons"

Nifty visual summaries of "lessons" from the ASTD Conference.

Posted by Jay Cross at 05:09 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 15, 2002

MAP.NET -- a geographic plot

MAP.NET -- a geographic plot of realms of knowledge. Pretty, but sparsely populated.

Posted by Jay Cross at 07:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 14, 2002

In Chicago last month, I

In Chicago last month, I dropped my Olympus D510 digital camera on the sidewalk bordering Michigan Avenue. No dents, but the shutter button would not move. Olympus wants $143 to repair it. I paid $400 for the D510 last year. Now it sells for $225 - $250. Alas, the D510 will become landfill.

Today I pawed the Canon S30, Olympus 720UZ, and Nikon 885 at Sarber's Cameras on Solano. They're each $500. They're each 3 megapixels. The Canon is unattractive. The Nikon feels nice in the hand. The Olympus has an 8x zoom. I poured over specs and reviews at Digital Photo Review, an excellent resource, by the way. Tomorrow I plan to give myself the 720UZ for my birthday. I'm turned on.

Follow-up a day later.
The electronic viewfinder on this camera drives me nuts. I intend to return it tomorrow.

And two days thereafter.
My new Olympus D40 just arrived from J&R.

Posted by Jay Cross at 11:18 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 28, 2002

Raven maps are beautiful National

Raven maps are beautiful

National Geographic Map Machine Tornado Touchdowns

Posted by Jay Cross at 11:33 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 24, 2002

Interface Hall of Shame

Interface Hall of Shame

Posted by Jay Cross at 06:38 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 13, 2002

'Screen Language': The New Currency

'Screen Language': The New Currency for Learning
John Seely Brown

"I was a dinosaur," says Brown.

According to Seely Brown, there is a new kind of digital divide now and it is the divide between faculty and students. Faculty, stuck in yesterday's analog world, are confronted with students who arrive nicely fluent in digital technology and the virtues of hyperspeed. Students already have a handle on how to convey their emotional states electronically. It's up to adults to learn that vernacular, he said. Educators who create programs for adult learning and distance learning need to apply the vernacular and deepen and strengthen these new means of communication.

Posted by Jay Cross at 11:17 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 11, 2002

TextArc, an alternative way to

TextArc, an alternative way to view text.

You must experience TextArc to appreciate its beauty and potential. Just do it.

Posted by Jay Cross at 06:59 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 28, 2002

The n_Gen Design Machine

The n_Gen Design Machine is a rapid prototyping graphic design engine that generates savable graphic files from the user's own text content filtered through n_Gen's Design Modules. The latest release of n_Gen (v 0.98d) and Design Modules (PINK SERIES) are now available for download.

The n_Gen Design Machine is developed by Move Design, Inc., a San Francisco visual communication design firm. n_Gen represents an attempt to define a new design methodology, one that harnesses the computer?s powerful simulation and automation capabilities, freeing the user to focus on design decisions. A little bit like gardening, a bit like genetic engineering, with a touch of gambling thrown in.
Posted by Jay Cross at 06:11 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 26, 2002

The Guggenheim has a stunning

The Guggenheim has a stunning site. I loved the motorcycle show and the on-line version is very good. The main entry page presents tiny thumbnails of every bike in the show. Click to see pictures, stories, specs, different views. Lots of information is close at hand.

The collection of French art from Russian collections is breathtaking. You simply have to see it. Music is matched to the individual painter. History is well-told, an audio narrative to set the context and written historical info on each canvas. It's easy to figure out. You can zoom in on the pictures. And the art is definitive. Perfecto.

Posted by Jay Cross at 06:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

People signing at UVA

People signing at UVA

Posted by Jay Cross at 11:02 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 23, 2002

The Mind of the Market:

The Mind of the Market: Extending the Frontiers of Marketing Thought

The ZMET method is modeled after some basic theories of the human mind. The list of these theories is long, but includes the following ideas:

  • Conscious thoughts occur as images.

  • Most thought, emotion and learning occur without awareness.
  • Emotion and reason are equally important.
  • Cognition is embodied.
  • Memory is story-based and readily distorted.

    Posted by Jay Cross at 09:05 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 18, 2002

Reference list for Envisioning Learning

Reference list for Envisioning Learning

Organigraphs: Drawing How Companies Really Work, HBR Sept-Oct 1999. cheatsheet.

Vision, a great graphic of eye+brain on the website of high school teacher Kevin C. Hartzog

Posted by Jay Cross at 09:40 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 14, 2002

Envisioning Learning, a new paper

Envisioning Learning, a new paper by yours truly

With that behind me, I'm reading David Sibbet's classic I See What You Mean! It's a workbook for learning to do group graphics. I intend to incorporate visuals in my consulting engagements from now on.

Posted by Jay Cross at 12:48 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 11, 2002

Globally Accelerating Performance and

Globally Accelerating Performance and Change

Michael Doyl, Founder, MemeWorks

Posted by Jay Cross at 03:36 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 09, 2002

The Alphabet Versus the Goddess

The Alphabet Versus the Goddess

"Nothing vast enters the life of mortals without a curse." Sophocles

In this groundbreaking book, Leonard Shlain, author of the bestselling Art & Physics, proposes that the process of learning alphabetic literacy rewired the human brain, with profound consequences for culture. Making remarkable connections across a wide range of subjects including brain function, anthropology, history, and religion, Shlain argues that literacy reinforced the brain's linear, abstract, predominantly masculine left hemisphere at the expense of the holistic, iconic feminine right one. This shift upset the balance between men and women initiating the disappearance of goddesses, the abhorrence of images, and, in literacy's early stages, the decline of women's political status. Patriarchy and misogyny followed.

Shlain goes on to describe the colossal shift he calls the Iconic Revolution, that began in the 19th century. The invention of photography and the discovery of electromagnetism combined to bring us film, television, computers, and graphic advertising; all of which are based on images. Shlain foresees that increasing reliance on right brain pattern recognition instead of left brain linear sequence will move culture toward equilibrium between the two hemispheres, between masculine and feminine, between word and image. A provocative, disturbing, yet inspiring read, this book is filled with startling historical anecdotes and compelling ideas. It is a paradigm shattering work that will transform your view of history and mind.

Posted by Jay Cross at 12:08 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

from The Alphabet vs The

from The Alphabet vs The Goddess

3,000,000 - 2,900,000 years ago

Hominids differentiate away from other primates by becoming meat-eaters instead of vegetarians.
Extended childhood¼s of hominid babies require prolonged attention from hominid mothers.
Males of the species predominately engage in hunting and killing.
Females primarily engage in nurturing and gathering.
Hominids become the first species of social predators in which the females do not participate in hunting and killing.
200,000 - 90,000 years ago
Language develops.
Homo Sapiens differentiate away from hominids.
Language requires complete rewiring of human brains.
Over 90% of language modules placed in the left hemisphere of right handed humans who comprise 92% of the population.
Split Brain phenomenon becomes highly exaggerated only in humans.
Most hunting and killing strategies placed in left hemisphere.
Most nurturing and gathering strategies placed in the right side.
40,000 - 10,000 years ago
Homosapiens organize into highly effective hunter/gatherer societies.
Division of labor between sexes diverges more than in any other species.
Males hunt and females nurture.
Each sex develops predominate modes of perception and survival strategies to deal with the exigencies of life.
Left hemispheric specialization leads to an increased appreciation of time.
Humans become first animals to realize they will personally die.
Awareness of death leads to formation of supernatural beliefs.
Societies in which hunting is a more reliable source of protein than gathering elevate hunting gods over vegetative goddesses.
Societies in which gathering is a more reliable source of protein than hunting elevate vegetative goddesses over hunting gods.
In general, hunter/gatherer tribes worship a mixture of both spirits.
10,000 - 5,000 years ago
Agriculture discovered/ Domestication of animals discovered.
Crops need to be tended / flocks need to be nurtured.
Female survival strategy of gathering and nurturing supersedes male hunting killing one.
All early agrarian peoples begin to pray to an Earth Goddess responsible for the bountifulness of the land and fertility of the herds.
She awakens the land in springtime and metaphorically resurrects Her weaker, smaller dead son/lover.
5,000 - 3,000 years ago
Writing invented.
Left hemispheric modes of perception, the hunting/killing side, reinforced.
Literacy depends on linear, sequential, abstract and reductionist ways of thinking - the same as hunting and killing.
Early forms of cuneiform and hieroglyphics difficult to master.
Less than 2% literate.
Scribes become priests and new religions emerge in which the god begins to supercede the goddess.
45,000 - 3,000 years ago
Alphabet invented.
Extremely easy to use.
Near universal literacy possible.
Semites - Canaanites, Phoenicians, and Israelites - become first peoples to become substantially literate.
First alphabetic book is the Hebrew bible.
Goddess harshly rejected from Israelite belief system.
God loses His image.
To know Him, a worshipper must read what He wrote.
Images of any kind proscribed in first culture to worship written words.
3,000 - 2,500 years ago
Greeks become the second literate culture.
While not rejecting images, they suppress women's rights.
Athens and Sparta were two societies that shared the same language, gods, and culture and were in close proximity.
Women had few rights in Athens: Women wielded considerable power in Sparta.
Athenians glorified the written word: Spartan cared little about literacy.
Socrates disdained writing and wrote nothing down. He held egalitarian views.
Plato wrote extensively of what Socrates said. Not as generous toward women as Socrates.
Aristotle represents Greek passage from an oral society to a literate one. He taught that women were an inferior subspecies of man.
2,500 years ago
Buddha becomes enlightened in India.
Buddha, though literate, writes nothing down.
Teaches love, equality, kindness, and compassion.
His words are canonized in an alphabetic book 500 years later.
Book purports to show the Buddha had negative opinions about women, sexuality, and birth.
Taoism and Confucianism arise in China.
Taoism embodies feminine values: no attempt to control others, promotes Mother Nature as a guide.
Confucianism touts masculine values: structures patriarchal society, touts Father Culture.
Two systems of belief coexist in relative equilibrium until the Chinese invent the printing press in 923 AD Literacy rates soar.
Soon after, Taoism declines and Confucianism becomes China's dominant belief system.
Women's foot binding begins in 970 AD and becomes a common practice.
Taoism transmutes into a hierarchy with sacred texts and temple priests.
Taoist priests expected to be celibate Women's rights plummet.
In nearby Asian cultures that do not embrace literacy, women's rights remain high.
2,000 - 1,500 years ago
Roman Empire achieves near universal alphabetic literacy rates due to the stability of Pax Romana, tutors from Greece, papyrus from Egypt and an easy to use Greek and Latin alphabet.
New religion emerges based on the sayings of a gentle prophet named Jesus.
His oral teachings embody feminine values of Free Will, love, compassion, non-violence, and equality.
Jesus writes nothing down.
Women play prominent role in new religion.
Paul commits to writing what he interprets to be the meaning of the Christ event.
Subsequent Gospel writers detail Christ's crucifixion, death and resurrection.
Creed that evolves increasingly emphasizes masculine values of obedience, suffering, pain, death, and hierarchy.
Alphabetic text becomes canonized in 367 AD Women banned from baptizing or conducting sacraments.
Ordered to back of the church and ejected from the choir.
Christians destroy Roman images.
1,500 - 1,000 years ago
Rome falls to barbarian invasions.
Literacy lost in secular society.
Dark Ages begin.
When stage of history re-illuminated in the 10th century, women enjoy high status.
Age suffused with love of Mary.
People know her through her image not her written words.
Women mystics revered.
Women Cathars and Waldensians baptize.
Abbesses lead major monasteries.
Chivalric code instructs men to honor and protect women.
Courtly love becomes all the fashion.
Cathedrals dedicated to Notre Dame.
Religious art flourishes.
Few outside the Church can read and write.
1000 - 1453
High Middle Ages characterized by a renewed interest in literacy.
Commerce demands literate clerks. Literacy rates climb.
Masculine values begin to reassert dominance over feminine ones.
Renaissance begins. Cult of the individual encourages male artists, male thinkers, and macho themes in art.
1454 -1820
Gutenberg's printing press makes available alphabet literacy to the masses.
Books become affordable.
Literacy rates soar in those countries affected by the printing press.
Tremendous surge in science, art, philosophy, logic, and imperialism.
Women's rights suffer decline.
Women mystics now called witches.
1517 - 1820
Protestant Reformation breaks out fueled by many who can now read scripture.
Protestants demand the repudiation of the veneration of Mary, the destruction of images.
Protestant movement becomes very patriarchal.
Ferocious religious wars break out fought over minor doctrinal disputes.
Torture and burning at the stake become commonplace.
Hunter/killer values in steep ascendance only in those countries impacted by rapidly rising alphabetic literacy rates.
1465 - 1820
After the Bible, the next best selling book is the Witch's Hammer; a how-to book for the rooting out, torture, and burning of witches.
Witch craze breaks out only in those countries impacted by the printing press.
Germany, Switzerland, France, and England have severe witch-hunts. All boast steadily rising literacy rates.
Russia, Norway, Iceland, and the Islamic countries bordering Europe do not experience witch-hunts. The printing press has a negligible impact on these societies.
Estimates range that between 100,000 women to the millions were murdered during the witch-hunts.
There is no parallel in any other culture in the world in which the men of the culture suffered a psychosis so extreme that they believed that their wise women were so dangerous that they had to be eliminated.
1820 - 1900
Invention of photography and the discovery of the electromagnetic field combine to bring about the return of the image.
Photography does for images what the printing press had accomplished for written words: it made reproduction of images inexpensive, easy, and ubiquitous.
Right hemisphere called upon to decipher images more than the left.
Egalitarianism becomes a motif in philosophy.
Protestantism softens its stance toward women.
Mary declared born of Immaculate Conception by the Church elevating her status.
Nietzsche declares "god is dead."
Suffragette movement coalesces in 1848.
1900 - 1950
Photography and electromagnetism combine to introduce many new technologies of information transfer.
Telegraph, radio, film, and telephone reconfigure the world.
Communists demand redistribution of wealth.
Capitalists demand less government interference.
Natives restless, servants surly; everywhere paternalism is in retreat.
Women receive the vote in 1920 in the U.S. and 1936 in England.
Russia, an oral society recently becomes literate in the 19th century.
Great burst of male creativity.
Outbreak of religious intolerance against the Jews.
Russian Communism repeats all the madness of Europe's first brush with alphabet literacy.
Hitler, armed with a microphone and radio, hypnotizes Germany, one of the most literate countries of the world.
Mother Russia, an oral society, is bedeviled by literacy.
Germany, the Fatherland, becomes susceptible to madness by oral technology.
1950 - 2000
Popularity of television explodes after the end of WWII.
Television requires different mode of perception than television.
Iconic information begins to supersede text information.
Image of the atomic bomb blast and earth beamed back from space change the consciousness of the world more than any written books.
Society begins to elevate feminine values of childcare, welfare, healthcare, and concern for the environment.
Feminist movement of the 60s occurs in the first television generation.
World wars abate among the literate countries affected by television image.
Invention of personal computer greatly changes the way people interact. Graphic icons increasingly replace text commands.
Internet and WorldWideWeb based on feminine images of nets and webs. Iconic Revolution begins.
Everywhere alphabets come into usage religions based on sacred alphabetic books come into being.
These all share certain characteristics.
Women banned from conducting religious ceremonies.
Goddesses declared abominations.
Representative art in the form of images declared "idolatry."

Posted by Jay Cross at 12:01 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 06, 2002

Another case of "The book

Another case of "The book was more fun than the movie because the color was better" --

April 6, 2002

Realism May Be Taking the Fun Out of Games


n games, reality can seem beside the point. Carved boards, decorated cards, dotted cubes and colored pebbles become instruments of war. The fate of a bouncing spheroid determines one's fortunes. The more artificial an object is, the more arbitrary the restrictions are on its movements, the simpler the rules governing the play, the more powerful a game seems to become. A game establishes its own world.

Yet over the last two decades, the evolution of video games has involved a quest for the opposite. One of the major goals of video game systems has been to simulate the real, to create images so lifelike, and movements so natural that there is no sense of artifice. There really is a haunted house being explored, a football team arrayed on a field, a car racing at 150 miles an hour through a city street. In the early years of arcade games, invaders from space were squiggly white doodles arranged in rows, threatening a player with oblivion. Now they can speak, gush green blood and wield advanced weaponry.

These are the two poles of the video game, still evident in the latest systems. But however different in character, the games share important preoccupations. The classic board game or card game begins with the rules; then comes the play. In video games the play begins and only gradually do the rules emerge. Finding the rules is part of the game.

What powers do they provide and what do they forbid? Can those rules be violated at all? And is everything revealed or can something be found by testing those limits? The spirit of violation is built into the video game; so is a demand for submission.

In this struggle, technology is an emblem of both the game's limits and its promises; it helps determine what can and cannot be done. And game designers ? like game players ? keep exploring those boundaries. But through every gaming generation, no matter what the technology, the player is still the classic adolescent: at once uncertain and arrogant, proud and disgusted, resenting the demands being made and, finally, cherishing the ability to master them.

Posted by Jay Cross at 07:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 05, 2002

USGS Mapping Archive

USGS Mapping Archive

Posted by Jay Cross at 10:54 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 24, 2002

Doing a Google search on

Doing a Google search on "learning visually" yields beaucoup hits on "learning disabilities" and "visual learning disabilities" and "visually impaired." I'm beginning to think that this is like old-time psychology, where the first cases were all deranged. Psychologists still seem to know more about mental illness than mental health.

Another area that pops up on a search is "learning styles." Now that's an interesting concept, but most of us use all of the styles. It's not either/or so mucha as a matter of degree. I'm drawn to visuals like a moth to the flame, but that doesn't mean I don't read and write.

Posted by Jay Cross at 12:13 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 22, 2002

ScienceMaster Learning Galleries has awesome

ScienceMaster Learning Galleries has awesome photos of nature for use by teachers.

Posted by Jay Cross at 06:04 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 21, 2002

I'm getting ready for the

I'm getting ready for the eLearning Forum session on Learning Visually in April, so this blog is becoming my dumping ground for potential material.

From Inspiration's site, here's a piece on Visual Learning:

Research has shown that visual learning is one of the best methods for teaching thinking skills. Visual learning techniques — graphical ways of working with ideas and presenting information — teach students to clarify their thinking, and to process, organize and prioritize new information. Visual diagrams reveal patterns, interrelationships and interdependencies. They also stimulate creative thinking.

Visual learning techniques help students:
Clarify thinking. Students see how ideas are connected and realize how information can be grouped or organized. With visual learning, new concepts are more thoroughly and easily understood.

Reinforce understanding. Students recreate, in their own words, what they've learned. This helps them absorb and internalize new information, giving them ownership of their ideas.

Integrate new knowledge. Diagrams updated throughout a lesson prompt students to build upon prior knowledge and internalize new information. By reviewing diagrams created previously, students see how facts and ideas fit together.

Identify misconceptions. Just as a concept map or web shows what students know, misdirected links or wrong connections reveal what they don't understand.

Graphic organizers

Thinking Maps

Visual Literacy

Mary Alice White, a researcher at Columbia Teacher's College has found that young people learn more than half of what they know from visual information, but few schools have an explicit curriculum to show students how to think critically about visual data.
In a society where powerful interests employ visual data to persuade (what Alvin Toffler calls "info-tactics") schools must show students how to look beyond the surface to understand deeper levels of meaning and tactics employed to sway their thinking. There is a danger that these images will serve as decoration rather than information unless we show them how to interpret (make meaning of) the data.

Visual Thinking and Mental Imagery
Recent studies of patients with brain damage and of brain imaging indicate that visual and verbal thought may work via different brain systems. Recordings of blood flow in the brain indicate that when a person visualizes something such as walking through his neighborhood, blood flow increases dramatically in the visual cortex, in parts of the brain that are working hard. Studies of brain-damaged patients show that injury to the left posterior hemisphere can stop the generation of visual images from stored long-term memories, while language and verbal memory are not impaired. This indicates that visual imagery and verbal thought may depend on distinct neurological systems.

Scott McCloud's I can't stop thinking, The Big Triangle, and best of all, My Obsession with Chess.

Posted by Jay Cross at 11:04 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 16, 2002

Beatiful and varied renderings

Beatiful and varied renderings of the net

Posted by Jay Cross at 11:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 15, 2002

Animated chart junk or nifty

Animated chart junk or nifty explanation? TECHtionary is an over-the-top technical dictionary.

Elsewhere, the concept of "skins" seems to be spreading. Skins are cosmetic makeovers for applications. This morning I came upon BlogSkins.

So you've got a blog of your own.
Congratulations. And you're oh so proud of your witty and insightful posts. But you've got one problem -- you suck at design. In fact, you suck so much that people skip right over your site because the bad color scheme combination and small font sizes hurt their eyes. That's where BlogSkins.com comes in. Take the designs from some of the best people around the blogging community, and instantly and easily apply them to your own Blogger-powered site.
Posted by Jay Cross at 07:44 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 13, 2002

Job aid for the illiterate

Job aid for the illiterate and its brother

Posted by Jay Cross at 08:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 03, 2002

Make dem bones dance! You

Make dem bones dance!

You pull the strings

Posted by Jay Cross at 11:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 23, 2002


INFORMATION ARCHITECTURE - Concepts & Issues is a marvellous page of links about knowledge organization, metadata, and user-centered design. This is take hours to digest, all of it fun.

Posted by Jay Cross at 08:48 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A fellow Meta-Learning Lab member,

A fellow Meta-Learning Lab member, Claudia L, is exploring concept maps, both as a learning tool and an aspect of her work in second-order cybernetics. We talked about the topic on the drive back to Berkeley after the January meeting of eLearning Forum.

Concept maps are cool. They appear to be mind maps on steroids. For one thing, the links themselves are labeled, e.g. X leads to Y, X includes Y, X hinges on Y, etc. Also, it's more natural for a node to have multiple antecedents. NASAs concept maps for the Mars expedition are the front-end for an incredible amount of information: papers, links, second-level maps, etc.

What a nifty tool. I will explore using concept maps in internettime.com.

More info at: The Institute for the Interdisciplinary Study of Human & Machine Cognition (IHMC) was founded by the Florida legislature in 1990 as an interdisciplinary research unit of the University of West Florida. Since that time, IHMC has grown into a well-respected research institute with over 70 researchers investigating a broad range of topics related to understanding cognition in both humans and machines with a particular emphasis on building computational tools to leverage and amplify human cognitive and perceptual capacities.

Posted by Jay Cross at 01:39 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 19, 2002

The Atlas of Experience by

The Atlas of Experience
by Louise Van Swaaij, Jean Klare, David Winner

Great example of how visuals show relationships and get the mind's wheels to turning.

I love this book. I don't read it so much as savor it.

Posted by Jay Cross at 09:24 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 18, 2002

Just fooling around during a

Just fooling around during a break...

Posted by Jay Cross at 12:00 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Yesterday I had an inspiring

Yesterday I had an inspiring meeting with David Sibbett, founder of The Grove.
David Sibbett
David Sibbett

David, Sherrin Bennett, and I had one of those marvellous, flowing conversations that seems to take place on several levels at once. The Grove's work is tres cool. Mine is...conceptual, e.g.,

Group graphics is a new medium, one David’s been exploring for years. It’s panoramic. It’s public listening rather than public speaking. It starts with reflection, reversing the normal mode of presentation. It mirrors where we are. Three factors separate group graphics from other media:

    1. Participation, not talking. Visually unfolding
    2. Systems thinking, holistic approach.
    3. Provides a group memory, persistent.

The three of us are going to put together an eLearning Forum session on visual learning for April 20.

Posted by Jay Cross at 11:56 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 09, 2001

Correction: A Picture is Worth

Correction: A Picture is Worth 84.1 Words

The information content of a visual program (or any diagram) might be more dependent on the author than on properties of the notation. It still seems plausible that this is the case, but future experiments must be more cautious in controlling for experimental demand factors.

...a picture is worth 84.1 words.

Posted by Jay Cross at 11:04 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 26, 2001

See table below. Culture Red

See table below.

Culture Red Blue Green Yellow White
United States Danger Masculinity Safety Cowardice Purity
France Aristocracy Freedom/Peace Criminality Temporary Neutrality
Egypt Death Virtue/Faith/



India Life/Creativity   Prosperity/

Success Death/Purity
Japan Anger/Danger Villainy Future/Youth/


China Happiness Heavens/Clouds Ming Dynasty/



Posted by Jay Cross at 12:49 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 02, 2001

Posted by Jay Cross at 08:48 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 19, 2001

Overeducation: A Tough Nut to

Overeducation: A Tough Nut to Crack

It's a bizarre concept. At a time when there is almost universal agreement on the importance of education, both for individual well-being and for national economic prosperity, how on earth can we think of people as overeducated? To compete successfully in the global economy nations must provide high quality goods and services, produced by a highly-skilled workforce. To survive in today's knowledge-based society, an individual must be well-educated, and capable of continually updating his or her skills in a process of lifelong learning. For more than a decade, the complaint in Britain has been of insufficient investment in education and training. So how could anyone argue we are investing too much? Of course they're not--or at least not in the way you might think. But there is an argument for saying that "overeducation" is a serious problem in the UK, and that this phenomenon should lead to a reassessment of the way resources are used for education and training.

Is overeducation a real problem?
As most people know, there's been a rapid and sharp increase in the provision of higher education in Britain.
Table 1 shows that in 1997 3 percent of the working-age population had a higher degree, more than double the proportion 12 years earlier; over the same period the proportion of people with a first degree went up by almost half. Yet there has also been an increase in the number of people who are overeducated, particularly in the 1970s and 1980s.

How much is too much? This is from Fathom, which makes it difficult to point to. The original appeared in CentrePiece, The Magazine of Economic Performance.

Posted by Jay Cross at 08:43 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 18, 2001

Images in Practice - introduction

Images in Practice - introduction

Posted by Jay Cross at 08:50 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

bauhaus-archiv museum of design

bauhaus-archiv museum of design

Posted by Jay Cross at 04:24 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

LiNE Zine Fall 2001 -

LiNE Zine Fall 2001 - Communicating Meaning by Nate Burgos

In his book Art is Work, the graphic designer Milton Glaser states, “The act of drawing has nothing to do with being an illustrator. We draw because it enables us to see.... Drawing is the path to observation and attentiveness.” The key phrase here is “to see.” How many times have you encountered something like this? You are involved in a meeting and you have difficulty absorbing what the meeting leader is actually saying. At the end, someone asks, “Did you understand?” Your body language may say, “yes” with a hesitant dipping of the chin, but your mind nods left to right and right to left realizing you didn’t understand at all. If you could only see what was being said. If you could only see the criteria being addressed. If you could only see the ideas being relayed.

Drawing allows you to see and provides a tactile relationship between subject and interpreter. Drawing can be described as making adjectives of nouns (data). Drawing toggles between what is and what can be. With a few quick strokes, you can capture multiple views of a concept and crystallize possible solutions. Drawing is conversation of minds over matter: you can see what is being thought and said

Posted by Jay Cross at 04:21 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 13, 2001

History of Education and Childhood

History of Education and Childhood -- legenda what is the meaning of all those icons used in this site?

This is an interesting collection of navigational icons on a Dutch site on the History of Childhood and Education.

Posted by Jay Cross at 07:09 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 07, 2001

Our eyes are only glass

Our eyes are only glass windows; we see with our imagination
William Gilpin (1792)

Posted by Jay Cross at 12:42 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Web designers should know better.

Web designers should know better. The whole idea behind HTML was its universality. HTML should be environment-agnostic.

Many of the people who design websites had a problem with this. They prefer control to interoperability. In the early days, the David Siegels of the world used "single-pixel" gifs, images of text in lieu of the characters themselves, and other sleight of hand to try to grab back the level of control graphic designers exercise over printed material. Siegel told us that Creating Killer Websites meant mimicing books. Siegel named his company "Verso," which means left-hand page, a decidedly print-based term.

As presentation on the web matures, designers returned to purity of form. Better that pages be usable on screens large and small than look fantastic on one size of screen and crappy on others.

And then along came Cascading Style Sheets. I like being able to specify fonts and colors and what-not in one place rather than throughout a site. But I HATE sites that specify absolute font sizes. Why does a designer presume that I want to read fly-spec type or gigantic letters? Font size should be relative. Otherwise, a webpage is not user-friendly.

I like to sit about a yard from my monitor. This position leaves real estate on the front of my desk for papers, makes it easy to look at the redwood trees through the window, and keeps my brain out of the reach of radiation. That's my privilege. And when View/Text Size/Large is deactivated because the person creating the page I'm trying to view, the word "jerk" springs into my mind.

Posted by Jay Cross at 11:23 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 06, 2001

Nooface: In Search of the

Nooface: In Search of the Post-PC Interface

Posted by Jay Cross at 12:50 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Visualize Lower Manhattan

Visualize Lower Manhattan

Posted by Jay Cross at 09:56 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 15, 2001

The Visualization files linked from

The Visualization files linked from here will be MIA for a few days, as I shift the contents of this site around, setting up a new visual playspace.

The Digital Photograph Handbook by Simon Joinson

Reminds me that I need to find and get used to the 50 mm setting on the new camera. Joinson has a totally different take on things from Smith (below). Not only does he encourage cropping, he's fully in favor of altering images by, say, dropping in the sky from one shot into the foreground of another.

Joinson takes a more expansive view of the rule of thirds -- using it to define the horizon, up & down, etc.

Designing a Photograph by Bill Smith, 142 pages

By placing a camera between yourself and your subject, the experience changes radically. The photographer becomes an observer, no longer a participant. When the camera user attempts to be as much a participant as an observer, the image suffers. The responsibility and awareness of the photographer is to sense, to feel, and to capture on film the beauty and the emotion while being detached enough to view it in its entirety.

Scan the edges of the frame before clicking the shutter.

Figure & ground.

Look before you see.

As I look around a room or walk down a street, I constantly frame images in my mind.

Whenever I pick up a camera, I am aware of a certain electricity that seems to run through me. An inner strength seems to make me quicker, more intuitive, and more aware of what I see. At the same time, a certian deadening of my awareness filters out anything not relevant to the shot or scene before me. I cross streets and move through crowds with a total lack of conscious thought. To me, photography is a great amusement that generates a response unlike anything else.

Smith is a purist on, of all things, cropping. He feels you should crop with the camera, not afterward. In fact, he takes pride in composing the optimal border before pushing the button. Whew! That's certainly not how I view photography. My stance is "whatever it takes."

switching directories 9/15

Posted by Jay Cross at 09:24 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 14, 2001

Infographics of terrorism

Infographics of terrorism

Posted by Jay Cross at 09:23 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 26, 2001

xplane (get it?) The Visual

xplane (get it?) The Visual Thinking Company

Posted by Jay Cross at 10:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 07, 2001

This is awkward. I used

This is awkward. I used the right-click to capture several paragraphs from a book on the web. Last in/first out. So you start with the final chunk and read backwards to the first. Hmmm. How to take coherent notes?

Posted by Jay Cross at 07:45 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

3. The Information Access Process

3. The Information Access Process A study of business analysts [oday93] found three main kinds of information seeking tasks: monitoring a well known topic over time (such as researching competitors' activities each quarter), following a plan or stereotyped series of searches to achieve a particular goal (such as keeping up to date on good business practices), and exploring a topic in an undirected fashion (as when getting to know an unfamiliar industry). Although the goals differ, there is a common core revolving around the information seeking component, which is our focus here.

Posted by Jay Cross at 07:28 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

2. Human-Computer Interaction Aside from

2. Human-Computer Interaction Aside from using icons and color highlighting , the main information visualization techniques include brushing and linking [eick95][tweedie94], panning and zooming [bederson96], focus-plus-context [leung94], magic lenses [bier94], and the use of animation to retain context and help make occluded information visible [robertson93][card91]. These techniques support dynamic, interactive use. Interactivity seems to be an especially important property for visualizing abstract information, although it has not played as large a role within scientific visualization.

Posted by Jay Cross at 07:27 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

2. Human-Computer Interaction What makes

2. Human-Computer Interaction What makes an effective human-computer interface? Ben Shneiderman, an expert in the field, writes (p.10) [shneiderman97]:
Well designed, effective computer systems generate positive feelings of success, competence, mastery, and clarity in the user community. When an interactive system is well-designed, the interface almost disappears, enabling users to concentrate on their work, exploration, or pleasure.

Posted by Jay Cross at 07:26 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 05, 2001

UI & Visualization

UI & Visualization

Posted by Jay Cross at 09:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

I'm switching directories for

I'm switching directories for this blog and its archives so the links may be goofy for a few days.

Posted by Jay Cross at 09:51 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 31, 2001

Rendering Effective Route Maps: Improving

Rendering Effective Route Maps: Improving Usability Through Generalization

Posted by Jay Cross at 11:43 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 20, 2001

memes.net is a cool

memes.net is a cool combination of interactive blog & mind map structure. This could be just the ticket for eLF.

The Passing of the Age of Science.
At the height of the Age of Science we had a foolproof problem solving approach: (1) define the problem, (2) gather the data, (3) analyze the data, (4) formulate a solution, (5) implement the solution. This linear approach, upon which virtually all problem solving methods are based, was understood to work no matter how complex the problem. If your project was behind schedule or over budget, it was simply because you had not done a good enough job at one or more of these steps, e.g. you had not gathered enough data. However, recent cognitive studies have revealed that people do not actually think or learn in this linear fashion, but rather in an opportunity-driven process that more resembles an earthquake than a waterfall.

In the emerging era, you still need the rigor of the scientific approach, but that alone is not nearly rich enough for the panoply of wicked problems that face us in our organizations and as a society. The problem solving process is now primarily social, rather than individualistic. The process goal is a solution that works and can be embraced by all of the stakeholders, not “the right answer.” In this environment, a new set of tools is needed to help groups create shared understanding, shared meaning, and shared commitment. VIMS is such a tool.

Visual Issue Mapping System

Visual Issue Mapping System (VIMS) is based on three fundamental ideas:

  • Shared understanding and shared commitment are the key goals of virtually all meetings;
  • To create shared understanding you need a “container” for discussion that is as robust as your project or situation is complex;
  • Such a container includes a language for discourse structure and a shared display.

Pattern of cognitive activity of one designer -- the "jagged" line

The natural pattern of problem solving behavior may appear chaotic on the surface, but it is the chaos of an earthquake or the breaking of an ocean wave -- it reveals deeper forces and flows which have their own order and pattern. The non-linear pattern of activity that expert designers go through gives us fresh insight into what is happening when we are working on a complex and novel problem. It reveals that it is not a mark of stupidity or lack of training that we seem to "wander all over." This non-linear process is not a defect, but rather the mark of an intelligent and creative learning process.

Posted by Jay Cross at 08:16 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 01, 2001

June 09, 2001

Jezebel's mirror has become The

Jezebel's mirror has become The Mirror Project. This site is great for reflection.

Posted by Jay Cross at 04:51 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 08, 2001

Posted by Jay Cross at 08:18 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 04, 2001

Information Mapping Description of the

Information Mapping

Innovative when it came out, I think a good web page delivers the same wallop or more if well designed.

Posted by Jay Cross at 08:25 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 29, 2001

Today I spent three or

Today I spent three or four hours dorking around with minimalist instructional delivery.

This is bare-bones, no-budget instruction. Low-res photos of wooden dummies talking.

I'm so tired of hearing how we're waiting for broadband in order to make learning effective. Heh! I'm not convinced.

Here's Take Three.

Posted by Jay Cross at 08:57 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 27, 2001

Masters of Photography

Masters of Photography

Posted by Jay Cross at 10:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Yesterday, Amsterdam Art on University

Yesterday, Amsterdam Art on University Ave. had 16" high wooden figure models at 75% off -- $10 apiece, and I couldn't resist. Royalty free images of people doing whatever I want them to? No longer a problem.

I'll need to experiment with lighting, backgrounds, etc., but this could be a gas. A play, right here on my own personal stage. I could even intersperse myself -- no model release required -- interacting with my wooden buddies.

Here's their debut.

Posted by Jay Cross at 12:19 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 24, 2001

About Visualization at PNNL The

About Visualization at PNNL

The Atlas of Cyberspaces is really special. Oodles of images of the net(s).

Internet Geography Project

Posted by Jay Cross at 07:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

This morning I took some

This morning I took some quick photos of a half dozen stuffed animals and cartoon characters. I'm going to experiment with using them to act out stories. They are my repertory cast, on the cheap.

Posted by Jay Cross at 11:20 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 18, 2001

Plastic categories Nice animation example:

Plastic categories

Nice animation example: How Routers Work. Less text would make it communicate even better.


Posted by Jay Cross at 07:43 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 13, 2001

April 06, 2001

Organization Network Analysis Internet Industry

Organization Network Analysis

Internet Industry Strategic Alliances, Joint Ventures, and Other Partnerships. It's alive!

Alpha Studio's Graphic Facilitation & a wonderful graphic of the Tufte seminar. I must add this to my page on Design.

Posted by Jay Cross at 10:57 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

"Mappa Mundi Magazine maps the

"Mappa Mundi Magazine maps the journey from data to understanding, revealing invisible worlds of information on the way."

Navigate with The Brain

Memory palaces

    Spatial positioning of thoughts as an aid to memory turns out to mirror our natural thought processes of cognition. Placing objects in places to find them again is the very essence of how we navigate the real world. Memory palaces are maps of thoughts and are used to navigate the world of ideas just as cartographic maps are used to navigate the world of things. With our modern computer networks, the imaginary and the real world merge into a new place, the Internet.

A Shared Reality

    The Internet is a network of many metaphors. The core infrastructure supports many protocols, and each protocol adopts a metaphor. Electronic mail uses analogies taken from a postal service. Streaming media started with a radio metaphor before evolving into a unique medium. The World Wide Web is also a metaphor–pages in an infinite book.

    What is missing today is a metaphor that helps us tackle the problem of meta-information: information about information. As we look at a page on the Web, the logical next step is to find other pages that are conceptually near. Near, of course, varies on your point of view. Meta-information is what helps the Internet become smarter about organizing itself. As we develop the tools to describe Internet resources, to manage meta-information, maps will happen. Until then, we are stuck in a world of many facts: all content, no context.

    Consensual hallucinations require considerable preparation. Maps are a shared version of reality. Once the infrastructure to share reality is in place, maps will flourish. Until then, maps of the Internet will be cartographic fiction, the creative musings of poets rather than shared constructions of reality.

I plan to spend a LOT of time navigating this site. Wow.

Posted by Jay Cross at 09:44 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack