A Confession

I am not a writer. I’m not even a good speaker; I get tongue-tied, clumsily trip over words and somehow screw up saying what I’m thinking. I had a philosophy professor tell me in undergrad that unless my thoughts could be rationalized into words (be it written or spoken), then they do not actually exist. 

I heard echos of this accusation while reading Luker, where the writing process is praised as the sole method of crystallizing thoughts. Coming from the design field, I am a little suspicious of this claim. Most of my undergrad research projects began with visual research, composing visual essays and generating ideas through sketching; writing (for my studio courses at least) was more of the end of research, the dissemination of the information found though visual thinking. 

I recognize I’m a minority here, but I think its worth to point out the bias of the medium as researchers. Language is a temporal medium; it is sequential and linear, where words follow words, thoughts follow thoughts, arguments follow arguments. Images do not mimic this building progression, but rather presents everything at once and lets the viewer independently dissect and comprehend the patterns and orders; it is more a holistic medium, a synthesis of structure. 

I bring this up, in part, out of concern that this writing-is-thinking assumption shades our anthropological view: Is the belief that rationalized language is the only form of thinking, in and of itself, a fetish of the mind, one that dismisses the sensory experience as, at best, subservient to the intellect and at worse a distraction to higher, 'more human', activities? 

Alas, I’ll try to become more versed in writing, but I don’t want to dismiss visual thinking completely. I was happy that Luker suggests mind mapping as a type of personal informal writing, and I just wanted to share with you all my passionate approval for mapping relationships, charting out ideas and diagramming categories. Just a thought :)

Yes, this blog post started with some sort of flowchart.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent point Jennette, and I apologize for my own contributions to this privileging of writing/language as mode of expression. Mind mapping and data visualization don't get nearly enough attention - let's try to bring this up in class next time we talk about writing...I'm sure there are many others who share your concerns.