Of orangutans and cathedrals

I don’t think you want to see me attempting to draw an orangutan – but if I was persuaded to try, I’d probably use a technique along the lines of DragonArt’s post on the topic, from which the two illustrations above are drawn.

I came across this site, by the way, while looking for a version of this puzzle diagram:

And I was looking for that not only because it’s the solution to a neat creative-thinking puzzle that my father showed me when I was a kid, but also because it’s a graph — and thus a potential board on which Sembl games could be played.

In fact I used an analogous device once, during a live intercontinental phone-feed HipBone game, to tilt and transform a 10-position WaterBird board which had already filled with moves into a 12-move board to continue the game, the excitement and the brainstorming just a little longer by popular request..


Back to our orangutan board.

What interests me here is the intersection of the notion of graphs with that of Venn diagrams

Semiotic translation between verbal and visual elements is a fascinating creative challenge in its own right.

Indeed, one aspect of what’s up for grabs here is the possibility of an overall semiotics of conceptual mappings — which in turn would facilitate the development of a new style of world mapping, capable of crossing the (leaky) “cartesian divide” between mental and physical realms, while exploring the multiple links and dependencies in our complexly interwoven world.

That’s a topic I’m hoping to post on shortly…


It would, for instance, be interesting to develop maps that can transition smoothly from Markov:

to PERT:

to Forrester-style visualizations:


Back to the Sembl games, back to graphs as boards, back to fun.

One of the most creative aspects of developing the HipBone and Sembl family of games has been the discovery of potential boards in the most intriguing of places.

This board, for instance, is based on the design of the star-vaulted ceiling in a old British cathedral…

5 replies
  1. Carol Stanley
    Carol Stanley says:

    Dazzling! Not sure I understand it completely. I’ll read again slowly when I have a bit more time. But I am truly intrigued. Seems quite marvelous.

  2. Charles
    Charles says:

    Are you seeing the images okay now, Carol?

    And is there a particular part of the post (eg the transitioning maps, PERT, Markov, etc) that you don’t entirely get? That has been a long term interest of mine, and I may be skipping quickly across a path I’ve traveled many times myself but not marked out fully enough for others.

  3. Derek Robinson
    Derek Robinson says:

    My sense of it is that in any transition from any of those three established logic diagrams (Markov model, PERT chart, Jay Forrester-style System Dynamics) to any of the others would unavoidably lose the structure which makes that kind of logic diagram the kind of logic diagram that it is. Whereas I can readily imagine a looser, less formal, more relaxed and dare I say more Sembl-style kind of thought notation (modulo the as yet – and one hopes indefinitely – incomplete atlas of Sembl variants) *from which* any of these more rigorous (and rigid, some might say), logical, quantitative species of diagram can be precipitated. It’s a question of the direction of information, and formalization. Unlike these other forms of logic diagram, Sembl games are meant to enhance human judgement, not to suborn or replace it. It’s all the difference between cybernetics pioneer Ross Ashby’s concept of the computer as Intelligence Amplifier (“I.A.”) vs. the prevailing idea of computer Artificial Intelligence (“A.I.”).

  4. Charles
    Charles says:

    Hi Derek:

    It seems to me you could probably have a Markov probability function inside a Systems Dynamics model, but in some ways the idea of a grand unified modeling theory would be to provoke recognition of the ways in which such things don’t really play well together — something akin to that Alasdair MacIntyre quote I quoted the other day on Zenpundit:

    Not one game is being played, but several, and, if the game metaphor may be stretched further, the problem about real life is that moving one’s knight to QB3 may always be replied to by a lob over the net

    That blessed shifting of games is something we need to capture, at least in our understandings if not in our overt models, no?


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