Category Archives: Language

Online Education and Digital Storytelling

Mercedes Bell, a researcher for, shared an article The Art of Digital Storytelling.

The article makes several good points and provides numerous examples graphed below. When digital storytelling is used for education, a new challenge today is keeping the reader engaged, without clicking away, wandering through so many loosely related topics, its easy to get lost, and forget where a digital pathway started, or where it is heading.

The objective of digital storytelling, online education, large scale digitization and information projects needs to be spending more time with better information.


What Does That Line Mean?

Architectural drawings contain graphical information explained in more detail in the specifications. For example, waterproofing is just a line on the drawings designated “WP” but up to 50 pages in the specifications.  Specifications became necessary when buildings got more complex, the entirety of the intended work results could not be captured in drawings without the drawings becoming too cluttered. As a result  architects sometimes ask “What does that line mean?”.


from 2D Visualization of Electrical Fields of Point Charges around a Dielectric Interface at Vizlab

If lines of inquiry could be traced through semantic space for example in ShiftSpace, these lines would get very complicated. See BLDGBLOG too. Tracing lines of inquiry would be a whole new form of drawing and wondering what simple lines mean, more details and the work results would have to be explained in specifications separate from the drawings.

Below are a set of citations for images and papers collected around 2001, wondering about these shapes. Each example below has varying levels of documentation. This is an experiment to see what is still available. Most are not. Some are in new places than they were originally found but its still the same images and information.  Open source images have found many more uses. The remainder is a survey of scientific and artistic approaches to showing dynamics and tracing histories.


The Coffee Mill , by Juan Gris, 1916, Original: oil and collage on paper, 10 9/16” x 8 7/8”, Provenance: Henriette Reverdy, Paris; Pierre Chareau, Paris; E.V. Thaw & Co., New York; Herbert and Nannette Rothschild, Judith Rothschild Foundation, New York, from the book Encounters with Modern Art: The Reminiscences of Nannette F. Rothschild, George H. Marcus Editor and Anne D’Harnoncourt, Philadelphia Museum of Art; ISBN: 0876331088; 1997. Image is now available at the Cleveland Museum of Art.

 collage of forms

DMacP Collage of Forms some below


Cross section of nautilus shell from the Patterns of Nature Disk Image KS1724 Comstock, Royalty Free


Hurricane: N-009-0110 Corbis Royalty Free at Matton Images


Galaxy: SC-086-0109 by Myron J. Dorf Bridges. Now available at ???????

What Lies Between Order and Chaos? by James P. Crutchfield, The Sciences, New York Academy of Sciences, New York (1994), Santa Fe Institute.

“The events happen far too quickly (over 10^-23 to, at the most lackadaisical, 10^-10, seconds) and in too small a region (on the order of 10^-18 meters) for human perception.”

“We’re maximally uncertain about the weather: we keep looking out the window for an update and are constantly surprised; the entropy rate is high.”


Theoretical Morphology: State of the Art, by Gunther J. Eble, Santa Fe Institute Working Papers

Sturgeon’s Law states that “ninety percent of everything is crap.” from One Thing or Another: Some Examples of Selection in Minds and Computers, A.K.A. “William James at CERN”, by Cosma Shalizi



Nude on a Red Background (Seated Woman), by Fernand Leger, 1927, Original: oil on canvas, 51 1/4” x 32”, Gift of the Joseph H. Hirshhorn Foundation, 1972, 72.173, from the book Hirshhorn: Museum and Sculpture Garden, Jane McAllister Editor, Harry N. Abrams; ISBN: 0810934363; 1996.


Vitruvius, by Leonardo da Vinci, available everywhere, this copy from the British Library learning about bodies.


Asymmetrical rocks, Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, G81-161783 Cannot be found. Image above from jmg galleries.

“…semantic leaps in jokes, arguments, counterfactuals, and analogies”
Turning the Cat on its Head, by Nikos Drakos, Computer Based Learning Unit, University of Leeds, from the web site of Seana Coulson, University of California, San Diego, Department of Cognitive Science“…until at last we reach our perceptions, grouped together by another process of selection into things. Some of these we attend to; the rest we ignore.”

“…studies indicate that there is a certain level of visual and acoustic complexity that tends to be most pleasing to the human senses.” Holding a New Mirror to Nature, The Economist, 6 November1993



The Periodic Table of Poetry, now at MAKE

“…literature, pictures and sound and movies can all be turned into strings of bits. Once we have a measure of fitness, there is no a priori reason we could not turn standard techniques loose on an initial population of pictures, or sonatas, or sonnets. There are even techniques, outlined at least by Holland, which will allow our system to modify the means it uses to evaluate fitness. In particular, rather than mutating and recombining essentially random lengths of bits, they system could come to recognize that certain blocks of bits are meaningfully connected. It also does not seem impossible, or even terribly difficult, to modify the standard techniques of genetic programming so as to work directly on two-dimensional or three-dimensional objects.” Genetic Algorithms for Art by Cosma Shalizi


Mathematical Equations on Chalkboard, by Steve Cole AA011042  at Getty Images now at Diomedia


“Fun” by Condensed Matter Research with Neutrons and Muons (NuM) at the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI)

But architects also ask, what is this space represented by lines and specifications really made of?


The Light Inside, by James Turrell, 1999, Original: electric lights, wires, metal and paint, Museum of Fine Arts Houston Texas, from Modern Painters Magazine, Winter 2001

Seminar Hall in the Museum for African Art , by Maya Lin, New York City, 1992-93, Associated Architect, David Hotson, from Boundaries, Simon and Schuster; ISBN: 0684834170; 2000.

Stainless Steel Mesh, Design 9, Lumsden Custom Mesh, 1-800-367-3664
Classic Travertine, Vein Cut, Unfilled and Honed, Stone Source, 202-265-5900
Clear Satin on Cherry, 20A, David Edwards Furniture Company, 410-242-2222
Wrought Iron, Benjamin Moore, 2124-10
Clear Natural Riverstone, Artistic Tile, NY 212-727-9331
Glass, AR 105, by Skyline Design, 773-278-4660
Gel, BTG 150 Starke 9mmm kein Farbmuster Peer Almute, Smooth, 800-433-7337
Platinum, by Ben Park


See the actual buildings of
The National Gallery of Modern Art, India
National Museum of Modern Art, Japan, 3rd floor Special Corner
National Gallery of Australia


This is a Test

this is test

[237] This

[57] is

[357] a test.

Above are 3 definitions and 3 purple number locations for words in the phrase “This is a test.” Today, there is a wide selection of dictionaries to define what words mean, most public sources are correct enough to serve most users goals. However, as soon as the work only applies to a specific knowledge domain or line of inquiry, the meaning of words must be more precise. In these cases, precise locations within dictionaries and semantic structures are more beneficial than definitions ~ which meaning of the words “this” “is” and “test”? Some knowledge domains, like biotechnology, are way ahead of everyone else developing their own controlled vocabularies, thesaurus, taxonomies and similar. How could these scientific pursuits and careful documentation efforts be extended and applied to artists? storytellers? musicians?

If an interlinked data structure was made for every word that had ever been uttered, common words for common uses would not need to be redefined again at each source. Over time, words that originate in certain areas of expertise might eventually branch out into other areas and have many slight variations in meaning in another area. A simple word could get very complex very quickly.

There are too many badly drawn, clunky looking charts and diagrams about semantic structure designs, it is impossible to choose which ones are the worst.

If the task at hand is to examine or work with the semantic structures themselves, more time and effort should be spent working with forms that are more fluid and beautiful, like language and word meaning.



Exponential by Eric Heller


ShiftSpace Trail

Trail Proposal: This is a Test

Top Layer (orange, two parallel lines like regular trails above)
[237] This
[57] is
[357] a test.

Next Layer (cyan, single arcs)


Blaise Aguera y Arcas: Jaw-dropping Photosynth demo


Merge Layer (thin white circles and ellipses trapping elements from various layers together)
Seeking film clip from the Deer Hunter where Robert De Niro is saying “This is This, it is not something else”




Trace Continuous Threads

dance pattern IssacPastoral

Yang’ge Dance Patterns and The Pastoral Dance Pattern by Mr. Isaac

The diagrams above show dance patterns. Its easy to imagine how these shapes and places to put your feet could be drawn on a floor for dancers to follow. Experienced dancers could probably just look at the diagram and recreate the movements.

By contrast, its more difficult to imagine how dynamic movement of information could be diagrammed to be followed and recreated by others. Below are examples of a cellular automata pattern about Emerging Complexity by Stephen Wolfram, LLC.

This image confuses Photoshop because pixels and colors are more continuous than they seem. There are actually very few boundaries or stopping points. The flow is constrained to limited dimensions with all elements are moving in the same direction.


If working with this pattern was like preparing a set of building specifications – the first step is starting with everything possible. There are patterns which are unseen here before dimensions are constrained. First, a process of elimination to look at only parts. Then working with each part. Some parts may be the exact same on several levels. They can be picked up, inserted, repeated and slightly modified to fit within the set of working information. Tracing paths through working sets and patterns could be a really fun mathematics and art problem.

Finding Continuous Threads

1 – Light Blue – finding the fastest way through.

2 – Orange – trying to cut across horizontally by inferring a line. Started looking for configurations with a sharp tip and two vertical lines going straight down on both sides.


3 – Purple – noticed some of the orange shapes had a strong spine of exactly repeating shapes in chains of varying lengths.

4 – Blue – noticed some chains were independent from the ones colored orange in the red pencil shapes.

5 – Light Green – easier to see by itself with trails above filled in.

Depending on what you are looking for, there are lots of ways to find and isolate repeated elements and trace continuous threads in seemingly disconnected, parallel tracks. If the patterns themselves could be worked on to push the information around in the first place…

computer placement

Sketch to figure it out, automatic placement by the computer of 2 unlike scales, some angles still align.


Based On


Image collage presented to Jim Crutchfield at Santa Fe Institute and the Art and Science Laboratory in 2004. The black and white backgrounds are evolving cellular automata patterns, the blue lines were added to trace continuous threads.


Residential vs Commercial

Conversation between Jim Disbrow and Deborah MacPherson regarding the component and community of interest we’re trying to build.  Metaphors comparing semantic architecture vs building architecture are presented on 2 levels: Residential vs Commercial.





Details of the trademarked EuraCraft System at

JD: …for artists to understand and help depict relationships in semantic space….Building outbuildings and barns might be easier to understand than contracting and programming commercial office space. I can pick up a book at the hardware store on the first two, but not on the latter. Can we make allusions to weightbearing and nonweightbearing walls, and the space in between having multiple functions? How about snow loads and fresh air exchange; mighten they have some semantic equivalent? Cantilevered buildings, porches, and awnings are pretty common too. How about glass houses with lots of transparencies and light?


DM: Right – what is holding it together? What can you see through? How do the various parts perform? What is the equal to door hardware and hallway layouts to control accessand direct the flow of visitors to this space…?




kmeans Kmeans

Basic k-means clusters that can be used as a reference for comparison vs Overlapping k-means clusters illustrate SOM distortion of semantic space both by Stacy Rebich, Department of Geography, University of California, Santa Barbara.

Both images show variations of the same solution in semantic space. The same semantic relationships may underly what is being shown in both images, but simpler versions are all the general public needs 99 percent of the time. Like the residential manufacturers drawing above, all that is needed is one picture showing how the parts fit together, and the names of the parts in case there is a question about one of them. A failure of the resident to assemble the parts the right way would not be a disaster beyond their own property. Commercial projects however, require standards, tests and inspections. There are rules to comply with and more detailed relationships need to be documented.

….in progress….





From Commercial Construction Loans

SHORT stands for Semantic Heuristic Ontological Relator Terms.

Comparison of semantic architecture vs building architecture.

Semantic = Each piece of information has a context where it belongs. For example, in an architectural package, the 100 series is always plan drawings. Symbolic notations refer one drawing to another, recognized by both their number series and symbolic notation as a plan, elevation, section, detail, coordination drawing, and so on. The relationships between all drawings in the set are captured by a project name and number. All projects of the office are in a linear sequence with no relationships between projects except before and after. All the lines and words for a project are in an evolving context together as a set of design and construction documents, specifications and work result requirements. There may be common details or requirements between projects of similar types (residential, office, mixed use) or location (Arlington County, Florida, Dubai), but once the contract is executed, the documents are frozen in time unless formally changed by amendment. The established semantic structure of a set of construction documents allows the Architect to issue updated separate parts in ways recipients can quickly know where the interpretations and clarifications belong.

Heuristic = You can make things with this system of terms and relationships. Drawings and specifications already have established locations and standing references between them. For documentation efforts, SHORT will create a better work environment than starting with a blank slate. Nearly anything that can be designed and built can be made to fit into a heuristic structure. Shared heuristic structures need to follow the equal of drawing conventions, and be described by a controlled vocabulary to be understood by others without ambiguity.

Ontological = Large scale, underlying, overarching principles of design and specification – but not yet construction or project definition. A potential ontological aspect of the work patterns and products of Architects could be the National Building Information Modeling Standard NBIMS. A consensus based, technology neutral, industry wide solution where software needs to be certified for compliance, you are on your own for hardware. NBIMS is a huge technological challenge to capture and maintain records of physical space, locations, and valid measurements including time. SHORT terms are like proprietary language being presented in NBIMS language to meet exchange requirements. The relator terms are an ontological mapper to meet exchange requirements defined in a SHORT checklist where some terms are included, others are specifically excluded to define the scope of work.


X Y z


There is underlying background information but a contract to do ontological work using SHORT includes only the contract items listed in the checklist, subsequently shown and specified in the final contract documents.

Bidders evaluate the checklist and design documents to negotiate or win a contract.


The checklist is used by Contractors to presort projects to decide what they are interested overall and for Owners to prequalify Contractors experienced with certain types of construction.



~ not shown yet~ Once the work is underway, the Contractor submits and continuously updates the schedule of values independently from the design by the Architect because the values are always changing based on the market but the design documents were frozen in time when the contract was executed. SHORT ontological terms keep the different disciplines in check. ~ aligning “bar codes” above is only for simplicity, the semantic relationships could rearrange and be any shape because of standing references between the relators. The more projects that repeat the same relationships, the stronger the references between the relators will become~


Waves_H by Kumiko Kushiyama SIGGRAPH 2003

Relator = When the design is broken into constructable parts to be communicated in checklists, models, drawings, and specifications the relator terms are like keynotes. They are a code, a short consistent designator.

Term = Expanded relators.

So – if building architecture is in physical space, SHORT is for semantic space. Accuracy&Aesthetics interest in the comparison is to require, through regulations and exchange requirements, that public space be purposefully set aside, designed, and updated with current information in the semantic world.

These designs do not have to be done over and over again. Patterns of understanding and communications can be reapplied and reused by repeating their semantic structure – which will help them to match up on higher more abstract levels in the future.

Today, it would give public information organizations the chance to select their best examples of the thrill of discovery, explain the services they provide, provide official answers to re-occuring questions, and set up predefined directions through the information they provide. By designing the semantic architecture specifically for public space as a small interoperable part of most projects.


People Can’t Find Things

Offices, organizations, and knowledge domains produce so much useful information. People who are learning about an office, organization, or area of knowledge need best practice notes, standard details, and lessons-learned to be super easy to look through.

When people do not know what things are called to input a specific term, it is difficult for machines to help sort through all the good ideas and information generated before. Perhaps a better geometry is needed to link together and organize records in such a way that people are led, by machines, to only information that is relevant to their skill level, language, and task at hand, rather than endless lists of everything under the sun.

conformal mapping


Conformal Mapping 1/(z*z) by fdecomite



Octagonal Star Pattern, a work in progress v.1 by EricGjerde



Even More Strange Things I Found by vegelony



Math Sculpture Closeup by sfopanda



Torley Finds the Strangest Things by Dedric.Mauriac


Imagine a World

Imagine a world where everything is in context from the big to the small. All kinds of short cuts, worm holes, and walkthroughs could be mathematically and artistically portrayed. Imagine exploring this world, turning the corner and seeing a huge vista, like all of music, open up before you. Imagine being able to trace an idea, object, or field of endeavor through time, across cultures and disciplines to see different perspectives. What if you could run into other people in areas where you are curious or interested, go up to them and say “Hey, what are you looking at?”


Stream line oriented topology of a 2D time-dependent vector field, by Holger Theisel and Kuangyu Shi, at the Max Planck Institut fur Informatik

To create such a world involves: