The Future of Media – Background Concepts

On this page https://tangerinefocus.com/media-innovations/ are YouTube videos that demonstrate innovation that I’ve been a part of previously (and that was my idea to begin with). The videos show that drawings of all kinds (design sketch, hand-drawn, cad drawings, construction document drawings, conceptual drawings…) all can be automatically infused in-situ within models. When you see this, you perhaps notice that models, their development and conception, their coming to be what they are… you may notice that this process of coming into being, tends to be engendered by drawings. That’s an interesting topic, but I’ll put it aside for now and stick in this post mostly to mechanics.

By automatically showing drawings in-situ within, IN models, the interplay between drawing and model is amplified, and, I think we can demonstrate, understanding improves, increases; in the interplay, understanding grows. Have a look at some of the examples.

Note that the models, like the drawings, can be of various types too. They can be point cloud models, hand built models, physical models of any kind, or real things, – photographed or scanned for conversion to digital model, vector models of any kind, BIMs…

Let’s stipulate:

  1. models are models, no matter the type of model (mental model, physical model, real model (real thing), hand-built model, digital model, BIM (a type of digital model)
  2. drawings are drawings, no matter the type of drawing (hand-drawn sketches, hand drawings of various other types, CAD drawings, various types of each of these…)

It is definitely true that there are real and significant meaningful distinctions between types of drawings (and between types of models). Right? There are real differences, that are worth discussion, between a hand drawn sketch of an idea in progress, and a “hardline” finalized version of the same idea, and the same such thing drawn in a software application (like a CAD program). But these distinctions while important, are secondary. Types of drawings are all drawings. And types of models are all models. What’s primary is the distinction between the categories “drawing” and “model”. These are categorically different things. Not just different by degree, but different in kind. Study of this distinction, between drawing and modeling, is worthwhile. And the study involves definition of each of the categories.

What is drawing? And what is modeling?

These questions are not often asked. But they should be. The answers tend to be assumed, and what we think we know tends to be the product of familiarity and received knowledge that is almost always unexamined. We spend far too little time thinking about the meaning of things, particularly those things with which we are familiar and that we think are obvious.

But ask yourself if you can put into words what a drawing is? Chances are good that you’ll come up with a number of definitions that if you are honestly critical of your own skills at conceptual elaboration, you’ll admit that your definition under scrutiny probably carries very little water. Give yourself the freedom to be wrong though, and you can open yourself to some clarifying discussion, within your own mind. You can discuss this with yourself.

Let me share some food for thought:

Drawing, I’d say, is an act of narrowing down, an act of focusing in. To draw, is to narrow down with focus (from everywhere to somewhere) to articulate something, somewhere, there. This articulation is done with relatively greater intensity — at the area of narrowing focus that IS the drawing — greater intensity than is the general level of articulate intensity elsewhere, elsewhere meaning: any locations in space that are not represented by the drawing(s).

Models, on the other hand, represent this elsewhere. Models are not narrow, but rather are wide, expansive, whole. Model’s don’t represent “somewhere”; they represent the whole of a thing, the entirety of the space occupied by a whole thing, throughout its space, not somewhere, but everywhere. This distinction between somewhere and everywhere, really, is at the basis of the distinction between the category [drawing], and the category [model]. “Drawing” and “Model” are as different from each other as “somewhere” is from “everywhere”. And so these are fundamental differences that make drawing and modeling fundamentally different things.

So once we recognize that distinction, then where can we go from there? The distinction, I believe, points the way to important innovations in media itself, and, I would say, the future of media, or a key part of its future anyway. I hope the following helps explain.

The basic idea is that drawings and models, being as they are fundamentally different things, are each irreplaceable; one cannot supersede the other, and both of them together are fundamental aspects of thought, and the process of thinking itself. This though runs counter to, confronts the lately popular idea that drawing and modeling are similar enough to each other that one can replace the other, that models, for example, can supersede drawings. This, it turns out, this idea of superseding, is an unfounded idea that simply cannot stand up under even the lightest scrutiny. Worse, it’s a counterproductive and destructive idea that undermines and inhibits meaningful innovation in digital media. The idea that models are the future and that drawings have to be abandoned, this is a severely flawed idea that can only be maintained if you choose deliberately not to contemplate the meaning of either category, drawing or modeling.

Both, it turns out, are essential aspects of thinking. Thinking itself. Thinking and understanding, really, come from (or are), an interplay between drawing and model, between narrow and wide, focus and environment.

Let’s try to demonstrate this, both in terms of any kind of thinking generally, and then specifically in terms of spatial thought.

First in terms of thinking in general:

Thinking happens in whole and in part, and in the interplay between whole and part. When we say, “Messi is a great football player”, that’s a whole idea, meaningless without its parts: he has great vision on the field; he creates space and finds angles; he scores many goals; he creates motion…

 

But the parts are meaningless without the whole as well. We need the whole, the concept, in order to recognize the parts. Without the formation of a concept (a whole idea), the parts are just random events lost in an avalanche of information. We won’t even see them, recognize them.

 

And without the parts, the whole is meaningless and can’t be formed. It’s a paradox.

In a loop or interplay connecting whole and part, the mind produces meaning and understanding grows.

We could elaborate on that discussion but let’s just leave it there for now. There are wholes and parts, and these interact, and when the mind is at work, it’s at work in that interplay.

The same sort of process is at work in spatial thinking, as happens in design and construction professions, but elsewhere too.

Think of your experience with both drawings and models.

  • You can’t really get a meaningful grasp on the whole of a model; you can’t really understand it in a thorough way, without going through the effort, the act, of narrowing down and focusing in with articulate intensity on a number of specific regions of a modelThat, narrowing down and focusing in, somewhere, with articulate intensity, is precisely what “drawing” is. Further, it is that act, the act of drawing, that engenders the formation of a meaningful wider and spatially expansive whole: a model, of whatever type — mental, digital, physical, real. In any case, we can assert: You need drawings to meaningfully understand a model.

You need the narrow to understand the wide; you need the focus to understand the expanse, the part to engender the whole, and conversely, the whole to give meaning to the part.

Indeed it’s a loop; the converse is true:

  • You need a model, to well and truly understand drawings. In fact, and I think your own experience will show this as true: you can’t understand, in a significant meaningful way, your own drawings, without using them to build a mental model of what the drawings represent in whole, spatially. The drawings are meaningful in the context of the whole, and truly, only in the context of the whole. Without the whole, without the model, each drawing is deprived of meaning, isolated and meaning-poor.

Understanding, comes from an interplay between drawing and model, between narrow and wide, between part and whole. Thinking, indeed, is the interplay. In this interplay, understanding grows.

Hopefully that resonates with your experience. Both drawing and model are indispensable and both are in constant mutual interplay. This interplay happens in the mind. It is a mental process.

The purpose of media, of any kind, is to support mental processes, to support the process of thinking and understanding.

We have not reached the end of innovation in digital media. As innovation continues, one of the rich innovation paths will be found by exploring the the now ample opportunities for amplification of the interplay between narrow and wide, focus and environment, part and whole, between drawing and model.

As the interplay is amplified, thinking will be recharged, supercharged. Understanding will grow faster, fuller, better. This is the goal. Such innovations will improve media itself. The improvements will impact thought, work, and communication, in every field dealing with visual spatial information.

Because of the nature of digital media, and because of the potential for innovation in media itself, the process of interplay that is at the root of the process of thinking itself, that interplay can now be made manifest within spatial digital media. We can infuse drawing and modeling into the same digital space. Just as we know from experience that it is the nature of thinking itself to infuse drawings in-situ into mental models by way of a mental process, now we can facilitate and amplify and better support the thought process by making the interplay visually tangible and explicit in our digital media. This explicit and tangible visual interplay between narrow and wide, focus and expansive whole indeed may become essential to the basic nature of media itself, its driving force. And as drawings are infused in-situ into digital models, automatically, then we not only produce a new kind of media, but we also drive forward an evolution in the meaning of the words “drawing” and “model”. Each of these will evolve. I’ll talk more about this in future posts.

I end this post with just a simple thought, an analogy to sound and silent film. Sound and picture are both essential media. One does not replace or supersede the other. Rather they both are infused together into the same space. This fusion happened about 100 years ago and gave us what early on was called “sound film“. The fusion of sound and picture transforms both the sound and the picture. It subtly changes and empowers each in ways that each of them cannot do on their own. And, the combination in some inexplicable way, is just greater than the sum of the parts. In any case, the result has given us 100 years now of a profoundly rich medium that better supports expression, thought and communication, than either of the constituent parts (sound or picture) could have done separately.

What will the next century bring?

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