RISD’s Creation Team:
Danniel Gaidula, Stephanie Grey and Soe Lin Post (graduate students
in Graphic Design)
Digital Programming and Development:
Ho Eun Ahn (graduate student in Graphic Design)
Thomas Ockerse (Professor, Program Head, Graduate Studies in Graphic
Anne West (Adjunct Faculty, Graduate Studies)
In concert with Sheryl Erickson,
the Fetzer Institute, Collective Wisdom Initiative, Project Director.
Dynamic Mapping: A Digital Experience of the Collective
This project responded to the question “How do we come together
in order to touch, or be touched by, the intelligence we need?”,
a question vital to the efforts of the Fetzer Institute Collective Wisdom
Initiative. Although the design could simply have mapped out the group’s
published research appearing in Centered on the Edge, the design team
envisioned a vitalizing experience: a dynamic map.
The protean quality of consciousness made it necessary to think of
a new way to look at the interface as experience. Most interfaces are
didactic and linear in design and function because their goal is to
disseminate information to the user in a convenient manner. This practical
approach is quite suitable for many types of content, but when content
is of a social or experiential nature this type of methodology does
The design team considered the perceptual engagement with words and
images as a “poetic” partnership, a gentle co-motion in
time and space to stimulate a deep sense of consciousness — of
imagination, broadenned perspective, and heightened meaning. Poetics
offers the user vitality via the power of grace. Grace invites a suspension
of the ego, permitting receptivity and inspiration (i.e., being in spirit).
From that unfolds the energy of awareness, of intelligence and the feeling
The design is a non-hierarchical, non-linear structure — of center-points
in which each “cell” is an organized principle that acts
as both microcosm and macrocosm. This holistic conception applies to
the entire design interface language, from its largest structure to
the smallest component. Interaction is with objects in constant flux.
Links are programmed to randomize the parts along with a few controls
so the viewer discovers new and unexpected relationships. That dynamism
empowers the participant with possibilities and co-creation.
In paying attention there is the possibility of surprise, which stimulates
spontaneity and play. Every experience therefore enables fresh insights.
The key is to participate with a contemplative attitude, leaving out
expectations, and letting happen whatever happens.
The true depth of what the map has to offer lies in the poetic grace
of the haiku-like experience itself, of being in the moment as an active
participant and co-creator, and not in the world of expectation and
In hindsight, this turned out to be a remarkable experience for the
design team, a true exemplification of the very idea of this CW project.
Although the initial conversation on my vision of the map and its potential
was clear, articulating this via specifics was impossible. For the design
team this meant to probe and discover as best we could, to unfold what
was essentially there but hidden from us. Although we worked consciously
not to have any expectations, of course we stumbled into predictable
(limited) realms. These were largely surface treatments, with tricks
designer are so good at.
For several months we struggled with logic and sensibility, yet without
gaining any resolve. Critical times developed to challenge ourselves,
to re-group, to re-assess — yet none of those moments brought
what we needed. Frustration grew, exhaustion set in, time was running
out. Doubt of our ability set in. Could we uncover the treasure we knew
was there but could not see? Then suddenly, perhaps in ultimate frustration
to simplify and “at least make a skeletal construct for the parts”
this formed for us the results. Clearly, what we had been looking for
was there, . . . and it was there all the time! Everything felt right.
What this only required were some further developments of some of the
parts and refinements of the whole. The “system” was in
place, the rest became a matter of making it work (technically, for
the most part)!
We realized in the end that what was there went beyond our expectations,
had moved us beyond our own capacities as we knew them, had formed something
we could not have conceived of, and was, in fact, providing for the
user an experience that was fresh with possibilities, a completely new
kind of interface experience — for the web and any otther medium.
Somehow, through our visual search and probing efforts we touched, or
were touched by, the intelligence we needed.
- Thomas Ockerse