Exploratory Diagrams

Kenning, Dean (2018) Exploratory Diagrams. In: RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2018; 28 - 31 Aug 2018, Cardiff, Wales. (Unpublished)


I propose the term ‘exploratory diagrams’ to describe an approach to diagramming which goes beyond the familiar graphic communication categories of ‘statistical’ and ‘explanatory’ diagrams (Lockwood, 1969) so as to focus instead on how the phenomenal act of constructing a diagram is productive of knowledge rather than being merely a representation of already existing knowledge or ‘information’. In particular I am interested in how both the embodied act of drawing and the compositional act of juxtaposing graphic icons generate specific modes of thinking which are particularly useful in grasping, exploring and developing knowledge with regards to real and theoretical abstractions. Diagrams enable social and theoretical abstractions to be made intuitively graspable not simply as a mode of visual reception but also as a mode of active diagramming whereby learning, the invention of problems and speculative thinking are felt through the act of drawing. The reason for a focus on the diagrammatic mode of ‘thinking through drawing’, as I see it, is the diagram’s (potential) combination of the geometric and the emblematic. That is, its semiotic capacity to produce new and unexpected meanings through the logical combination and juxtaposition of terms (e.g. ‘semiotic squares’); and, alongside this, the graphically efficient tendency towards the representation of its conceptual objects as figurative emblems. I will illustrate this sensory and speculative mode of knowledge production by referring to my own artistic practice, specifically to diagrammatic artwork produced to explore political philosophy and the state form. In this way I also hope to draw some links between political and visual representation.

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