Designing The Knowledge Map

KnowledgeMap.me includes a visual knowledge map that enables seeing and searching through your knowledge, including (importantly!) the connections you have made between various bits of knowledge. This ability is of critical and foundational importance. Surveying existing knowledge maps and approaches to visualizing knowledge did not turn out any satisfactory results, so I set out to design and build the map from scratch.

When creating something new, especially something fundamental like a new way of organizing knowledge, the process used has a higher importance than the creation itself. In this case, neuroscience is at the basis of the knowledge map design, just as it is at the basis of the whole idea behind the website – to map human knowledge and use it immensely more effectively. The architecture of the human brain synthesizes at various levels what in everyday language we call “knowledge”, and understanding how this happens has and will continue to have profound implications for understanding ourselves and changing how we do things.

The process then began with ongoing research into neuroscience, education, IT, and interdisciplinary methods. These insights led to sketches – jotted down with pen and paper. Real data from KnowledgeMap.me was used when making the sketches, so the connections you will see are real.

Knowledge Map Design - Sketch 1

Version 1. The right-hand side has notes describing a process for getting interdisciplinary insights: identify a relation on the map (in this case between diseases and relativity – the identified pathway is colored black), get experts representing the various intermediary steps between the two fields, put them in contact and pose them the question of how (in this example) relativity might be useful for treating diseases.

 

Knowledge Map Design - Sketch 2

Version 2. Depicting the possible look of a map when searching for a tag and showing its related tags.

 

Knowledge Map Design - Sketch 3

Version 3. Searching for more than one tag.

 

Knowledge Map Design - Sketch 4

Version 4. A different search tag combination.

A different design that was quickly discarded after some feedback and conversations:

Knowledge Map Design - Sketch 5

Version 5. Did not use it.

 

Knowledge Map Design - Sketch 6

Version 6. Color coding of tags that are closely related but appear distant on the map. And showing additional connections to tags not appearing on the map.

The next iteration had ellipses (well, kind of) instead of circles:

Knowledge Map Design - Sketch 7

Version 7. Playing with ellipses and various arrangements of the tags.

This next one was an idea for showing a larger number of tags related to a given tag (tag1 in the sketch). Did not end up using the idea and went for a different approach.

Knowledge Map Design - Sketch 8

An idea for showing a large number of tags related to a given tag.

And then finally, it was time for building prototypes. In this case a prototype means a functioning map on the website. This was one of the earliest versions:

Knowledge Map Design - Early Prototype

An early prototype.

There were more ideas and iterations not shown here, and certainly the feedback and discussions continue, but I hope this gives you an idea of how the knowledge map was born. With an approach to visualizing and organizing knowledge, the next step now is to systematically map it.

Borislav Zlatanov

The design of our knowledge map, as used on KnowledgeMap.me and its subsites, is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International license. If you want to commercially use this or a derivative knowledge map design, contact us and we’ll make a workable arrangement.