This morning, a little etymology…

The origin of the word “map” dates from the early 16th century, from the medieval Latin mappa mundi, literally ‘sheet of the world.’ The position Civita occupies as one of the most unusual locations in Italy—its almost fantasy-like setting coupled with its history of concerned preservation and multi-layered past makes it rich mapping quarry.

Certainly, Civita is not the sole location where a project like this could take form. Many other locations are rich in history and traditions enough to warrant a similar depiction, but a special place like Civita is more than deserving of the effort. Or perhaps it is more meaningful to say that a project such as this is implicit in a place like Civita. With a myriad of mapping potential, I decided to begin with a Civita mind map as is a graphical way to represent all the possible ideas and concepts I might want to explore.

Mind maps have always been common visual thinking tools in the arts and sciences field but they have recently become all the rage in the education world, since they encourage students to avoid thinking linearly. Essentially, a mind map is a diagram used to represent words, ideas, tasks, or other items linked to and arranged around a central key word or idea.

Here’s an early example of a mind map by Walt Disney done in 1953, the original of which can be found in the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco.

Mind maps are process-oriented, not an end in themselves, even if they do sometimes wind up being fun to look at, like this promotional one by Wendy McNaughton for Dell Computers.

In a mind map, as opposed to traditional note taking, information is deliberately structured in a way that resembles much more closely how your brain actually works. They open you up to new ways of organizing information and they’re more realistic, because most projects aren’t orderly to begin with. Mind maps naturally hook into your right brain, where creativity and intuition can help you. Mostly, they help you get the big picture before getting bogged down in the details. Mind maps force you to avoid the prioritizing that happens almost unconsciously in lists and sequence arrangements. In the process, you might discover something that might have been lost or overlooked had you taken a more left-brain approach by creating a prose version of the same information.

There’s only one key to making a mind map: you need to let go of the idea of what it “should” look like and allow yourself to explore implicit rather than explicit connections.

So—on to my own mind map of Civita. I’m looking forward to what the exercise may uncover that might have otherwise slipped past unnoticed.