In a discussion last night, the topic of mind mapping came up. It's a way to organize information (for example, a way to take notes during a presentation) that's said to improve memory and understanding compared to traditional forms like outlining.
As I understand it, the basic difference between a mind map and any other method is that a mind map starts with a concept in the middle of a page, and proceeds outwards. The examples at the Wikipedia page above aren't great, but it strikes me that such an arrangement would be much better at drawing networks of ideas--interconnectedness--than an outline form, where indentations imply levels of abstraction and there's an implicit barrier against linking things at different levels under different branches of the outline.
This made me think of other ways of illustrating connections between ideas. 3D would be great, but it's impractical on paper. The outline is left-to-right and implies levels of abstraction:
A tree structure goes from bottom to top and implies precedence--the bottom stuff came first and everything above "grew" out of it:
A top-down structure implies hierarchy and domains of influence. The topmost element controls those below. The classic example is an org chart:
If mind mapping serves no other purpose than to sweep away all the cultural assumptions that accompany our existing ways of organizing ideas, then I'm all for it. How would you draw a network, if you had to, anyway? As interconnectedness--between people, between ideas, between places--becomes more important in a world that sees the utility in cooperation-as-equals, maybe mind mapping will become a valuable tool.
POSTSCRIPT: Of course, in the process of cruising Google Images for these kinds of diagrams, I came across a veritable zoo of structures, from simple network illustrations to those using up-to-date interactivity. There's hope for us!