Getting Closer to Bond, James Bond

I don’t believe it’s a secret that information design is gaining traction in the learning world. With so many form factors from smartphones to oversize touch screen computers – and now the iPad, revolution/revelation how we handle data, text and imagery, plus coherent manipulation of screen objects is becoming of paramount performance.

The latest Bond films depict a glance at this next next iteration. Confession—one ticket to geekdom for me: I was as much intrigued by the “desks” and how agents moved around data in a hologram-like environment as the action sequences (Well maybe not THAT much). Huge amounts of materials, available for comparison and evaluation.

From the hawkings of Edward Tufte, a right turn past Gary Hustwit and a stop at frogdesign and you’ll note the amount and placement of data is becoming a considerable factor in two and three-dimensional design.

It can’t be too long for a leap past the ‘pad’ family into another once imagined environment—now sitting on a someone’s drive are plans for total spatial manipulation; that is integrated, animated, user-manipulated, four dimensional access to information. Of course, any real adoption, even if the tech is ready, will occur only after manufacturers and developers have sucked dry holes from their current product margins.

Meanwhile, assuming I am correct or at least close, how will this affect learning; corporate, and public education? If you believe as I do the next few years will bring about a decentralization of the command and control that once was school – or the conference hall that “captivated” business learning had better stand by. Check out the work of Dr. Hans Rosling a professor in Sweden who has enjoyed 4 million YouTube hits about Statistics, the driest dry bed in academe takes on the conflation of data and – more importantly its meaning – and makes it fascinating. In our hands (well… his at the moment) is the power to draw meaningful conclusions brought forward through delivery of critical information by comparison, cause and effect, prognostication and even ‘black swans.’ And, most vitally, this give us a pretty good look in to the future.

So what started in the Middle Ages with movable type through the first Macs to the latest Xoom’s our communicative ability will be exponentially staggering.

The net effect is at least two-fold (it should be four-fold if a hologram I suppose, but I’m not capable of manipulating that amount of data in my head) immediate effect. One, as I mentioned would be the further disintegration of the single expert or limited sources of material accepted as gospel and at face value: e.g., courseware that teaches negotiation strategies for example. I look forward to anarchy with facts – though I am more conservative about too quickly abandoning what we know to be true—only how it can be presented. It’s a real respect or an accounting for learners who apprehend information differently. And the second is a requirement that information design and designers are elevated to central roles designing in the multiplicity of communication modes. This should not be a far-reaching serious profession with discourse stretching from type fonts to charting to engineering for holographic zoom effects.

If you haven’t read up on design lately or at all, I suggest you grab, “Universal Principles of Design” by Lidwell, Holden, & Butler; and “The Information Design Handbook” by Jenn and Ken Visocky O’Grady. These are the minimum of a fundamental intellectual and visual vocabulary, and, in addition to Tufte, Don Norman, and Henry Petroski form an intellectual foundation for clarity of design. Some information looks backward in order to tell us about the present and others about making the present more comprehensible. The same movement must be energized on the visual and interactive design side, too.

Not too long from now, we’ll be projecting a space on to which we can further project materials of all kinds – instantly snatching data to not only observe the present but inform what comes next.

I suppose ‘Q’ would have been thrilled – I’m still impressed that James is as comfortable manipulating his super-smartphone as he is a 9mm.

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