07 October 2008

Physical thought organization

If my generation has spent most of its document-writing life on a computer, why is it that we still have to print things out and physically move them around in order to get our minds around them? For example, one is able to physically move slides around in PowerPoint and Keynote, but it's not as good as printing everything out, pinning to a wall and physically reordering the slides most of the time. One can copy and paste bits of a text document all over the place, but printing it out and physically writing notes and drawing brackets and arrows seems to help more. Or is it only this way for a few people (me included, obviously)?

Is it because learning as a child tends to center on very visual and tactile methods? Maybe that's where the tendency is from; we played with Tangrams when we were younger, physically having to move bits around to add up to a whole. Ditto jigsaw puzzles. Perhaps toys like Tinkertoys and LEGO are better examples, even, since they can be open-ended and require more imagination than necessarily working towards a specific whole.

There is probably a simple cognitive theory that perfectly explains this. I'm working on 10 things at once this week and my thoughts are like an untied shoelace at the moment, please forgive me!

EDIT [20 October 2008] I recently got some very interesting input from Christy of Living Breathing; I met her at Likemind last Friday.
maybe it has something to do with the idea of permanence / finality, and its association with typing/computers. i often don't even open up powerpoint when i start a presentation; instead, i'll lay out sheets of paper and handwrite the headlines and re-arrange. only when i'm sort of happy with the flow and "ready" will i put it into powerpoint. i'm wondering if there's something just more unofficial and casual and free form about physical writing - forgiving of mistakes too - which can sometimes lead to more inspired thoughts.
Thanks Christy!

[photo courtesy of NaNa [supergirl] on Flickr]
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