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Figure B.10. Enhancing learning through visual language.

This especially includes the so-called "messy" (or "wicked" or "ill-structured") problems (Horn 2001a). Problems have straightforward solutions; messy problems do not. They are

- more than complicated and complex; they are ambiguous

- filled with considerable uncertainty — even as to what the conditions are, let alone what the appropriate actions might be

- bounded by great constraints and tightly interconnected economically, socially, politically, and technologically

- seen differently from different points of view and quite different worldviews

- comprised of many value conflicts

- often alogical or illogical.

These kinds of problems are among the most pressing for our country, for the advancement of civilization, and for humanity; hence, the promise of better representation and communication of complex ideas using visual-verbal language constructs has added significance.

Premises Regarding Visual Language

A deep understanding of the patterns of visual language will permit

• more rapid, more effective interdisciplinary communication

• more complex thinking, leading to a new era of thought

• facilitation of business, government, scientific, and technical productivity

• potential breakthroughs in education and training productivity

• greater efficiency and effectiveness in all areas of knowledge production and distribution

• better cross-cultural communication

Readiness for Major Research and Development

A number of major jumping-off research platforms have already been created for the rapid future development of visual language: the Web; the ability to tag content with XML; database software; drawing software; a fully tested, widely used content-organizing and tagging system of structured writing known as Information Mapping® (Horn 1989); and a growing, systematic understanding of the patterns of visual-verbal language (Kosslyn 1989, 1994; McCloud 1993; Horton 1991; Bertin 1983).

Rationale for the Visual Language Projects

A virtual superhighway for rapid development in visual language can be opened, and the goals listed above in the premises can be accomplished, if sufficient funds over the next 15 years are applied to the creation of tools, techniques, and taxonomies, and to systematically conducting empirical research on effectiveness and efficiency of components, syntax, semantics, and pragmatics of this language. These developments, in turn, will aid the synergy produced in the convergence of biotechnology, nanotechnology, information technology, and cognitive science.

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