Thortspace: mind map or concept map, or something else entirely?

Designed by Freepik

Notes: A list of useful links to Thortspace resources can be found here: Notes about thortspace — Public sphere list at thortspace .

Some colleagues pointed me to an article by Chuck Frey, that compared Concept Maps and Mind Maps, and asked me to say where Thortspace fits into this picture.

The proof of the pudding being in the eating, lets start by looking at what we’re talking about: here’s an example of Thortspace : 3D mind-mapping.

Click or tap the arrow button over on the right side to move to a series of set viewpoints around the map. You can also go off-piste and rotate the sphere for yourself by dragging with your finger or a mouse, and clicking or tapping on linked or embedded spheres to move to them.
Thortspace : 3D mind-mapping

There are a number dimensions on which we can place tools that are designed to help with thinking. Some such dimensions that are important to insightful thinking-in-the-world are:

(1) The degree to which the tool supports looking at a project or problem or study topic from lots of different points of view
(2) The degree to which the tool supports experimental reflection and play (contrast with being solely oriented around organising information)
(3) The degree to which the tool supports the creation of building blocks of structure that can subsequently be used to build with
(4) Static endpoint-oriented vs. process-oriented — is the journey made to be as important as the destination?
(5) Does it support synthesis or analysis or both — building things up, or breaking things down, or both at the same time

The mind-mapping and concept-mapping tools that I have seen are:

(1) Endpoint-oriented (and mostly single-endpoint at that)
(2) Tools for organising information rather than playing with it

There’s no question that such tools are useful. But are these tools oriented towards causing transformational breakthroughs?

When we think seriously about a matter, we are looking for perspectives that encompass (include and transcend) all the other perspectives. That’s why we say about thortspace that it is “everything from the perspective of everything else”.

I think what we’re trying to do with thortspace is provide a visual language that is:

(1) as simple as possible while still being
(2) sufficiently nuanced that it can express a large collection of the thinking structures we do in fact find in our thinking when we come to look at it.

So as well as imposing structures on thinking, we are aiming to make it possible to express the structures that we already find in our thinking when we come to look at it. The structures that we find when we look may include hierarchies, inclusion, collection, association, imbued meaningfulness, connection, relationship, logical consequences, logical argument and so on.

How does thortspace enable viewing a subject from different points of view?

(1) The surface of a sphere doesn’t have a centre.

Work done on a “page” inevitably has a middle. It is not just the map itself that has a centre (mind maps typically have one centre from which the hierarchy spreads out, with concept-maps its not so straight-forwards) but the point is that the space inside which these maps exist has a centre, even if the maps themselves do not. And the space inside which thinking is done shapes the possibility of the thinking that is done in that space.

Because the surface of a sphere has no centre, and no “right-way up”, any point on a sphere can be moved to the centre.

There is no centre on the surface of a sphere… or rather “everywhere is the centre”. Thortspace — beyond 3D mind-mapping

(2) Thortspace is designed to make it easy to group, regroup, connect and re-connect items in multifarious different ways.

The implementation of this may not be ideal in the current releases, but in essence, having thoughts on discs which you can slide around, makes it in principle easy to consider multiple re-configurations of the same sets or subsets of thoughts.

Provision of the “Arrangements” functionality is intended to make it easy to store all of these alternative configurations and easily transition between them. Consequently when you arrive at a typical thortspace perspective, you actually arrive at a whole series of alternative perspectives.

Thortspace allows users to store multiple alternative arrangements of the set or subsets of information and switch fluidly between these arrangements. Thortspace — beyond 3D mind-mapping

(3) Thortspace supports viewing thinking structures at a whole series of different scales and distances.

Thortspace supports automatic precising as you zoom in and out. As you zoom out, thortspace identifies keywords (or you can designate your own with #hastags) and instead of the text getting tiny, thortspace drops out words that are not keywords, and tries to maintain the size on screen of the keyword text. This allows a sphere to be viewed at a whole series of different levels of detail, and seamlessly flow from one level into another.

Thortspace automatically applies algorithmic or user-defined precis to text as you zoom out.
Thortspace allows flowing seamlessly between viewing thinking at different scales at distances.

How does thortspace support the creation of building blocks that can be used to build with?

(1) Thortspace is designed to make it easy to pull in previous thinking you have done on a subject, so that you can use it as building blocks for doing further thinking on related subjects. Linked spheres and embedded spheres can both help with this. Our plan for the Global Mind Vision will enhance this aspect much further and deeper.

Spheres in thortspace enable the storage of “chunks” of thinking, that can then be linked together to make networks of thinking.

How does thortspace support being experimental and process-oriented rather than being organisational and static-endpoint-oriented?

(1) Thorts can be easily split from groups and associated into other groups

(2) Connections can be made at

  • thort->thort,
  • thort->group,
  • group->group,
  • sphere->sphere,
  • thort->sphere,
  • group->sphere levels

The first three of these at least support multiple-step connections.

(3) Associations can be made at the thort and sphere levels, and to an extent at the group level. And we plan to extend this.

(4) Alternative arrangements can be created, stored and switched between.

(5) Alternative categorizations for thoughts can be created and expressed by means of graphics, icons or colours. On any given sphere multiple different categorizations can be applied, and category membership across each of the alternative categorizations is stored by the software.

Thortspace services are Powered by Google App Engine

Thortspace Premium and Free services run on Google App Engine and your sphere data is stored on Google’s Cloud Data storage. Your data is as secure on our service as it is on any of Google’s native services. See:

Andrew is a Product Designer at Thortspace, the world’s first collaborative 3D mind mapping software. More stories here.