Language is a Map

Language is a Map by Tim O’Reilly.

From the post:

I’ve twice given an Ignite talk entitled Language is a Map, but I’ve never written up the fundamental concepts underlying that talk. Here I do that.

When I first moved to Sebastopol, before I raised horses, I’d look out at a meadow and I’d see grass. But over time, I learned to distinguish between oats, rye, orchard grass, and alfalfa. Having a language to make distinctions between different types of grass helped me to see what I was looking at.

I first learned this notion, that language is a map that reflects reality, and helps us to see it more deeply – or if wrong, blinds us to it – from George Simon, whom I first met in 1969. Later, George went on to teach workshops at the Esalen Institute, which was to the human potential movement of the 1970s as the Googleplex or Apple’s Infinite Loop is to the Silicon Valley of today. I taught at Esalen with George when I was barely out of high school, and his ideas have deeply influenced my thinking ever since.

If you accept Tim’s premise that “language is a map,” the next question that comes to mind is how faithfully can an information system represent your map?

Your map, not the map of an IT developer or a software vendor but your map?

Does your information system capture the shades and nuances of your map?


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