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On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: ten

Sunday, October 9th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — a long, lazy Sunday post, packed with quirky interest and neat maps ]

Ten? What’s so special about ten, hunh? Just because you have ten fingers, you suppose that makes ten special?



As simple as a map can get:

Simon Kirby, The Worry Line


As complex as one can get:

Eric Jaffe, The World’s 15 Most Complex Subway Maps

And I mean complex, cognitively complex:

When it comes to information processing, an average person’s “cognitive threshold” is about 250 connections, or the equivalent of roughly eight bits of data, according to the researchers. New York’s system neared that limit, with 161 total connections, and the most complicated two-transfer trip a person could make on the subway exceeded it—clocking in at 8.1 bits. Maps for the Paris Metro (with 78 total connections), Tokyo Metro (56), and London Tube (48) clustered around six bits of information.



Nick van Mead, Can you identify the world cities from their ‘naked’ metro maps?

The Guardian wanted to know if you could recognize various cities if shown their metro maps without the stations markings.. and i could manage Chicago (above).



Chris Ward, Coffee Stops

Sadly, the map is not the territory, or I could get my Java from South Ken while sitting at my desk just outside Sacramento.

The London Coffee Map, “Coffee Stops,” was designed by Chris Ward, who calls himself “the boss who works from coffee shops.” He recently published Out of Office: Work Where You Like and Achieve More, a best-selling guide to leading a successful working life outside an office building. Apparently, being properly caffeinated is one of his biggest tips. Now you can grab your joe at local London cafes with quaint names like Scooter and Electric Elephant.



I could then quaff it from an appropriately poetical Map Mug:

Royal Shakespeare Company, Greater Shakespeare Map Mug

The map here representing affinities between characters in the Bard’s various plays:




— and we’re half way to ten, let’s imagine ourselves at Shakespeare and Co‘s bookstore and cafe in Paris





While we’re on a literary streak, here’s a thumbnail of one of artist Rod McLaren‘s illuminations of Italo Calvino‘s Invisible Cities:

Rod McLaren, Invisible Cities Illustrated #2: Trude/Ersilia

The detail here is fantastic, as befits Calvino’s work:

The diagram, a network of curved lines connecting to every other node on a 6 x 5 grid, has two configurations: if the picture is hung one way up, it shows the “Ersilia configuration” (where the lines are like the threads strung between the buildings of Ersilia); if hung the other way up, it shows that of Trude (where the lines are like a complicated airline route map).

Ersilia (Trading Cities 4, p78):

In Ersilia, to establish the relationships that sustain the city’s life, the inhabitants stretch strings from the corners of the houses, white or black or gray or black-and-white according to whether they mark a relationship of blood, of trade, or authority, agency. When the strings become so numerous that you can no longer pass among them, the inhabitants leave: the houses are dismantled; only the strings and their supports remain. From a mountainside, camping with their household goods, Ersilia’s refugees look at the labyrinth of taut strings and poles that rise in the plain. That is the city of Ersilia still, and they are nothing.

They rebuild Ersilia elsewhere. They weave a similar pattern of strings which they would like to be more complex and at the same time more regular than the other. Then they abandon it and take themselves and their houses still farther away.

Thus, when travelling in the territory of Ersilia, you come upon the ruins of the abandoned cities, without the walls which do not last, without the bones of the dead which the wind rolls away: spiderwebs of intricate relationships seeking a form.

Trude (Continuous Cities 2, p128):

If on arriving at Trude I had not read the city’s name written in big letters, I would have thought I was landing at the same airport from which I had taken off. The suburbs they drove me through were no different from the others, with the same greenish and yellowish houses. Following the same signs we swung around the same flower beds in the same squares. The downtown streets displayed goods, packages,signs that had not changed at all. This was the first time I had come to Trude, but I already knew the hotel where I happened to be lodged; I had already heard andspoken my dialogues with the buyers and sellers of hardware; I had ended other days identically,looking through the same goblets at the same swaying navels.

Why come to Trude? I asked myself. And I already wanted to leave.

“You can resume your flight whenever you like,” they said to me, “but you will arrive at another Trude, absolutely the same, detail by detail. The world is covered by a sole Trude which does not begin and does not end. Only the name of the airport changes.”

All of which reminds me of nothing so much as Antonio Gaudi‘s model — made of hanging chains — catenaries —


which when turned upside down provide the structure for his Sagrada Familia cathedral in Barcelona:




Meanwhile, back in London, we have maps of the ghost (ie abandoned) London tube stops:

Dylan Maryk, Ghost Stations On The London Underground


That’s one way to de-clutter the Tube map — show what ain’t there any more.

Here’s another —

Matt Thomason, 150 years of The London Underground

Don’t ask me what it means — seeing as Hugh Grant gets a station, it’s either gentlemanly or ungentlemanly, I’m not sure which.



I simply didn’t know you’d have to travel this far to get from Dylan to the Beatles:

Dorian Lynskey, in Tufte, Response to London Underground maps

I mean —

Michelle Geslani, The Beatles and Bob Dylan met 50 years ago today


I’ve kept this one for last because in some ways it’s the subtlest:


It’s the work of architect Jug Cerovic., and on his page In Borders We Trust he offers this conceptual comment:

Borders are primarily a mental construct.

Just like a deity, they exist only insofar as People believe in them. Question is however how necessary our belief in their existence is and when exactly does that belief start harming us?

At which point do borders cease to be a convenient orientation marker, a helpful tool for the comprehension of the land we inhabit, a common identifier for the construction of a shared identity? At which point do borders become a dogmatic limitation to imagination, a terrifying prison for the body and mind, a symbol and support of hatred?

Borders do not possess an inherent bad or good character, on the contrary they are a malleable concept subject to appropriation and interpretation.

“In borders we trust” examines the perception, physical manifestation and enforcement of the couple formed by People and Borders focusing on three key areas of the contemporary migration routes:

  • Gibraltar
  • Serbia
  • Levant
  • For this purpose the peculiar relationship between Borders and People is illustrated with a sequence of three distinct maps:

  • Borders without People
  • Borders with People
  • People without Borders
  • This novel perspective of a seemingly familiar representation, with each component of the couple shown separately and juxtaposed to their combined illustration, questions the articulation and pertinence of our present predicament.

    Happily, this is an area that I’ve delved into at some length myself in my earlier post, No man’s land, one man’s real estate, everyone’s dream? — with specific reference to ISIS’ bulldozing of the border between Iraq and Syria, and the Basque country, Euskadi, saddling the French / Spanish border.

    Cerovic has achieved an eminently practical limited version of one of my own grandiose castle-in-air schemes — building a universal graphical mapping system. Cerovic’s version offers us a universal graphical underground / tube / metro mapping system, in the form of his book One Metro World — you still have a couple of weeks to support it on Kickstarter!



    Earlier in this series:

  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: preliminaries
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: two dazzlers
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: three
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: four
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: five
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: six
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: seven
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: eight
  • And hey, and we’re back at maps — where we started in

  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: nine
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: nine

    Sunday, October 9th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — if the territory is graphical, so’s the map ]

    Terrain, with its named places and transportation links between them, is graphical, as illustrated in this map:

    It makes me wonder how often graph theory (of the sort that gives us the Königsberg Bridge Problem, see the first post in this series) is applied to troop movements — as it often is to public transportation (see the upcoming tenth post).


    My next example of the use of a node-and-edge graphical design both puzzles and intrigues me:

    It puzzles me, because I can’t quitec grasp what Raza Rumi — a very bright fellow — is up to in choosing this particular illustration. And it intrigues me, because once on a vision quest I glimpsed an outstretched eagle’s or hawk’s wing, with a similar graphical overlay of its structural essence. It’s a sight I’ve never forgotten, an exquisite linking of the real and abstract worlds, and one that I’m sadly ill-equipped to reproduce visually myself. Words don’t do it justice.


    My third example, as you can see, is taken from a learned paper describing the use of graphs to illustrate musical compositions according to a strictly defined protocol:

    What interests me here — aside from the fact that any of these digrams could be used as a board in a sufficiently complex HipBone or Sembl game — is that I ran across this particular paper within 24 hours of reading m’friend Bill Benzon‘s account of his friend Michael Bérubé and his son Jamie, introduced in this tweet:

    Bill’s post Jamie’s Investigations, Part 1: Emergence to which his tweet refers us — is illustrated thus:


    Michael Bérubé, we read, has recently published a book about Jamie, who has Down’s, Life as Jamie Knows It: An Exceptional Child Grows Up, and it contains a series of Jamie’s drawings, of which this is one example.

    Bill, who is himself the author of Beethoven’s Anvil: Music in Mind and Culture, notes “Jamie loves music, and his dad is a rock-and-roll drummer, so’s his older brother Nick, I believe.” And here’s the clincher — he then asks:

    In what way are these drawings like drum beats?

    So that’s two examples of novel visual representations of musical pattern in just two days, earlier this week.


    Enough for now — onwards to On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: ten — a long, fascinating post IMO, long enough that I’m glad this is a Sunday.

    Earlier in this series:

  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: preliminaries
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: two dazzlers
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: three
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: four
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: five
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: six
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: seven
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: eight
  • When are look-alikes alike, eh?

    Friday, September 30th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — a questiom for Cath Styles and Emily Steiner ]

    It’s my proposal here that look-alikes are in the eyes of the beholder, perhaps more so than other forms of likeness.


    Do they look like Darth Vader and C3PO to you, frankly — or more like each other?


    One really does have to wonder how medieval monastics got hold of copies of Winnie the Pooh:




    With a double hat-tip to the immensely followable twitter feed of PiersatPenn


    And what about this?

    It probably takes some historical knowledge to appreciate the similarities here — the comparison is not entirely visual.


    Are mathematically or verbally juxtaposable similarities equally subject to human comparative bias?

    Van Riper and the HipBone mechanism

    Friday, August 19th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — part ii of van Riper’s cognitive process is what we train ]

    Van Riper, as quoted in Maj. Joe Byerly‘s article, Use ‘Mental Models’ to Outthink the Enemy, writes that both study of the past allows “practitioners of war to see familiar patterns of activity and to develop more quickly potential solutions to tactical and operational problems.”



    There are two parts to that.

  • One is the seeding of the mind with a multitude of thoughts, concepts, tactics, strategies, events, skirmishes, battles, wars, moments and flows in time.

  • And the other is the present moment riggering a past, suitably analogous, situation from out of all that multitude.
  • I cannot easily persuade or inspire others to seed the mind with a wide and various range of experiences and readings. But I can train the abulity to pluck apt analogies out of the dim recesses of memory, to scrape them off the back wall of the skull if necessary, to find those patterns, and providee those dots with which the presnt moment may fruitfully connect.


    board inside skull

    That’s what the HipBone Games in general teach, that’s what each move in a HipBone or Sembl Game is about, that’s precisely and exactly what the DoubleQuotes method is all about, that in a nutshell is the heart of what I call HipBone Analytics.

    Maj. Byerly makes the case for wide and reading very clearly. It’s getting up to speed on part two that interests me here.

    Take Me Out to the Ball Game, TerraPattern!

    Thursday, May 26th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — “similar-image search for satellite photos” for Sembl / Hipbone players ]

    Tablet DQ 600 baseball at 75

    I began my TerraPattern test-drive at CitiPark [above] and wound up Justin Seitz would know where!


    As you can see [below], TerraPattern gave me plenty of choices:

    Tablet DQ 600 baseball 02 at 75


    The number of museum collections, apps and other sources for Sembl / HipBone use and potential partnership grows by the day!

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