In this TED talk, infographics expert Manuel Lima explores the history of information visualisation. Since the beginning of times humans had the urge to rank, create an order and visualise information. Originally people used the metaphor of a tree to map family relationships, animal species or the realms of human knowledge. However knowledge cannot always be represented in such way: it is too complex, intricate and interdependent.
The metaphor that better represents knowledge is not a tree but a matrix, a network or a web. Hierarchy can show you the internal structure of an organisation, while a network is able to show the relationships and the connections between its members. Network visualisation is becoming a syntax of a new language and the same matrix model, such as the radial converge, can be use to represent the most disparate things: from DNA to Facebook networks.
Matrices and network seems to be able to embody the notion of decentralisation, non linearity, interconnectedness, interdependence and multiplicity. Manuel Lima believes that this way of thinking will help us solving a number o problems: from decoding the brain to understanding the universe.