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“We are like sailors who have to rebuild their ship on the open sea, without ever being able to dismount it in dry-dock and reconstruct it from the best components.”

-- Otto Neurath

Otto Neurath: International Picture Language 1936

Otto Neurath and the Vienna Circle[edit]

Neurath was born in 1882 in Vienna and died 1945 in Oxford. He was member of the Social Democrats and one of the leading figures in the Vienna Circle. With his research he had big influence in education, philosophy of language and philosophy of science. In the 1920`s Neurath worked together with the architect Adolf Loos in the Cooperative Settlement Movement, for his work was important to built a link between community and society("Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft"). In the ambiguous positions at the Vienna Circle - a group of discussing philosophers, scientist, etc in the 1920s and 30s in the University of Vienna - was he oriented on a Coherentism. It is possible to call Neurath one of the architects of modernity.

The Sum Of All Knowledge (?)[edit]

This chapter tries to outline a brief history of the Encyclopedia and more specifically the scientific atlas.

De nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii ("On the Marriage of Philology and Mercury") by the medieval scholar Martianus Capella for a long time set the standard of how written knowledge was organized and communicated. De nuptiis uses metaphor and allegory as method to discuss the seven liberal arts, or the seven sciences of the middle ages. Logic, grammar, rhetoric, arithmetic, geometry, cosmology and music.

During these times books where considered to reflect that what had been written into creation by the hand of god. Therefor in the book was the proposition that one could create a collection of all knowledge, given that the amount of knowledge was finite. Following this line of reason it is not strange to imagine why Copernicus' texts proposing a heliocentric world view cause such an uproar. Not because of the ideas in themselves but because they became published. The ideas, once printed, became unchangeable. While having remained unprinted they where mere speculation.

The idea of a systematic survey of the sum of all knowledge requires the stability of a text. Therefor this idea could only be attempted once type could literally be set. In the pre-print process of multiplication of texts, knowledge was prone to change. Texts changed either by the hand of competent scholarly copyists that amended them or by incompetent copyists that made mistakes. The introduction of the printing press showed that old knowledge could be discovered and new knowledge could be produced.

From 1606 on, after Francis Bacon in his Advancements of Learning proposed a scientific method, encyclopedias aspired to be scientific. So it is around this time that the encyclopedia's method changed from a literary one (that of allegory) to a scientific one.

Direct influences on Neurath[edit]

One of the big influences on Neurath's ideas of the atlas was the Orbis Pictus by Comenius. The book attempts to describe all the features of the world and relies on image as much as on text to convey it's knowledge.

Another important influence on ISOTYPE was Leibniz' attempt at a characteristica universalis. He sought to develop a form of ideographic language as a key to all knowledge. He argued that, more than a compendium of all knowledge, a system that allowed for the translation and navigation of knowledge was needed. The symbols of this language would be universal and arithmetic. That means the symbols could be added to one another to produce new meanings. Neurath however did not intend the Isotype to be a replacement of verbal languages, but as an addition to verbal language, or an aid in reducing the amount of written text.**Link to properties of isotype later in text**

17th century encyclopedias + connections with leibniz, artes liberales and ideas of universal language (basic english)



A Method of presenting quantity of information through universal, understandable and visual language (interpreted signs). Isotype was the preceder of the pictogram. Pictograms are often used in writing and graphic systems in which the characters are to a considerable extent pictorial in appearance. The key difference between the pictograms and isotope is that pictograms functions mainly as navigation devices (for example showing certain direction), while the isotopes are used as an pictorial method of showing social, technological, historical and contextual connections, which allows people to orientate themselves within the society and the structures, often with the addition of horizontal repetition of the same Isotype to express an amount, whilst a vertical repetition of the same Isotype was used to represent passage of time or a comparison to other visual data. First they served as signs of material condition that shaped the life of Viennas' citizens in various way - housing, education, health and educational systems. Neurath intention for developing a system like Isotype was influenced under the current unstable political situation. In the Preface of his book "International Picture Language" he wrote "... thought we are living in a time of warring interests and broken connections." and he hoped for his vision "Any work done on the question of international languages - with a view to making a word language, or a helping picture language - will give support to international developments generally." <ref> S.13 et seq. Neurath, Otto: International Picture Language 1936 </ref>

Isotype - a utopic vision !?[edit]

Poster After Neurath

research about isotype, forms of visualization today, data journalism, web visualization, critic(open for entries)
Relevant examples of present isotypes could be seen in Parisian conceptual group Bureau d'Etudes engaged in creating alternative maps which aim to explore current contemporary political, economic and social structures.
They rule a website, which provides a glimpse of some of the relationships of the US ruling class in 2007. It takes as its focus the boards of some of the most powerful U.S. companies, main institutions and leaders which share many of the same paths.
Chad Mccailis British artist who analyses and simplifies social order into essential units in order to convey complex ideas.

Isotype today[edit]

Nowadays the Isotype has made place for various other forms of data visualization, despite being ahead of it's time when designed. One could however argue that the way pictograms are used to clarify other forms of data visualization such as bar graphs, instead of verbal explanation, are caused by the Isotype's existence. As of the past few years, the info graphic has slowly been making a comeback. In the info graphic, data is often represented in both a combination of graphs and pictograms, with the intention of making a clear explanation of the presented data, whilst trying to avoid verbally explaining it. The representation in this way is referred to as a pictorial chart. The downside is the creative freedom artists and designers make in representing the information, whereas the Isotype strives to be as clear as possible by setting an international standard for pictorial data representation.

The exhibition "After Neurath: The Global Polis" took place in Den Hague in 2008. The show aimed to address political and social agenda. Nadar Vossaughian rises three questions to the public: What is community? The second bit is what is globalism? How the exchange between culture and politics might occur?

pirate pad resource[edit] (Collection of Isotypes made by Gerd Arntz)