A couple of years ago I became enamored of concept mapping, and did a lot of work to integrate concept maps into teaching political theory. I made diagrams of the argument in Book 1 of Plato’s Republic, of Hobbes’s account of the sources of social conflict, of Locke’s Second Treatise of Government, or Rousseau’s Social Contract. Here’s one that’s intended to capture the structure of Locke’s defense of toleration:
I found these maps very illuminating, but some (many?) of my students found them too confusing. “Couldn’t you simplify it a bit more, into a list of bullets?” Well, yes… but what fun would that be? It’s the complexity that’s interesting. Probably my mistake was to introduce the full complexity up front, instead of giving the students the elements and having them figure out the map (or the alternatve possible maps). As usual, too top-down, not interactive enough.
I also ran into a technical problem, however, that has deterred me from creating more of these. I want to be able to associate text with the elements of these maps, beyond just the text that appears in the bubbles. At one point, I used a Dreamweaver plugin to add pop-ups, so that when a student hovered their cursor over a portion of the map, text popped up explaining the element. This was pretty cool, I thought, but revising these pop-ups was not straightforward; I had to use Dreamweaver, and remember how the plugin worked. Also, I would normally have the same content somewhere else, perhaps an entry on my course webpage. If I updated that entry, I would have to remember to update the concept map. Then my Dreamweaver quit working, and I’ve been stranded ever since.
I’ve looked at cmap, but it doesn’t have pop-up text (yet?). I use OmniGraffle to make my maps, and it will save html image maps, and will even save info about each element, but it won’t generate the html that will pop-up said info. At one point I looked into integrating concept maps into tiddlywiki, because TW’s micro-content approach seemed to fit nicely with the concept map idea (one “tiddler” per concept), but that didn’t really work either.
I guess that there are really two problems, here. The first problem is that the content that is associated with the elements of my maps is stored separately from the map itself – it’s not connected in any way – and so it’s hard for me to keep synced, and to move back and forth between map and text. The second problem is that when I display the maps, I don’t have an easy way of making that same content available to others.
Ideally, one and the same body of content could be viewed and navigated and edited in two different modes: visually, in map form, and textually, in wiki-mode. Same content, two different depictions. Does this technology exist, anywhere?