Cognitive maps: cartography of controversies.

“Belief of the primary sort is a map of neighbouring space by which we steer. It remains such a map however much we complicate it or fill in details. But if we professedly extend it to infinity, it is no longer a map; we cannot take it in or steer by it. Our journey is over before we need its remoter parts.” Frank Plumpton Ramsey  ‘General Propositions and Causality’ (1929)

Broadly, the cognitive space of the agent is the way he conceives his environment, that is, the world  he interacts with. So to speak, this cognitive space works as a map, with marks and known areas and with blind zones that are not even imagined or if so, unexplored yet. The agent uses this map to steer his actions, and an observer can survey the mind of this agent recording carefully his actions, interactions, expectations, desires, beliefs, concepts. Of course this survey is already a way of understanding this cognitive space, that means try to link of the furnishing of this mind in a kind of coherent whole in vertue of a charity principle of rationality, so perhaps the reality is different if any. But a map ought to be useful representation, visualisation of plainly space even sometime in duration, and this usesability implies not a simplification in the broad sense but rather a schematization, a formalization of connexion between variables and constants which stand for the building blocks of the mind that some would call moduls or even terms of mentalese.

How to represent a cognitive map?

Controversies are examples of cognitive interactions, cartography of controversies an example of cognitive or social maps. The difficulty of surveying the controversies is that unlike a landscape, they are not field where happens a battle but rather the battle itself, and the challenge is to try not to draw the terrain from the movement of the troops but rather the strategies of the soldiers. So, so to speak, there here kind of Münchlausen paradox: trying to sound something with no substratum, or at least clear, intuitive and appearing one.

A map is a tool. This very peculiar property even comes before the fact it is visual. As an iconic sign or typography. But what does a cognitive or social map looks like or should look like?

To go deep into this question, which is a very programatic one, several lines must be followed, prospective, theoretical and practical. This is in pursuing investigation, teaching and gathering craft that it will be possible to draw better charts. Cinema is a tool in the survey kit.

My role here at the Medialab of Sciences Po.