Theory as Object: 
Exploration of the Diagram as Methodological Device

The Culture of Diagram

John Bender and Michael Marrinan (2010)

“A diagram is a proliferation of manifestly selective packets of dissimilar data correlated in an explicitly process-oriented array that has some of the attributes of a representation but is situated in the world like an object” p.7

“…this book sketches from the time of the Encyclopedia a genealogy of visual correlation as a form of knowledge…” p.13

Neither description nor representation it is about creating a system of interconnected knowledges that constitute a whole.

“…ways of formalizing relationships with the world …  they foster many potential point of view, from several different angles, with a mixed sense of scale that implies nearness alongside distance” p.14

It is not just about bringing in multiple things to present something, but is a way of giving agency to the viewer. The viewer, or user, is implicated, it can no longer be passive, as it is up to him to construct the totality of the knowledge. Thus each ‘reading’ of a diagram constitutes a different whole, a different knowledge.

I was interesting to discuss how famous works of art could be seen as diagrams due to being presented with an artist’s knowledge and intentions at that time or place. Although, many argued that if it wasn’t intended to be a diagram then it isn’t one.

Create 3 possible arguments that justify understanding the image your group has selected as a diagram:

Screen Shot 2015-11-24 at 21.20.32

  1. It is showing multiple gestures of movement informing us of the step by step motions of walking.
  2. It indicates a male figure by using harsh lines as smooth lines are typically associated with the female figure.
  3. Due to prior experiences and knowledge, you will perceive a diagram in anything if you’re looking for one…



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A nocturnal twenty-something artist

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