Visual Language: Global Communication for the 21st Century

Robert Horn
Stanford CSLI

Seminar on People, Computers, and Design
Stanford University October 8, 1999

Bob Horn will discuss his new book in which he claims an entirely new language is emerging around the globe; a language that tightly combines words and visual elements. On the world wide web, this visual language has become widely used-and misused, so it has significant implications for interface design. Horn claims that it is becoming a new international auxiliary language, one that we will use in addition to our native languages to communicate across cultural divides. Visual language has already developed an elaborate syntax and semantics and it is rapidly integating vocabularies as diverse as diagraming and cartooning into a single unified communicative tool. Horn claims that visual language has been continuously invented over the past two centuries to handle the increasingly complex communication about our technology and organizations. He will illustrate part of his talk with his recent invention of argumentation maps, large poster-size diagrams, which enable students and instructors to navigate the Turing debate about whether computers will ever be able to think.

Robert E. Horn is a researcher, former CEO, and author. For the past few years, he has been a visiting scholar at the Program on People, Computers, and Design of the Center for the Study of Language and Information, Stanford University. His new book is "Visual Language: Global Communication for the 21st Century" and the Turing argumentation maps, "Mapping Great Debates: Can Computers Think?" (Publisher of book and


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