Tjebbe van Tijen on Thu, 12 Jun 1997 11:11:15 +0200 (MET DST)

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Re: <nettime> Speaking Signs. Otto Neurath's Viennese Method ofVisual Education (0)

"We are like sailors who on the open sea must reconstruct their ship but
are never able to start afresh from the bottom. Where a beam is taken away
a new one must at once be put there, and for this the rest of the ship is
used as support. In this way, by using the old beams and driftwood the ship
can be shaped entirely anew, but only by gradual reconstruction." (Otto

It was nice to see one of my favourite subjects, pictorial language,  for
the last decades appearing in the context of a text focussed forum like
'nettime'. If there is any interest in this gorup for the subject of
pictorial language than there are many links to both printed and digital
materials available.

The minimum I want to do at this point is to mention the standard work on
Otto Neurath's picture education work:

Otto Neurath
Gesammelte bildpaedagogische Schriften
-Herausgegeben von Rudolf Haller und Robin Kinross
Verlagh Hoelder-Pichler-Tempsky, Wien 1991
p.674, ilustrated, isbn3209008639

some other books are mentioned at

The Institut Wiener Kreis/Vienna Circle from Vienna is engaged in promoting
the study of the group of philosophers at the beginning of this century in
which Neurath participated

Interpretations of the meaning of the pictogram/isotype system of Neurath
keep appearing like this one comparing the modernity of Piet Mondriaan and
Otto Neurath

Frank Hartmann forgot to mention his own German text"Otto Neuraths
revolutionäre Methode der Bildpädagogik" on the subject that can be found at

My own reserach in this area focusses on the relevance of historical
phenomena like heraldics, emblematics, the charateristica universalis (17th
century), the ars combinatoria (13th century), the tableau system (17th
century Comenius), the isotype system of Neurath(20th century) and the
semantographic system of Bliss (20th century), for nowadays information and
communication systems.
What becomes clear that a lot of concepts, at this day promoted as being
the product of the new digital area, existed long before. Seen in a
historical perspective the relativity of 'universal comminication systems'
become clear, like the creative misconceptions about the Egyptian
hieroglyphs at the end of the 16th century in Europe that led to a wave of
emblematic art during almost two centuries, very similar to the multi-media
hype of our times.

I have attached 3 pictures to this message to illustrate this, because of
traffic problems with attached images (size) there are 3 seperate messages
belonging to this answer


Tjebbe van Tijen
Imaginary Museum Projects, Amsterdam

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