Center for Strategic Communication

[ by Charles Cameron — forms & patterns, pattern recognition & creative leaps, creative leaps & connecting dots, connecting dots & node-and-edge mapping — node-and-edge mapping, link charts and Sembl-HipBone games ]


There’s no “actionable intelligence” in that tweet, but it recognizes a pattern, it makes a fine creative leap. And given the chance, that’s something bright minds tdo naturally, and enjoy doing, and is away more important than we think.

Yestedrday I was watching Manhunt pretty closely for an upcoming Zenpundit review, and noticed that some of the most significant quotes in the film were absent from CNN’s transcript. One gap I noticed had to do with the descriptions of the analytic process, and in particular some of the things Cindy Storer said. I’ll quote this one, which goes to the heart of the matter, but there’s plenty more left for me to chew over with you later. Here she goes:

Even in the analytical community there’s a relatively smaller percentage of people who are really good at making sense of information that doesn’t appear to be connected. So that’s what we call pattern analysis, trying to figure out what things look like. And those people, you really need those people to work on an issue like terrorism, counternarcotic, international arms trafficking, because you’ve got bits and pieces of scattered information from all over the place, and you have to try to make some sense of it. … That takes this talent, which is also a skill, and people would refer to it as magic — not the analysts doing it, but other people who didn’t have that talent referred to it as magic.

That’s a pretty exact description of what the Sembl game will eventually teach people, once it comes out of the museum prototype and onto the web — but let’s back it up with a quick quote from Wittgenstein:

A surveyable representation produces precisely that kind of understanding which consists in ‘seeing connections’ [Zusammenhänge sehen]. Hence the importance of finding and inventing connecting links. Hence the importance of finding and inventing intermediate links.

That’s from Philosophical Investigations, 122, and it’s a higher altitude / more abstract view — but it’s also the very heart of network thinking, seeing processes not just in terms of isolated nodes but of the connections between them.


Seeing connections — connecting the dots — happens in lines and leaps. That is to say, it can happen according to the usual linear way of thinking, the dogged 99% of perspiration that people talk about — or according to the far less common lateral move or creative leap, which moves by analogy, which is to say by pattern recognition, by the perception of similarities of form.

That’s the 1% we call inspiration. That’s the magic.


So a whole lot of patterning was going on in my twitter-stream today, and I thought I’d show you.

First, there was the parallel between the names Mokhtar Belmokhtar and Jean Valjean (above). If you’re hunting either fellow, the parallelism isn’t going to yield a useful clue — but the mode of recognition is what matters, and the reason its such a rare mode is precisely because it’s playful. It plays with forms — in this case, the forms of the two names — without regard for practicality.

And yet this playful spirit is what brought us Weil‘s conjecture and Pierre Deligne‘s Abel Prize, and the Taniyama-Shimura conjecture and Wiles‘ proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem.

Serious playfulness is key… to serious, magical breakthroughs. In any and all domains.


With that in mind, here are the rest of the patterns I recognized in todays feed.

Let’s start with self-reference, which can hardly get more succinct than the hackers hacked:

There’s also a self-referential paradox at work in the question of a defendant appearing in his own defense — something that gives judges pause, because they see how tightly the serpent is chasing its own tail. Defendant defends self, From Raff Pantucci:

The saddest self-reference of the morning’s tweets was this one, which could be encapsulated as storm-chaser chased by storm:

Even tragedy can take self-referential form.


But lets move on to Turkey, which provided a rich dividend:

There was this problem:

Turkish I couldn’t read, Dutch I can more or less make out — but for an English tweet making the same point let’s go to Zeynep Tufekci, who has expertise in both matters Turkish and matters Internet, and tweets about Erdogan disapproving of tweeting:

Tufekci again, this time catching an even neater self-reference which doesn’t quite pan out — because, as she says, PM Erdogan is not the same as @RT_Erdogan:


While we’re on Turkey, this tweet about Tienanmen, Tahrir and Taksim Squares gave us another example of a bright mind catching a hint of pattern…

And what a neat rejoinder!

All of the above is quite useless, entirely playful — and of deep interest if creativity and insight matter


Finally, I’d like to go someplace quiet and bathe in peace. This tweet, featuring a poem by a Korean zen master, does the trick nicely:

AN appreciative bow to Gwarlingo for that one…