David asked, “Could you post a short note describing a connection you see [between Edward Tufte’s information design and Christian theology]?” Well, no. “Short” isn’t in my repertoire on this point.
But here’s the beginning of a try:
Over the past couple of years, I’ve come to think about hermeneutics in a much more expansive context than is usual. Most (not all) treatises on hermeneutics discuss only the problem of identifying appropriate interpretations for verbal expressions; I think that picks up the stick at the wrong end. Words are an extraordinarily peculiar instance of meaningfulness; the prevalent examples, from facial gestures (which we significantly call “expressions”) to natural phenomena (“You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky. . .”) to deliberate communicative gestures, involve our responding harmoniously* to the ecology of meaning that suffuses us. Only when we consider verbal interpretation in the broader context of communicative interactions can we appropriately work out problems relative to verbal interpretation.
(I’ll get to Tufte in a minute.)
To this way of thinking, “words” constitute a particular sort of information, not intrinsically more “meaningful” than clouds or physical posture or a frown or numerals or traffic lights. Since Tufte argues for finesse and beauty in information design, and since I’m consumed by questions relative to hermeneutics (particularly about questions involving the relation of written expressions such as the Bible to the enacted interpretations in our daily lives), I recognize profound continuity in the issues that agitate Edward Tufte and those that provoke me.
I’ll go on to write more about the specifics of Tuftean information design and AKMA-ian hermeneutics (and also to write about going to a Cubs game last Friday), but now our beloved friend Phil is here, and it’s time for me to join the conversation in the living room.