What does notation do?
What could it do?
What shouldn’t it do?
1–2 minute read, or the time it takes to refill a water bottle.
Thank you for taking part in the poll!
This issue is a note on notation, those systems of symbols we employ as abbreviations for bigger and longer ideas, i.e. sheet music, algebra, HTML. When enough people agree about a particular kind of notation, it makes sharing information faster and easier. It also, however, codifies a way of doing something that unwittingly creates cognitive bias, a taking-for-granted that renders change inconvenient, if not unnecessary, because things seem fine as they are.
Yielding to the pre-existing makes us nervous; we worry about the exclusion and esotericism that occurs alongside our desire to exchange ideas conveniently. And so, in this issue, we’ve turned to six multi-hyphenate artists for insight into how we might resist notational bias, and ask:
These artists celebrate notation as a vehicle for elaboration, correction, translation, and invention in their work. They nudge us out of our comfort zones, unsettling expectations for what a given mark might mean, and equip us with new shorthands for beauty, access, and belonging. They are unafraid to leave room for interpretation and inhabit spaces that are fluid and in-between. More than anything, in spending time with these artists and their ideas, it becomes clear that succumbing to existing notational systems is a creative dead-end, a sure way to halt worthwhile discovery. To stay open, in other words, is to stay possible.