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Mapping: Headmaps, Self-Maps, System Diagrams, Internal Landscape maps, etc.

What is a "self-map"?

A self-map is an attempt by a system to illustrate their internal interrelationships, or create a map of their headspace or internal landscape. Sometimes it looks like a map of a landscape, a house or building, sometimes it comes out more like a flowchart or family tree. Or anywhere in between. Essentially it's a diagram of some type attempting to translate social and working relationships between people.

Map styles can vary from system to system and from the skills, aesthetic, and artistry of the resident(s) creating the map. Sometimes it's a map of their locations in the internal landscape, or an organizational diagram attempting to translate social and working relationships between their residents into something that can be viewed by others or for viewing by residents through their eyes. It can help improve internal communication, and explain to headmates that they're in a system, or to ask other residents whether they know of anyone who is not on your current map.

Why create a headmap?

Mapping your system may be associated with being in therapy or an effort to explain your group to another person who wants to understand details about your system. It is by no means necessary to map your system simply because you're multiple, however it is an available tool that you can use if you desire to try it out.

Headmaps can also be a tool for reorganizing one's internal landscape or internal relationship structures. They can be a powerful tool that can actually have an as inside, so outside, and vice versa (AISOAVV) effect on your internal organization. You can use maps to deliberately do internal landscaping tasks.

There are many reasons to create headmaps for your own system including (but not limited to):

  • assisting with roll calls (helpful for "all hands on deck" meetings)
  • locating missing links or people
  • allowing people to identify themselves and their connections
  • mapping out communication channels so that you can perhaps improve on them
  • helping other residents who are not fully co-aware get a better idea of who else is living in the system with them
  • help residents find their way around in an internal landscape
  • directory listing for residents to know who to talk to internally about certain things
  • help develop interrelationships with residents internally
  • change aspects of an external map to facilitate changes to your internal world
  • create communication links and channels between system or subsystem members
  • help with merging subsystems or creating conduits (communication channels) between subsystems

Your self-maps or headmaps don't need to be shown to anyone else, even though that's another viable reason for wanting one, nor do they need to be drawn in any permanent/written form at all. You can create headmaps in your internal landscape as well, and keep them entirely internal. This can be helpful for systems who don't have external privacy.

A really nice article about different ways to map ones system. (at the Internet Archive)

Headmap technology

Start with a List

The act of listing your headmates can be very liberating in itself.

If you don't know names, try to keep the labels you use respectful and say things like "the girl with red hair" "the guy who seems angry" etc. Not "The angry guy" "The Red Girl".

We speak from experience ;) More about that in Naming Residents and Naming Names. Respectful labels are just a part of being compassionate and not judging people by their behaviors.

Just draw it.

Nothing will ever replace the use of pen/pencil/crayon/marker/etc. — if your system is relatively simple, this is definitely the way to go, and you can get creative and artsy with it.

"Diagramming" or free-form mind-mapping software.

You probably don't want mind-mapping software that locks you in to a center "thought" and then has distinct branches from there — that's much more like an outline. You want to be able to draw independent "Nodes" and have several branches or connections as needed.

The other feature you need is that when you make a connection between "nodes", the connection remains when you move the node. So simply using "drawing" software can be frustrating, even if it's vector art, because you're constantly having to move the lines separately from the nodes.

These apps have the features you'll probably want:

There are also iOS and Android apps to do these types of diagrams

What I mean by "free-form" mind-mapping software

You probably don't want mind-mapping software that locks you in to a center "thought" and then has distinct branches from there — that's much more like an outline. You want to be able to draw independent "Nodes" and have several branches or connections as needed.

"Thought-Mapping" applications

So we used this 3D "collaborative thinking" software to re-create our complicated headmap with myriad subsystems and connections in it: (free for personal use) which allows you to tour your "globe" headmap from various directions.

Other "Thought-mapping" software could be of interest, but probably not as pretty. And in cases like "The Brain" (which we've used for information and has a free individual license), it doesn't allow any independent nodes (as mentioned above)... so it doesn't work well for most system maps.

Internal Landscape "Mapping" or Diagramming Applications

You can get creative with headmaps — especially if you're artistic or you want to depict your internal landscape. Don't forget the power of just a large piece of paper and some pens, pencils, rulers, etc.

There's also a good number of free or relatively inexpensive software that allows you to draw buildings, room diagrams, do interior decorating, etc. Just make sure you proceed with caution on privacy policies and security as needed.

  • Dia (free, open source, cross-platform): — to keep it private on your own computer only. Also has the ability to create timelines.
  • (hooks to Google Drive) — If you don't mind 3rd parties having access.

Also note, the better the application, the higher the learning curve will probably be. You might be better off with paper sketches or free-form drawing applications until you are certain it's worth learning something more complicated.

  • - free web-based app, wants Chrome, doesn't require a login — but be careful because headmaps change just about as soon as you think you're done with them, so you may have to re-create it from scratch if you didn't have a login. I imagine they may try to sell you furniture or something that you used in your diagram — paint, etc. Looks like a great application.
  • - Online or app-based. The free version has good tools, you can buy an extended library of figures/furnishings. I like apps I can download and own my data. Creates both top-down maps, and does lifelike 3D renders of your space.
  • - another online 3D room diagramming software, well liked by the reviewer I got these listings from.
  • - free web-based lite architectural app, wants Chrome I think, has a model database people contribute to — so you can use a house, office building, etc. and add to it. May have a steep learning curve, but may have what you need to get started, too. Can create 2D floor plans for internal landscape drawings, can create 3D models and floor plans as well if you're feeling spunky. Since it has a user-contributed model database, we may borrow a Millenium Falcon to alter to make our internal landscape "Spaceship" idea. It's a thought.

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