Designing in Ten Dimensions

The video below originates from content in a book by Rob Bryanton, Imagining the Tenth Dimension: A new way of thinking about time, space, and string theory. This overview is just the first chapter of Bryanton’s book, which also includes discussion of the flow of time, dark matter, the binary viewpoint, and time travel. On his site, there is a nice Flash interface to browse the contents of the book and a transcript of the voice-over.


OH! Media did the Flash work for this explanation of dimensions

Bryanton’s explanation of dimensions is quite elegant, even if it is also bucks some traditional views of string theory and the nature of time. Like Charles Eames’ Powers of Ten—which illustrates relative size by imagining a voyage from a view of the universe and down to the vibrating building blocks of matter—the insight that arises out of this thought experiment is in the patterns that form when moving from one state to the next. The pattern in Bryanton’s imagining of zero to the tenth dimension goes as follows:

  1. A Point (no dimension)
  2. A Line
  3. A Split
  4. A Fold
  5. A Line
  6. A Split
  7. A Fold
  8. A Line
  9. A Split
  10. A Fold
  11. A Point?

This apparent pattern of lines, splits and folds has some potential to evolve into a framework for longitudinal design. While we aren’t necessarily aiming to satisfy users in alternative universes, there may be some benefit in approaching design in a way that anticipates future change. What if part of our interaction design paid attention to where the lines, splits and folds resided in a dynamic community? Like the flatlander walking the mobius strip, one’s observational perspective provides constraints that don’t necessarily exist to a computer. Our systems might be able to manipulate folds that the community cannot see.

Bryanton is developing an entire community around this book, benefiting from multiple channels to interact with interested readers. In addition to the multimedia web site, there is an active forum and a Meebo chat room. Bryanton’s Talking Dog Studios is an audio and video post production facility that is currently working with a Canadian television comedy and a new Jennifer Lynch film, among its many projects.


Eames’ classic visualization, Powers of Ten.