aids to exposition
- date: 2018-01-29
- belief: plausible
- status: notes
To hone my own writing, I’m massing a collection of articles on exposition. I see exposition as the cumulation of (i) worked and reworked (palimpsested) notation, (ii) conversational jargon, and (iii) physical and ideal metaphors.
I recently got into the metaphor: “research-debt is poorly laid out mountain trail”. Research Debt from Distill. To play along ecological lines:
Hiking in Scotland, I remember curling up under eroded mudbanks and romping through wet heather. Felt like I could jump and twist into the sodden ground. I’m fine paying homage, making a pilgrimage, whatever.
In fording a swollen stream, one’s strongest sensation is of the pouring strength of the water against one’s limbs; the effort to poise the body against it gives significance to this simple act of walking through running water…. In heat the freshness of the water slides over the skin like shadow… the catch in the breath, like a wave held back. (Nan Shepherd, The Living Mountain)
Is exposition poor because folks don’t want intruders? I think not.
The presence of another person does not detract form, but enhances, the silence, if the other is the right sort of hill companion. The perfect hill companion is the one whose identity is for the time being merged in that of the mountains, as you feel your own to be. Then such speech as arises is part of a common life and cannot be alien.
I’ll advocate for an “intellectual terrain” metaphor (or ecosystem, as in Adbusters’ mental environment). In this case, the topography (Platonic, mathematical reality) is self-regulating, fecund, wild, and good exposition is characterized by companionship.
Yet often the mountain gives itself most completely when I have no destination, when I reach nowhere in particular, but have gone out merely to be with the mountain as one visits a friend with no intention but to be with him.
- Writing and Speaking
- Examples First!
- Economics of scientific collaboration
- Towards an exploratory medium for mathematics
- The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences
- ProofWiki style guide
Philip Guo warns against reading all day. However, in regards to reading exposition, I can afford to survey and be choosy.
My own exposition has hierarchical formality:
- mental notes, biological noise
- written notes to be unpacked
- post written to small group
- terse instructions, for a broad audience