High RoI reads | Unflattening by Nick Sousanis

Unflattening by Nick Sousanis.

Graphic literature

As the author mentions, there are two distinct kinds of awareness – the sequential and the simultaneous. The comic form or graphic literature form intertwines the two: language providing the sequential thread and the images and the drawings provide the simultaneous input – the picture, for a fuller, better understanding and appreciation of what the author is communicating.

I do not often read graphic novels. Perhaps never consciously picking them up. Just a few loved comics and fun websites to visit (xkcd, smbc, zenpencils). Or what was read while growing up, or as I introduce the kid to some of the characters I read about growing up.

However, this book caught my attention as one of the new acquisitions by the library. Browsing through the pages, as I came upon the graphic representation of the well-loved tale of flatlanders, I wanted to read more. It worked that it shared profound thoughts on the blurb – ‘perception is always an active process of incorporating and re-evaluating different vantage points.’

It didn’t take long. The pleasure of knowing what was inside was all mine within a couple of hours. And I loved it.

Unflattening the sight

The central premise of the book stays opening yourself up to new ways of seeing, to new view points, to new vantage points – a journey towards multidimensional thinking, rather than staying trapped in confined ways of approaching the world. Which all perhaps springs from recognising that what you see is part of the picture, and hence seeking out better perspectives, better vantage points to fill in the gaps of understanding. Knowing that there are unknowns, and gradually gaining an appreciation of the unknowns and the dimensions not yet known.

A kindred spirit

When you start reading a work where you recognise some of your own thoughts and ideas, and when it resonates of your own pursuits of figuring out the world better, where the author believes in the same thing as you do, there is a feeling of finding a kindred spirit. A connection. An affinity.

Not saying that I am able to think and perceive at that level, but saying, that I am a traveller, a student of the same path* where perhaps the author is much, much further ahead. And that is why the book was so much more rewarding.


Reading through, I noted down many points. As I believe it is a pursuit, a way of life to train one-self in – the art of seeing. A few snippets/ quotes from the book which I wish retain and revisit for future inspiration:

Flatness of sight – A contraction of possibilities. Lacking a ‘critical dimension’ of potentialities to transcend their existing state. So pervasive are the confines – inhabitants neither see them nor realize their own role in perpetuating them.

Disrupting these deeply ingrained patterns takes a profound nudge – like the sphere gave to the square.

Unflattening is a simultaneous engagement of multiple vantage points from which to engender new ways of seeing.

Nothing changed – except the point of view, which changed everything.

The fundamental shift of viewpoint irrevocably ruptured a stasis of thought, the implications rippled outwards.

Italo Calvino wrote – “ Whenever humanity seems condemned to heaviness, I think I should fly like Perseus into a different space. I don’t mean escaping into dreams or into the irrational. I mean that I have to change my approach, look at the world from a different perspective, with a different logic and with fresh methods of cognition and recognition”

Distance between and differences of views are essential – as long as channels of communication remain open and alive.

We understand the new in terms of the known.

If we have a superpower, it’s the capacity to host a multiplicity of worlds inside us, all of us do. Frame of reference from which to see the same world differently, to make the familiar strange.

Would recommend it. Planning to buy the book for K and the kid. And for myself. Since this is a continuing pursuit – this improving the way of seeing – books like this accessed often, ensure the pursuit to continue.

(* My thoughts about seeing. I wrote a few months ago. In a different context, and from a different field, but the takeaways, or the way of looking at things is irrespective of where you apply it. Here.)



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