BBC Dimensions, the prototype designed by BERGLondon that "takes important places, events and things, and overlays them onto a map of where you are" rightly got some twitter love over the last few days. It's a lovely idea. One of the things I liked most about the story of how it came about was Matt Jones's description of how "something huge and momentous is made grokkable in the familiar".
Grok means to understand thoroughly, intuitively, empathically. Robert A Heinlein coined the term in Stranger in a Strange Land, the story of a man born during (and the only survivor of) the first manned mission to Mars. Raised by Martians, he returns to Earth possessed of strange powers but also as a true innocent. In the book, Grok is a martian word relating to the intermingling of two realities or intelligence to create a new shared reality or thinking that may be greater than the sum of its parts. Separate entities that become entangled in the same experiences, history, goals, purpose.
In hacker culture, Grok denotes a level of knowledge so intimate and exhaustive that it has become part of you and your identity, rather than merely learning in a detached instrumental way. In ideology, a grokked concept becomes part of the person that helped contribute towards its evolution by refining, improving or perpetuating it. Design and data visualisation is good at making stuff grokkable. Its a good aspiration. And a word I shall be using more.