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The Visual Representation of Complex Systems: A Typology of Visual Codes for Systemic Relations

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Presentation of Dr. Joanna Boehnert's research for Centre for the Evaluation of Complexity Across the Nexus (CECAN) at the Relating Systems Thinking and Design 6 conference in Oslo, Norway October 20th 2017. This presentation includes results collected in surveys distributed at the conference. This is Step One of a short research project on the visual communication of complex systems.

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The Visual Representation of Complex Systems: A Typology of Visual Codes for Systemic Relations

  1. 1. The Visual Representation of Complex Systems: A Typology of Visual Codes for Systemic Relations Dr. Joanna Boehnert Research Fellow (part-time + temporary) Centre for the Evaluation of Complexity Across the Nexus (CECAN) University of Surrey @EcoLabs + @ecocene http://ecolabsblog.wordpress.com
  2. 2. Content A. Introduction to CECAN Research B. Research Design C. List of Key Terms D. RSD6 Surveys E. What next? * website links are embeded in this slideshow
  3. 3. The Visual Representation of Complex Systems: A Typology of Visual Codes for Systemic Relations A. Introduction to CECAN Research
  4. 4. The Visual Representation of Complex Systems: A Typology of Visual Codes for Systemic Relations Abstract: Sustainability practitioners have long relied on the use of images to display relationships in complex adaptive systems on various scales and across different domains. Visual representations play an important role in facilitating communication, learning and collaboration on social, environmental and economic issues that are characterised as complex systems.
  5. 5. The project will address the need for images that are widely understood across different fields and sectors in order to facilitate conversations and decisions making between researchers, policy makers, practitioners and evaluators (with varying degrees of familiarity with complexity science). By attempting to identify the best visual practices and standardise visual codes used to represent some of the key features of complex systems this project will contribute to the evolving the visual language used to communicate complexity.
  6. 6. B. Research Design Goal: The identification, classification and design of visual codes to represent key features of complexity. The research process: STEP ONE presentation + informal survey RSD6 OSLO STEP TWO workshop 1 London November 2017 STEP THREE workshop 2 London December 2017 Step One: 50 surveys at the Relating Systems Thinking and Design 6 conference in Oslo, Norway, October 2017.
  7. 7. Outcomes 1) Visual outcomes - ‘A Typology of Visual Codes for Systemic Relations’ 2) Journal paper - ‘The Visual Representation of Complex Systems: A Typology of Visual Codes for Systemic Relations’ 3) Content for the Magenta Book - Annexe Complexity Characteristics
  8. 8. List of Key Features of Complexity 1. Feedback (positive + negative) 2. Emergence 3. Self organization 4. Levers / hubs 5. Property non-linearity 6. Domains of stability / attractors 7. Adaptation 8. Path + path dependency 9. Tipping points 10. Boundary / Threshold 11. Change over time 12. Open system C. List of Key Features of Complexity Phase 1. Images on the following 12 pages are from 50 surveys distributed at RSD6.
  9. 9. 1. Feedback
  10. 10. 2. Emergence
  11. 11. 3. Self-organisation
  12. 12. 4. Levers and Hubs
  13. 13. 5. Property non-linearity
  14. 14. 6. Domains of stability / attractors
  15. 15. 7. Adaptation
  16. 16. 8. Path and path dependency
  17. 17. 9. Tipping points
  18. 18. 10. Boundaries / Thresholds
  19. 19. 11. Change over time
  20. 20. 12. Open System
  21. 21. • 46 surveys were collected in Oslo at RSD6. These surveys contained images and ideas submitted by systems oriented designers from around the world. • Audience participation, including multiple images can be seen at the #RSD6 hashtag on Twitter. • A ‘Visualising Complexity’ Storify was created by CECAN collaborator Martha Bicket. D. RSD6 Surveys
  22. 22. Next? The images collected in the surveys will be used in two participatory design workshop in London (November 17 & December 15, 2017). The first phase of the design of ‘A Typology of Visual Codes for Systemic Relations’ on key features of complexity will be completed by the end of January 2017. E. What Next?
  23. 23. Joanna Boehnert PhD https://ecolabsblog.wordpress.com @ecocene + @ecolabs jboehnert@eco-labs.org JOANNA BOEHNERT Towards the Ecocene JOANNABOEHNERT,, DESIGN www.bloomsbury.com Cover design: Clare Turner, Joanna Boehnert, Lazaros Kakoulidis and Tzortzis Rallis Also available from Bloomsbury ‘At last, a book that clearly locates design for sustainability within a sophisticated account of contemporary political economy. To accomplish the transition toward more sustainable futures, we urgently need the lucid negotiation of social complexity that this book provides.’ Cameron Tonkinwise, Director of Design Studies at Carnegie Mellon University, USA ‘Boehnert’s book shows in a masterful manner that there are no technological, ideological or other easy fixes to the contradiction between capitalism and nature. She powerfully makes the point that we need political design in order to create a better world. A must-read for everyone interested in design, ecology, communication and politics.’ Christian Fuchs, Professor of Social Media at the University of Westminster, UK ‘In this work, Boehnert examines foundational elements of human perception and design, beautifully integrating situated knowledge into the complex systems in which it exists, offering insights both relevant and practicable.’ Mara Averick, Research Analyst at the Economic Development Assistance Consortium, USA ‘Boehnert envisions a possible, eco-ethical praxis sufficient to the urgency of the Ecocene era. With inspirational tempo, she sweeps across and connects the significant ideas that advance design eco-literacy, decolonizing and replacing outmoded discourses with powerful fresh starts.’ Peter Jones, Co-founder of the Systemic Design Research Network at OCAD University, Canada Design, Ecology, Politics describes a powerful role for design in making sustainable ways of living not only possible but desirable. It examines the relationships between three domains. Part I: Design explains how new ways of living are created and made appealing. Part II: Ecology explores the philosophical problems at the root of the environmental crisis and considers how design can either contribute to or address these problems. Part III: Politics describes why sustainable transitions are currently so difficult to achieve. By theorizing design, ecological and socio-political theory concurrently, Boehnert shows how social relations are constructed, reproduced and obfuscated in ways which often cause environmental and social harms. Where design theory fails to recognize the historical roots of unsustainable practice, it reproduces old errors. With the understanding that design negotiates the intimately intertwined space between self, society and the environment, design can more effectively engage with complex contemporary challenges. The transformative potential of design is dependent on deep-reaching analysis of the problems design attempts to address. With this ecologically literate and critically engaged foundation, design is a practice primed to facilitate the creation of sustainable and just futures. JOANNA BOEHNERT is a Research Fellow at the Centre for the Evaluation of Complexity Across the Nexus (CECAN) at the University of Surrey, UK. Please get in touch with feedback or questions. & Look out for this in early 2018.

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