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A Didactical Framework to Experiment the Potential of Visual Languages in Engaging Social Complexity

This paper has been presented at
DRS2010 – Design & Complexity, Montreal: 7 – 9 July 2010
proceedings, eds.David Durling, Rabah Bousbaci, Lin-Lin Chen, Philippe Gauthier, Tiiu Poldma, Seymour Rowoth-Stokes and Erik Stolterman conference website

A Didactical Framework to Experiment the Potential of Visual Languages in Engaging Social Complexity

get the full text proceeding | by Francesca Valsecchi, Paolo Ciuccarelli, Donato Ricci, Giorgio Caviglia


Development models often relate expert knowledge to social needs with a top-down approach, thus being not able to cope

with the issues of a complex world. Effective changes in social systems arise from iterative and dialogic processes in which information and knowledge are exchanged to build-up a common background that enables shared hypothesis.
Therefore the possibility to consciously face social issues and orient the behavior of complex social systems could benefit from the use of communicative tools and methodologies. Engaging complexity calls for visual languages.
Based on complexity theories and assuming the interpretation of social systems as systems of communication and learning organizations, a didactical initiative has been experimentally launched in 2004 to answer the following question: How visualization and communication design can be
applied to support collective learning processes and decision making in complex systems?
After five years of continuous improvements and the development of specific conceptual and operative tools, a didactical framework has been defined with the aim of educating designers in the exploitation of visual languages to deal with social complexity. The potentialities of visualization are experimented in two complementary domains: 1) the visualization of Data, Information and Knowledge (DIK); 2) the visualization of the structure of complex social phenomenon (structural visualization). The paper describes the framework theory and outcomes.
The didactical framework proposed here is a multidisciplinary platform, where visual design is the core and leading discipline, successfully complemented by the integration of semiotics, statistics and network science. Having the possibility to integrate other discipline will certainly lead to experiment the relation with computer science (evaluating the impact of interaction design in the cognitive processes), semantics and sociology.

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