Thursday, February 7, 2008

VizMaps: An Alternate Approach to Describing Where

My Monday afternoon session was Bruce Daniel's VizMaps: An Alternate Approach to Describing Where. I'm not sure why I chose this session since I don't do any map-making, perhaps because I've always loved looking at maps. Regardless, it turned out to be a fun and informative session and I'm glad I went.

Reviewing the session page on the VizThink site it looks like Brandy has already provided a short overview of the session. But I'll add a little to clarify.

Prior to walking us through the hands-on activity, Bruce recounted to us an experience where his grandmother (I think) drew him a very simple map to get from her house to a train or metro station. The map had no words, only a few icons signifying relevant things along the way such a stop sign, a McDonalds, train tracks. This turned out to be an epiphany of sorts for Bruce and the inspiration for the subsequent exercise.

To start out our activity Bruce had each of select a to and from location then close our eyes and visualize the journey from point A to point B, taking special care to notice details like color, texture, even smells. From there we drew our maps. My map below is my attempt at vizmap from home to the beach, passing stop lights, a high-school football stadium, driving through sugar cane fields, past K-mart, past a pond of brackish water, driving near the airport and arriving at the beach.

After drawing this map, we each teamed up to show our map to a fellow student. In doing so, we all inevitably found errors or things we'd change.

It was a fun exercise and I think illustrated or reinforced visual thinking as a tool in describing how to get from one place to another. We don't need lots of irrelevant, satellite-level details, only the path that is relevant to our goal.

Thanks Bruce!

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