IA Summit 2015 Main Conference Talk
Topic(s): communication, content modeling, content strategy, place, and process
Maps are more than just diagrams of the route from A to B – to draw one is to bring together the whole view of our surrounding world so that we can gain a better understanding of it. Even a single, simple example has the ability to delight, unsettle and reveal truths. In politically-charged environments an objective visual map can reinforce, influence or challenge held perceptions and beliefs, making them a vital tool in designing pliable, people-focused content systems that are fit for purpose. Their proactive and reactive qualities force ourselves and others to see things as they really are; to contemplate the relationship between them and how they vary together. Anything to do with aligning content, process, and people is bound to be tough, messy, and complex.
But remember that we and others who inhabit these environments are not completely constrained by what has happened before. It is a natural reaction of ours to try to order an environment by fitting it into the categories of our expectations. So when we cannot find a way to fit any new ideas and concepts into these simplified slots, it’s really no wonder we experience those sharp pangs of panic. But we and everyone else around us don’t have to rely on the old established categories, we can always create new ones.
Our reserves of intellectual capacity are vast. Perhaps if we’re continually looking upon new ideas and concepts as chaotic and threatening this can only be because we’ve never seriously tried to make use of our potential ability to cope with the unexpected. Believe it or not, we are all amazingly inventive and resourceful, and one of the ways to bring out our innate inventive qualities is to step away from our screens and just draw.
About the speaker(s)
Richard Ingram is Content Strategist and Information Designer at ingserv. He is co-organiser of agile content conf and the Agile Content Meetup. Richard is into visualising ideas, issues, knowledge and data.
Richard Ingram: …Thank you all so much, for coming. It’s rather wonderful to be in Minneapolis, for IA summits. It’s my fifth visit, to the twin cities. I’m usually here for Confab, which takes place in a month’s time.
This is spanning the last four years, so even I’m seeing the city changing in those different four years. I always look forward to coming back, and seeing what’s changed. Every occasion I visit, I always get thinking, “I should really go and explore a little bit more north, and spread out a little bit.”
Richard: Short city visits aren’t always easy, particularly if you’re visiting somewhere for the first time. In fact how many of you are visiting Minneapolis, for the very first time? That’s quite a few of you. You’re probably here for a few days. IA Summit’s right back in the middle of that.
There’s a few things that you could do. You might snatch a little bit of time, to do something around the city. You want to cram in as much as possible, in this very short period of time. It always helps to be able to call upon inside knowledge, to help you on your way in these situations.
A couple of years ago, I had a similarly short stay in Boston. During dinner with friends who live and work in the city, I asked them to recommend some places that weren’t in the guide books, because I always had guidebooks with me. I thought I can’t get through everything.
I wanted to get beyond the guidebooks. I wanted the locals to really tell me the best places to go. Instead of making a long list, my friend Margo used the back of the specials menu to sketch out this rudimentary map which plotted out all the different landmarks in the city.
This was the map that she produced. The next day I was able to race around Boston trying to take in as many of these unique sites and sample as many of her recommended eateries as I could. I realize that this map may not be that interesting to anyone besides myself and a small circle of friends.
This is precisely my point. This map is totally subjective, it’s unique to me because I’m not that interested in a literal, accurate map of Boston. My friends helped to edit out the things I didn’t need.
This is true of mapmakers throughout the ages, because they have always tended to offer a specific perspective from their own subjective experience. As humans, our love affair with maps is as old as civilization itself. Long before we could write.
We’ve been making and using maps to make sense of the world around us, and each example offers a snapshot into a different time and a different culture. They offer really interesting insights into the political, cultural, and spiritual forces that drive society.
Every blank surface you could possibly think of has been used to etch out a map in our time, be it rock, clay, wood, parchment, paper, tapestry, have all been used to plot places and objects according to the relative spatial positions.
It’s this synthesis of science, art, and history that combines to create these objects of huge beauty. Each map, you pull out a map and it tells, it own story, but it also hides its own secrets, too. Maps can delight us and can unsettle us on occasions, too.
They can reveal deep truths, not just about where we’ve come from but about who we are. Maps are truly versatile things. Throughout history, they have had an administrative use in marking out national boundaries or individual plots of land. They’ve had a social use in showing who lives where.
They’ve had a military use in depicting the layout of friendly and enemy positions. This is probably my favorite. They’ve had a political and propaganda use, showing one country or faction over another, so probably skewing what’s the case.
Beyond the two dimensional depictions of a physical world, maps also afford us the freedom to express the cosmos. They make all ideas about these spatial relationships and multiple components unexpectedly clear.
To draw one is really quite an effective way to establish order on an otherwise chaotic environment. Maps help to make things rational. They help to make things navigable, too. My personal favorites are city maps. City maps are fine examples of creating this impression of order.
The main objective of creating a map of a city will be to somehow capture, contextualize, and impose order on an environment which is always moving, it’s always growing, and it’s always changing.
It’s an environment which is disintegrating and burgeoning at the same time. Look around any modern city and you’ll see as many cranes going up as you’ll see wrecking balls. There are buildings falling down, there are new ones going up all the time. It’s disintegrating and it’s burgeoning.
How do you capture that in a single snapshot? As information professionals, we’re often tasked with making sense of complex, unpredictable, and mostly disorderly environments, home to micro communities with their own agendas, rules and systems of government.
Some positive, some very negative. Managing these content processes and people can be a complex endeavor. I don’t need to tell you that. And managing them in large systems only increases that complexity.
In his famous map of London, published in 1746, John Rocque shows off the perfect enlightenment-era city. This is clinical. It’s controlled, and it’s pretty beautiful. It’s a real work of art. See, this is a map of London, and it’s most picturesque.
It’s a map that imposes order on a city of unrelenting change. And gives all the appearance of objective truth. But you see, Rocque deliberately left out all of the ugly and unsavory elements that were there at the city at that time. There still are some ugly, unsavory elements in London today.
Because, to Rocque, it was more important, and crucially more lucrative for him as a mapmaker, to promote London as the greatest city of its time. Than it was to present the less attractive reality.
He didn’t include things like slum houses or prisons or anything like that. They just weren’t on the map. Mapmakers throughout the ages have always responded to the mentalities and met the requirements of the societies in which they’ve been created.
They quickly learnt that the quality and effectiveness of a map couldn’t simply be judged by scientific precision, but by stability to serve its purpose. This is a really crucial point. Certainly, the huge appeal of Rocque’s map was that it successfully imposed order over chaos.
This was a visual interpretation of London which offered its inhabitants a sense of promise of what’s possibly to come. But also a sense of civic pride, too. To Rocque, this map was about imposing clinical precision onto a city that he knew couldn’t be accomplished.
He was trying to accomplish the impossible. Why? Because of the human element. This is the main issue. The thing about cities, rather like the large multi-departmental organizations that we often find ourselves working in or for, is people.
Add people into a system, and they tend to make it a little bit of a madhouse. Because if we try to map and complete a literal, visual representation of the way that content flows within a mid to large organization, we would, in a sense, be mapping a sprawling city.
So such a multiplicity of information would need some serious reigning in, for it to avoid canceling itself out into this sorry mess. So in the end, all drawn city maps, however much they distort the truth, are trying to take on the impossible.
Which is trying to impose two dimensional order on the chaos that is urban life.
Richard: That’s your chaos. So we’ve learnt that the quality and effectiveness of a map cannot simply be judged by scientific precision, but by stability to serve its purpose. So aesthetic and design considerations are every bit as important as the mathematical. And in my case, often more so.
It doesn’t have to be scientifically correct, it has to be served a purpose. So maps of this nature have long-served vital, political and negotiating tools. In these cases, the intended information essential to the map have been conveyed in a way that attracts the eye to certain features.
All this can be achieved with a very simple sketched map. This map shows a vast drainage basin at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. So natives played an essential role in the exploration of the mapping of North America.
Many of these maps were ephemeral, they were quite a throwaway. This wasn’t art to them. This wasn’t science, it wasn’t art. This served another really important process, which was communication and negotiation.
In fact, it was rather like Margo’s map of Boston, really. So everything the maps are used to represent, if it’s distribution, if it’s distance, you have overlap and you have your direction.
They need only consist of a few lines and few letters in order to communicate that, in order to be effective, in order to do that job. In short, the simpler, the better. Because we can remove everything except for the most essential features.
Trying to do that can take a while. It can take a few rinses to get to that stage, because you start with this elaborate great big thing, and you slowly work it down. This is the real essence of what you’re trying to get across.
So maps like this can be used to quickly and clearly communicate our ideas and thoughts to others. It’s sketched in their presence. That’s even better, because we even use them to tell stories. Every day, we come into contact with various kinds of maps. Sometimes, we might not even realize it.
On the surface, they may look wildly different from one another. But they all share the same basic building blocks. [inaudible 12:08] a new concept map. Two very different things, but very quite similarly broken down.
Because it’s all about picking out anything who’s relative positions we want to compare. It doesn’t matter whether it’s people, places, things. We want to picture them in a geographical landscape. The only real challenge with this is coming up with a meaningful coordinate system.
Once you’ve got the coordinate system, you’re halfway there already. We’re all extremely well-versed in the north-south versus east and west coordinate system. We can map anything with other pairs of opposites.
Could even try expensive and cheap versus fast and slow, or high and low versus small and large. Once we’ve defined our coordinates, we can start to plot these landmarks. A rather good idea is to start out with your most prominent feature. Then, you can start to move outward.
This thing could be an object. Again, it could be a person, or it could be an idea. Buried treasure, treasure map. Then we move outward. We add more features and details, slowly illustrating everything from borders and distances to pathways and sets of shared traits. And a vibe.
So let’s make a map. When it comes to getting a grip of that complex organizational trinity of content, processes and the good people, content governance can be an important tool in this. Put very simply, governance determines how key decisions are made and who has the authority to make them.
Governance also defines who is allowed to create, approve or publish content. And how these decisions are initiated and communicated. One rather large content governance challenge is maintaining consistency, particularly with messaging, communication and editorial and content standards.
And getting those to permeate through an organization. This is made particularly difficult when many, many contributors have other responsibilities and priorities besides all these content issues. It’s understandable. So governance is primarily a human management issue.
But one useful way to help maintain these standards is through a CMS workflow. This functionality helps us to manage the sequence of steps, from adding and editing all the way to publishing.
Rather, let’s imagine, for the sake of this presentation, that we’ve been hired by a regional English council to design a new content workflow for their content management system.
A little bit of information about this council, it is one of the larger two-tier counties that are used for the purposes of local government in England. There are 27 of these around the country. They employ around about 15,000 staff across seven departments.
They’re responsible for providing services to 700,000 local people. These services could include things like education, social care, transport and culture and leisure. Unsurprisingly, our council is a varied, siloed environment.
Some departments are responsible for hundreds of pages in the public website, while others, just a few. In the middle of it all is a relatively small digital services department, our heroes. Who are trying to keep everyone’s content balanced and consistent and very tall order.
Imagine a situation we’re about to airdropped into unfamiliar and possibly hostile territory. You’d want to be carrying either a map or pairing up with a native guide. As an outside consultant arriving fresh into this large, diverse and possibly politically charged environment.
Your first instinct in making sense of it all could be, and should be, to draw a map. Draw your environment. Where have you got into? Rather, in order to work out how decisions about content are made around this place, we need to figure out who best to talk to. Besides Mandy.
Mandy is our main point of contact in the digital services department. She’s been propping up this content you saw on the previous slide. Particularly, we’re looking for those individuals who might be influential to the way things work around here. Without even realizing it.
To start this process, we first need to map out our landscape. Since we have just arrived fresh in this new environment, it would be good to start with placing ourselves and the rest of the brave digital services department on our map.
So we’re right bang in the middle. Next, we want to add in the other six council departments. So we have Adults and Communities, the Chief Executive’s Office. They look after things like council meetings and registering births, marriages and deaths.
Children, Young People, Community Planning, Corporate Resources. They look after things like job vacancies, pensions and PR. And finally, Environment and Transport. So these are our seven departments.
Now, we’re going to devise a coordinate system which is going to help to rank each department. From left to right, we’re going to rank them by their relative department size. Small on the left, large on the right.
From top to bottom, we’re going to ask Mandy and the rest of the digital services department, how quickly each department takes, on average, to move through the gears of creating, approving and publishing content.
So they’re on the move. Our departments are now plotted on this particular axis. What do we now see? If we’re looking for the best performing department, we need look no further than Corporate Resources. Who, despite their large size right on the right-hand side.
They’re one of the most efficient at delivering content. On the opposite end of the scale is the rather failing Community Plan department. Who are small, yet one of the least efficient. So now, we want to understand a little bit more about the squishy politics of the place.
After surveying various members of the digital services department, we can map the pathways between departments that they believe share closer communicative ties. What jumps out now? Our marked pathways tell us there are two distinct groups.
One is markedly quicker at delivering content than the other, so there two distinct groups. Looking at this as an outside consultant, if we perhaps wanted to bridge the gap, the digital services team might consider exploring closer ties with a similarly-sized and rather failing Community Planning department.
Because, if we could improve efficiency in this relatively small department, it might provide a positive knock-on effect. And it might be easier to convince them to start some pilot project. It might be easy to get them to do that. Because it looks to me are the ideal place to do this.
So here is our map. It’s by no means scientific at all, or pretty. I don’t think it’s very pretty. But as I mentioned earlier, a map’s quality and effectiveness should primarily be judged by its ability to serve its purpose.
Does this serve its purpose? I think so, it does. Our map may only consist of a few lines and a few letters, but we now have a very quick and useful overview of the council departmental structure. Really, we’ve only shown up at the door.
Now we’re going to map out a process. An effective CMS workflow requires meeting an organization’s needs and those of their internal users. In this case, our team of dedicated authors spread very far and wide. Sometimes, you have to go looking for them. They’re hiding little cubbyholes.
To understand how we can improve the author experience, we need to ask as many of our internal users to describe their current process for creating and publishing content. But we have to be really careful not to limit our questions, when we interview them, to things like technology.
It’s really important to understand the human element of all of this too. Some of the most interesting conversations are the ones in which you start with, “How do you do your job? But don’t talk about technology. How do you feel about your job?”
Sometimes, they can be the most emotive that you can take part in. That can be a very, very important bonding experience between yourselves and the people that work in those organizations. They really, really want to tell you, sometimes, what’s going on inside.
So we had a conversation with Mandy. Mandy is the content officer at the digital services department. We’ve met Mandy already, she’s our main point of contact. She has kindly talked us through the typical process for publishing a press release to the council website.
I don’t know about you, but I’m not an especially quick note-taker. I’m always got this feeling that I’m writing one particular thing, and they’re saying another thing, and, “Oh, I’m not very good at storing things in my very short-term memory.” I’m very aware of this.
So, if it’s going to be one of these interviews, I usually seek their permission to tape the conversation. Then, importantly, I ask them to sign an agreement that I will destroy the audio tape afterwards. Because I found this makes them feel far less uneasy about being recorded.
Sometimes, if you say so, “I’m going to record this conversation. Do you mind?” they might not open up quite as much as they would if you were having a quiet conversation somewhere. So it’s very important to say, “This is going to be destroyed afterwards, don’t worry about it.”
I was always taught never to literally read your slides, but I’m going to make an exception in this case. Because it’s quite important. This is the ensuing conversation between ourselves and Mandy. On Monday, Mandy received a request from John.
John is the Highways manager at the Environment and Transport department, to publish a press release, to inform the community of the start of major road improvement work.
So Mandy first telephone Helen, technical services manager at the Environment and Transport department. Who then email through the source material, and directed her on the technical details that needed to be included.
We continue. After completing the draft in the CMS environment, Mandy marked the press release as, “Ready to review.” And emailed Rachel, a content manager and colleague in the digital services team. And Helen again, for their feedback.
After one or two line edits, Mandy was ready to mark the press release as, “Ready for publishing.” She then emailed David, a digital media officer, to prepare and publish the press release to the test server. We continue.
John, Helen and Rachel will email to help perform a second review of the content, where they duly approved its publishing to the public websites. Then David got all the glory, as usual, by hitting the button marked, “Publish.”
Richard: I don’t know about you, but when I’m listening to the conversation by saying, “Tell me what you work for, tell me how you do this. What’s the typical process look like?” Gosh, it’s a street with names, it’s apartments, it’s all these sorts of stuff.
The hardest part is keeping track of all the different people, their roles, departments. As they’ve reeled off in that, “Whoa. I’m sorry, you’ve lost me there.” For me, when I hear four or five or six names in a very short space of time, it can be really difficult to process them.
But not just to process them, it’s to try to find the form of the relationships between them. So when I’m trying to make sense of this complex drama, I try to map this. I try to show who each character is, how many there are, and how directly and indirectly involved they are in this process.
I always start with listing all the characters in our story. So all the names we’ve heard then, and their roles. We got Mandy, John, Helen, Rachel, David. David got all the glory. Then, we sketch their likeness. Except for Mandy, you may not have met any of these other people before.
I don’t think it really matters, I draw anything that comes in my head. But I think it’s really nice to have that visual link between a name and something, a little face. Again, it really doesn’t matter about accuracy. You’re not going to offend anyone much.
Richard: Now, we’re going to separate them into our departments. Up here, in the top left-hand corner, we have Environment and Transport. They comprise of Helen and John. We now have our digital services team of Rachel, Mandy and David, all the glory.
That’s helpful already, to break them up into that. That’s great. But next, dear friends, we’re going to plot each interaction and task in chronological order, from left to right. All the way from the initial request to the eventual publication.
This is a streamlined diagram, but I find it really helpful in situations like this. I say, “Wait, wait, wait, I’m going to sketch this.” So you’ll end up with something like this. That’s what Mandy told me. This is pretty useful.
We can now clearly see the different roles that each character plays and the interactions between them. So we can follow this process all the way from the initial request that John made to the source material that is provided by Helen, and Mandy dealt with that.
Then the process in which we created a subsequent review and draft of that first draft. We then publish that to the test server, dear old David. Then we have the second round of reviews and approvals, and you can see that Mandy had that eventual control over that.
Then it was passed to David who got all the glory. Glorious David. But we’re still missing features, of this story. Which would further improve our understanding of this process and how it could be improved. Because this is all very nice, but what we really need to understand is how long these things took to do.
Namely, yes, which interactions and tasks took place in the CMS environment. And how long each task took to complete. Because it all looks very neat right now. As Mandy practically sees this process from start to finish, she seems like the best person to talk to, to fill in these kinds of details.
So things are now moving a little bit offski. What jumps out now that we’ve stretched out our timeline to accurately reflect the varying speeds of each interaction? We can now see that John and Helen, from the Environment and Transport department, took longer than Rachel to review the first draft.
Rachel did that first, somehow, they did that afterwards. It happened again when it came to the second round. Could this be, perhaps, that they have other departmental responsibilities besides producing, checking, approving and updating content?
Possibly, this can usually be the case. You think, “Oh, it’s something I do, but it’s not the most important thing I do.” Let’s see what happens when we mark out which interactions and tasks took place within the CMS environment.
Aha, interesting. Dear old John appears to be carrying out his reviews outside of the CMS. How come? To answer this question, we need to return to our very first map that we produced. So back to our first map.
I’m going to break down this department, so we see the Environment and Transport department. We see that they are on the slower end of the scale, in terms of moving through the gears of creating, approving and publishing content.
After interviewing Helen, the technical services manager at the Environment and Transport department, we learn that the department comprised of three sub-departments. Transportation, Environment and Highways.
So when you break them down, they change their positions. We can see Transportation little bit quicker, Environment, probably a tiny bit quicker. Highways, “Voop,” terrible. So breaking down these departments allows us to see which sub-departments are having a negative effect on the rest.
John, who is the department Highways manager, resides in this, unsurprisingly, Highways sub-department. The rather failing Highways sub-department. Who we discover has now direct access to the central CMS, because of the department’s geographic location elsewhere in the county.
So John is effectively an external contractor. But by being that, he’s disrupting the flow, the way things work. Helen tells us that John has to use email all the time to communicate his requests, his edits and approvals.
He has no login. So the picture is suddenly becoming a little but clearer. The reaction times of the Highway sub-department is adding unnecessary time and cost to this process, and many other processes in the content production area.
So it is compromising the overall efficiency of this environment and transport department, and, if you think about it, after a time it’s going to affect the entire organization in the way that they produce press releases and many other things, this is one particular area.
The intrepid explorer among us would be wise to investigate whether other departments may also be on the slower end of the scale when broken down like this.
Also, any improvements that we make to these sub departments in their working practices could mean incredible time and cost saving potential across the board. And, perhaps, there are opportunities to form closer collaborative ties between these top-level departments, we can hope.
All of this has come from a couple of fairly simple, hand-sketched maps. Anything to do with aligning content, processes, and people, is bound to be tough, messy, and complex. It invariably, always is.
We have to remember to communicate this, that we and others who inhabit or visit these environments are not completely bound by what has happened before. As humans, it comes naturally to us to try to order our environments by fitting them into the categories of our expectations.
When we fail to fit these new ideas and concepts into the simplified slots, it’s really no wonder that some people panic and confusion could ensue in these situations. We don’t have to rely on these old, established categories. We are perfectly capable of inventing new ones.
Our reserves of intellectual capacity are extremely great. We need to remember this. We need to remember to communicate this to others sometimes, who are quite, sometimes, downtrodden in these places. If the world around us and them seems chaotic.
Then perhaps it’s because we’ve never seriously tried to make sense of our potential ability to cope with the unexpected. Believe it or not, we are all quite astoundingly inventive and resourceful, everyone of us.
One of the ways that we can help to bring out these inventive qualities is to step away from our screens and sketch or draw. Sketch maps can be used to quickly and clearly communicate our findings and ideas to others. As I’ve mentioned before, is sketch in their presence.
We can even use them to tell stories. It can be a real eye-opening experience for people when you draw something like this in front of them. We have to encourage ourselves, we have to encourage others, to fuel our innate curiosity.
We have to be willing to look a little bit foolish and stupid sometimes in order to lead to an insight, to get to an insight. We have to embrace mistakes because they’re going to happen.
Those maps that I produced earlier, they were, again, for a few [inaudible 35:38] , they weren’t, bang, straight there. You have to make mistakes.
And this is something I fall down all the time, we have to remember keep it simple, because we’re not there to show off our artistic skills, not that I particularly have any, because often it’s the overly elaborate pictures that draw too much attention to the art rather than the idea that you’re trying to communicate.
You don’t want someone to say, “That’s a nice picture,” yet you want them to say, “Oh, I get it. I get what you’re trying to say to me.” I used this mapping technique a few weeks ago for the Citizen’s Advice.
Citizen’s Advice is a network of independent charities that are throughout the UK that give free, confidential information and advice to people with money problems, legal problems, consumer problems. Essentially, if you can’t afford a solicitor, that’s who you would go to.
In an internal workshop that I ran with bureau managers and chief executives, I needed to find a quick and calm way to work out what challenges they were faced with when maintaining strict client confidentiality. Client confidentiality is the strictest thing here thing here.
Even if the police knocked on their door, they can’t tell the police that they’re even in the building. It’s the strictest. There are a lot of issues that they face all the time because at the moment they’re going for a real digital transformation.
These are often people who are a little bit scared of using this technology, so it’s been an interesting integration for them. We knew, I was warned beforehand, that many of them would arrive with an agenda, I would say.
Looking to let off steam a little bit because it is very rarely they get a chance to take part in these sorts of workshops, and there was an idea that they might want to derail things a little bit. In order to help the situation, I told everyone to put laptops and phones and various things in their bags and away.
Covered the table with paper, and put out sticky notes and pens. This visual approach really helped to neutralize and disarm them, which was so important for what we were trying to do. It led to a good and positive session. This map is really so simple in its execution.
There really isn’t anything about this level of mapmaking that is beyond us. We have to make use of basic shapes. I don’t think that I’ve, in his presentation, used anything that’s particularly elaborate. I’ve used basic shapes. I’ve used arrows and I’ve used a few faces.
You have to find your access. You have to make mistakes. You have to be willing to start over and over again until you get it right. You have to canvass those opinions, have conversations, interview people, and make use of survey data as well to inform your findings and ideas and thoughts.
There’s really nothing to be apprehensive about. We have to keep it in mind that we have communicated using sketch maps from the very beginning of human existence.
Mapmaking fulfills one of our most ancient and deep-seated desires, which is to understand the world around us and our place in it. It’s very much a basic human instinct. Use it. Thank you.
Richard: By the way, recommended reading, particularly Dan Rowe. I don’t know if any one of you have ever read any of his books, but they’re absolutely super. They’ve really influenced me on the way that I do my work. I really highly recommend some of his work. You have a question, at the front?
Audience Member: Thanks very much. That was really good, very practical stuff, and a really good way of thinking about it. I love maps. I love cartography, but I liked the way that you talked about mapping process, and content, and scale, and things like that.
One of the things in the use of cartography that I’ve noticed is a fetishism that, at least in the United States, that news and weather people are using with digital representations of the earth’s surface from satellite map and photography image, and then trying to overlay some sense of location on that.
It’s extraordinarily confusing. I’ve been trying to explain this to people and I really can’t. Can you talk a little bit about that, about the confusion of hyper realism in representation and how that takes away from the abstraction of map and scale?
Richard: I try to take away as much realism as possible, really, because I always find that can be quite blinding. It’s a bit like the map I showed earlier. You can see the literal, open street map of Boston, and that’s fine, but I find that very difficult to use.
It’s so much in one…It really hits you, so you almost need someone to come along and act as that filter. I can get on far better with something that’s a bit more rudimentary and not that very accurate at all.
The best example I can think of is the London underground map, where the original map had the literal location of all the different underground stations, and tube stations.
As soon as-I forget his name now, which is annoying-he came along and produced this map that wasn’t correct, physically correct, in terms of the distance between two spaces.
Suddenly, everyone got it, everyone understood that, and it’s influenced so many other transit systems after that. I would say, in terms of that, I would always prefer rudimentary over scientific and accurate. Thank you very much.