N-dim Involvment LO7464

Michael Erickson (sysengr@atc.boeing.com)
Thu, 16 May 1996 11:09:11 -0700 (PDT)

Replying to LO7437 --


Thanks for relating the Shuttle example and the London Plague story. I
didn't because I try to keep things short, but those examples illustrated
to me how critical the thinking is-in this process of getting the real
story out in plain pictorial view.

What struck me about all the examples is the simplicity of the final
images. While a considerable amount of thought no doubt went into them,
the final pictures were such that almost any one could understand them,
and for that matter, almost anyone could have drawn them. (I guess this
speaks for the rule of thumb that says-a true artist is one that makes the
difficult look simple).

John Warfield wrote about other forms of relating information in graphical
form based in mathematical theory (calculus), but I have to admit that my
math skills are so marginal, I doubt I could effectively apply what he
described, much less - make it look simple. (yet I always hope-and work on
improving my personal skill set).

The Tufte Seminar was eye opening in that it showed that a common
assumption we hold in the 20th century-that we have the last word on any
subject, particularly the quality of our thinking-just "ain't so". His
"classical examples" of work done by charters, thinkers and map makers
showed that we are so often overly dependant on our "technical toys" and
end up using brute force to figure out our problems instead of finese. I
personally have used his work as inspiration to "see" more clearly, which
for me has required that I step back from the technicalities, and look
more closely at Big Pictures, essential messages (or qualities) and the
human factors, and try to use my sketching skills to make it look simple.
This is probably the same as your comments about getting out of our box,
and viewing things from some other way. I also don't trust myself, so I
have a practice of testing how my pictures are seen on unsuspecting
passers by... a practice that's revealed some pretty interesting stuff
when it comes to discovering what my own "mentel models" might look like.
(it gets a little scary sometimes).

The N-dimensional elements end up being displayed at the intersections
(where the dimensions interact)-so most of my artwork shows the conditions
that exist at that spot, not necessarily giving all the data and
information that lead to the conclusions being drawn-which I think is my
biggest weakness. Like a Senge style system model, most of my work
requires a narrative to set the stage.

I appreciated your return comments.
Michael Erickson

On Wed, 15 May 1996, Martha Landerman wrote:

> I attended Tufte's seminar a few years ago and concur with you about
> how looking at information must be multi-dimensional. The Napoleon
> example was pretty compelling. I also remember an example that
> discussed the O rings on the Space Shuttle....
[snip by your host]

> He also showed how important it is for use to look at data in
> different ways with a map of a neighborhood in London. Cholera had
> broken out and no one could figure out why (it wasn't known to be
> spread through water then). Dr. John Snow made a map showing the homes
> where people had died of cholera, and the locations of all the local
> water pumps.
[another snip by your host]


Michael Erickson <sysengr@atc.boeing.com>

Learning-org -- An Internet Dialog on Learning Organizations For info: <rkarash@karash.com> -or- <http://world.std.com/~lo/>