Few month ago I had a discussion with my good friend Dory, a great designer from RISD, about info visualization. We were thinking that the way you represent information can really help people understanding things better. Nowadays you see a lot of data visualizations which basically consist in making information nicer and more meaningful.
But we really think the power of visualization is not fully explored with that type of nice graphics. Visualisation needs to be used to represent complexe information such as systems. Visualization is a great way to bring complexe systems to a level which anyone can understand. It helps better understand the systems’ dynamics, better communicate ideas and facilitate decision makings.
Let’s try on Twitter
For a long time I have wanted to find a great system on which I could apply that theory. And a few weeks ago I found it: Twitter! Twitter is an awesome tool used by many people world wide who find a real value to that service. But most of the people who are not using this tool don’t understand why so many are finding any interest in it. Sharing 140 characters with the world, ok, but why?
You’ll tell me that you can find lots of articles on the web giving you the 3, 5 or 10 reasons why people use Twitter. But this is not helping anyone! Once you say “Twitter can help filter the internet based on your interest” you have not helped anyone understanding why people use it. Indeed from “you share 140 characters” to “you can filter the web” there is a huge gap and a huge simple question remaining: “how”? How does Twitter helps me do that?!
And this is exactly where I think System Visualization can be really powerful. By representing systems you will be able to show how things work. And this is what is most of the time missing: the answer to the “how” question.
Two weeks ago I started to work on that great project: representing Twitter’s system. The process I want to use is quite simple:
- Understanding the main reasons why people use Twitter
- Understanding how they use that service to achieve their goals
- Visualize the key dynamic that people use in Twitter
I think System Visualization can not only help you represent what you have in mind but can also help you shape your mind. This is the reason why I will go through those three steps in the same time. Welcome in the design thinking process!
Let’s see what I have done!
To get myself a bit more familiar with the Twitter’s system I started by doing what I always do: representing it without doing any research. And first of all I wanted to start by representing the information flow. What are the basic flows that shape the system and how can they be represented?
After Making few drawings that made no sens (even to me!), I tried to draw it in a more visual wy by creating a real world.
So this is where I am at. And this is just the beginning! I now need to interview people to better understand the system and continue find new ways to better visualize it. Don’t hesitate to give me feedback on Twitter, that would be of a great help!
Read the next article about the project The Power Of Twitter