[I'm republishing this blogicle since we will run a series of blogicles on Wicked Problems, Social Messes and Scenario Planning.]
The 2005 International Conference on Intelligence Analysis included a paper on visual approaches to analyzing social messes by long-time friend and associate Bob Horn entitled Connecting the Smudges: How Analytic Info-Murals May Be of Help In Dealing With Social Messes. I highly recommend this paper.
I'll have some comments in another posting, but here's the abstract:
New visualization methods can help deal with social messes (also known as “ill-structured” or “wicked” problems). Social messes are more than complicated problems. They are very complex and ambiguous. They require visualization techniques that, we might say, are composed of smudges. Our project at Stanford University been developing new forms of “information murals” to help task forces address such smudgy social messes. Some of the problems addressed are: severe limitations of ordinary prose documents to communicate complex subject matter; the necessity to help groups create common mental models; and the need to show context and multiple views for strategy discussions and decisions. These info-murals provide the scaffolding for thinking bigger thoughts. They facilitate seeing the big picture as well as needed detail. They reveal new and novel patterns. They sometimes even enable us to connect the smudges.
Our visualization research addresses such challenges as how to: show large processes or larger contexts that form the background of public policy issues; represent serious and complex debates; portray different cultures; represent multiple strategies; understand ideologies; get a more comprehensive picture of unknowns; represent mindsets and worldviews, including one’s own. Examples of progress on developing different visualization scaffoldings will be presented and discussed.