Why gigamaps are fuzzy

Mar 2011 | About Gigamapping, News & Notes

Gigamaps are fuzzy by design. They do something different than other types of information visualization. Most infographics have the intention to sort, frame, tame and simplify information so as to make it accessible to anybody. Evaluating gigamapping as we practice it according to these criteria misses the point.

mapping-Erik-Lorang-Lindberg web

In most systems approaches, mapping is used to describe systems. But these visualizations go far beyond the explanatory intention in typical information visualization, and they tend to produce very particular images of the world. I claim that most of these models tend to “over-design” the topic they try to describe or simulate. Very strong conventions like the node and the arrow, an urge for consistency of the model, covering comparable entities only, leaving out “wild” information that does not fit in and defining all nodes in a certain way, e.g. as variables, tend to shoehorn the conception of the real world phenomenon at stake into a very restrained model.

Gigamaps are wicked artefacts

In contrast to the other types of mapping, the intention is to explore the issue at hand as wide and deep as possible, increase its complexity, layer different types of information that normally are regarded as categorically separated, and seek out how they are related.

Gigamaps are process tools aimed at helping the designer to reach a more inclusive and holistic conception of the task.

  • They will only have communicative value in their final form.
  • They are only fully understood by the people who create them.

They are participatory and creative devices. They will never be consistent or finalized. They tend to resist attempts of systematization and categorization, though we constantly try to develop, e.g. libraries of types of maps and relations.

We think gigamaps do something different than other types of information visualization and that this approach is valuable for real-life problems and systems thinking in design.