Transitions in construction

Transitions in construction

Whatever you thought, think again.


Expect the unexpected

Step-changePosted by Dan Engström Fri, February 03, 2012 00:46:08
You know how I’ve blogged about visualising texts in order to better communicate the message? I know – it’s something architects have been doing with spaces for ages and ages. My point here is that I want to communicate R&D results to colleagues that aren’t trained to bring out the gist of a long text. Visualising my long text – showing and explaining images in person – will give them a sporting chance to understand my point. They certainly don’t have to agree with it, but if we are to discuss the research we’re doing, my colleagues need to understand what I’m doing. From understanding we can work with the results, give and take comments and opinions and make them happen on site. This should be important for any industrial researcher. Is our job mainly about writing reports or are we actually making a difference?
The main concepts of this blog in Wordle format.

Together with some other nerdy types at work, I have started learning. It’s fascinating stuff and good fun. We’re basically testing tools that are readily available and seeing what comes out of them. Getting the hang of it is a learning process that I’ve only just begun, but the basics are easy to grasp. Here’s a test or two.

Let’s assume that I want to describe to you the contents of this blog without you having to read it all. Well, we could visit http://www.wordle.net and enter the URL. After playing around with the layout and colours, we would end up with something like the image above the (better resolution here). You'll note that the sizes of the words are directly linked to how often they appear in the blog. Even without me explaining it in person, with a glance you'll see what the blog is all about.

We could also copy the whole text of the blog, stroll over to wordsift.com and paste it. Wordsift shows us the main contents of the blog, lets us zoom into whatever word we like and investigate its meaning, and even suggests multimedia for it. Try it for yourself. Copy-paste this blog post into Wordsift.

Or maybe I want to summarize a great book I’ve just read: Measure What Matters To Customers – Using Key Predictive Indicators by Ronald J. Baker (Wiley and Sons, 2006). It would probably take me a while to bring that message home to someone who hasn't read the book. Writing a summary would certainly take me quite some time, and you would probably not read it anyway. But by writing down the key words while reading and then pasting them into Wordle, I got this (better resolution here).
A whole book in one image. My take on Ronald J. Baker's Measure What Matters To Customers.

That took me less than ten minutes to do. By showing that while talking about the book, I can easily give you a basic understanding of the author is trying to tell us. And how extensive the description of the book will be up is up to you. We’d talk very briefly or for as long as you want. As opposed to a written text, where I decide how long time you will spend on my summary, this image makes the time you spend on the message your call, based on your available time and your level of interest.

Even creating multimedia by the use of web 2.0 tools is not that hard. There are plenty of resources out there too. Try this for starters. So let me give you a final example of contents in unexpected format. As content, I used my poem Up and Down the Piano (available on page 4 in this document).

Up and Down the Piano
My fingers walk left on the piano keys
They sail the breeze on the Chinese seas
To where notes are really low
To a place I like to go
To the far left is where my granny’s house is at
I fight some scary notes on my way there,
take that, D flat!

On to the other end, far up top, almost out of sight
From the deeps of left to the very right
After a climb towards the mountain sky
A walk where notes are silver fountain high
To my other granny’s house,
there’s no one finer I wager
And to get there, I walk a C minor
and then G major

According to xtranormal.com, if you can type, you can make films. So I did. This is an xtranormal rendition of the same poem: Text in video format. Quite cool and unpredictable, way easy, available and completely free. I have as yet no idea what to use that particular tool for, but hey – I’m just learning so far. Even as an industry researcher I have been in the business of writing reports, but am now heading into unknown territory - making a difference. Expect the unexpected.

Images: the main concepts of this blog and Ronald Baker's book, illustrated in Wordle formats, made by yours truly.