I love a good visualisation. It helps me understand complicated or complex ideas. My desk is often covered in paper with random doodles and images on them. Random thoughts during meetings transformed into sketches. I often spend time each day trying to visual my own ideas or concepts in projects I’m working on. I love a good icon site.
But while visualisations can be helpful, they are not reality. Similarly maps can be helpful, but are not reality. Both are a simplification of a reality from a certain perspective. Most of us are aware of the first bit – the simplification bit – but forget, or don’t realise, the second part. My visualisations include my perspective. Yours would likely be slightly or drastically different depending on your perspective.
We tend to find it easier to remember we each have a perspective when talking to a person. Or when something is classified as ‘art’. But when something is inert, when we call it a map, when it is a piece of technology, when it’s called data – then, we forget that it communicates a perspective. Then we tend to call it fact.
Data and digital technology are shaped by perspectives of those involved in their design. They are not neutral. And perspectives are not reality, they are often a part of reality, but not all of reality. We need others and other perspectives to help us ‘see’ and ‘understand’ reality. Too often we only consider the majority or the majority perspective and disregard the vulnerable, the ‘edge’ cases. And by doing so, we disregard reality.