"Powers of Ten (TM 1977. 9 minutes)" sparked a class discussion on the scalability of models, maps, and diagrams. The video featured a basic mechanism of motion: zooming out from the human scale of 1 m^2 to 10^24 (the scale of the observable universe), then back down to the human scale, where it zoomed in to 10^-16 (the scale of quarks and protons). Although, the conceptual framework of the video's narrative was entirely linear, thinking about the interrelationships of how we measure units of distance across these scales made me recall visual models from my textbooks in Ecological Biology, Environmental Chemistry, and Systems Engineering.
Here are a few themes that came to mind:
1. Thermodynamics, the study of how energy moves, is a scientific theory founded on Four Laws that create a conceptual frameworks, such as equilibrium, temperature and entropy, that govern how systems work in both the naturally occurring phenomena and the built environment. Thermodynamic models can show how energy moves across scales, materials, conditions, environments and feedback loops. Applications of this concept can be found in various social disciplines which research circular economy, industrial ecology, organizational theory, cybernetics & biophilic design.
2. The Helix is a shape that that represents the coding of time, space, living material and perception.
Just Intonation (music/sound theory)
DNA Structure (molecular biology)
Computer music & Sound Visualizations ( cybernetics, musicality, neuroscience)
3. Infographics that represent Transit Systems are designed to show the relationship between space & time through maps and timetables. The history of map design is fascinating to study in the context of technological developments of the past ten years that has introduced smart mobile devices, interactive maps, LinkNYC kiosks, ridehailing apps and the massive amounts of data that can be visualized and analyzed to understand patterns of logistical behavior and psychogeography in the context of the built and invisible infrastructure.
In an attempt to understand various elements of these systems, as well as to explore how motion graphics can contribute to the "ontology (meaning, purpose, robustness)" of the models, I compiled this list of GIFs that represent systems and other abstract concepts in interesting ways.
The concepts depicted below represent how we develop cognitive linguistics to visualize interaction, gradients, spectrums, and scales, alluding to how we develop esoteric terminology in academia, design & branding, learning, and and mass media psychology. Creating captions, or developing some kind of taxonomic system would further enhance the purpose of this post as a reference library. SystemViz is a research project by Peter Stoyko exploring how visuals can enhance systems thinking, especially as it relates to inter-disciplinary, collaborative design. The SystemViz Visual Vocabulary is a useful code that can help categorize the images below based on drivers, signals, states, boundaries, relations, and domains.