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                Andrew Frank
                CMNS 801
   Introduction to visualization

   Why visual science communication matters

   Representing Climate Change futures

   Ethical considerations & methods in the literature

   Actual visualization study

   Antelope Brush Grasslands case study & questions
Ptolemy's World Map
Visualization Today
An Image Revolution. A world of

       Artifacts of the Presence Era
             MIT Media Lab
 Related Studies

Martin Irvine
Communication, Culture, and Technology Program
Georgetown University
Related Studies
- The "visual culture" approach acknowledges the reality of living in a world of
cross-mediation--our experience of culturally meaningful visual content appears
in multiple forms, and visual content and codes migrate from one form to

      - print images and graphic design
      - TV and cable TV
      - film and video
      - computer interfaces and software design
      - Internet/Web as a visual platform
      - digital media
      - advertising in all media (a true cross-media institution)‫‏‬
      - fine art and photography
      - fashion
      - architecture, design, and urban design

- We learn the codes for each form and code switch among the media and the
"high" and "low" culture forms.

- The experience of everyday life can be described as code-switching or hacking
the visual codes around us to navigate and negotiate meaning (see William
Gibson, Pattern Recognition).
Merging Fields
Why Visual Science Communication

“The visual representation of science functions
within three sometimes overlapping domains – the
scientist, the science communicator, and the public.
Members of each of these domains are potential
producers and potential consumers of science images.
However, the differences om scientific and visual
literacy among scientists, science communicators and
the public may be stark....”
Why Visual Science
Communication Matters
“One of the science communicator's roles is to clarify both
the words and the images produced by the scientist to make
the message more readily understood by a non expert
audience. This process is not simple, neutral, or necessarily
intuitive. Images are powerful elements, and visual
representation in its many forms is a necessary part of
science communication. What are the decisions made by the
science communicator? How are visual representations
“edited'? While these may seem like obvious or simple
questions, the fact is that simple decisions often have
profound consequences.”
Representing Climate Change

     Collaborative for Advanced Landscape Planning
         Local Climate Change Visioning Project
Representing Climate Change
Attempts at Objectivity

   Goal of visualization studies is to better
    understand how audiences perceive, interpret and
    act on various aspects or variables of visualization.

   Objective study is especially difficult in
    visualization studies. Difficult to escape “menu of
    options” effect.
Ethical & Methodological Issues
   Issues of differential interpretation

   Subjectivity in the selection of images

   Prior assumptions in the creation of images

   Validity: “Parts & Whole” tension between
    reductionist and holistic approaches.

   Fun or function: Are visualizations too
    absorbing? Too entertaining?
Ethical & Methodological Issues

 “People’s prior perceptions, experiences, attitudes,
   social background, cultural orientation and
   behavioural dispositions influence the reactions they
   will have to images of climate change, the messages
   they take away and whether they act on the basis of
   the visual communication they have received (e.g.
   Myers, 1994).”
Ethical & Methodological Issues

  “A person’s response to an image is not simply
 rational, but has an emotional component that
 raises ethical and practical issues (Myers,
 1994)...It needs to be managed carefully because
 responses to emotional visual appeals can simply
 end up triggering defensive psychological
 responses, leaving the audience desensitized with
 a sense of ‘issue fatigue’ or leading to feelings of
 powerlessness to do anything to reduce the causes
 of climate change.”
Solutions Summary

   Need to be mindful of subjectivity, especially expert
    judgment in selection and creation of visualizations.

   Need to consider context and nature of target audience,
    including their local needs, expectations and visual

   Ensure application of LV applications doesn't prioritize
    technical expertise above the values, orientations and
    preferences that make landscape appreciation so
    conditional (role and judgement of the expert is
    Solutions Summary
   Ultimately the literature points to the need to
    acknowledge bias, and value-laden nature of

   Process needs to be transparent and intentions clear.

   Go local and bottom-up whenever possible.

   The future is increasingly one of hands-on public
    participation with visualization tools being made
    accessible on line and to all groups.

   We need to re-examine the design process of
    visualization technologies and positionality of design.
Climate Change Futures Summary

   A bottom-up approach, manifesting understanding based
    on visual pre-conceptions already existing.

   Purposive sampling strategy and 30 semi-structured
    interviews with open questions.

   Three unique groups with varying future orientations,
    representing varying socio-demographics and lifestyle
Climate Change Futures Summary

      A.Looking for:

      B.(a) The perceived importance of climate
       change to participants (its salience).

      C.(b) Participants’ feelings of how and whether
       they can personally do anything about (how or whether they perceive themselves
       as part of the cause and their sense of self-
       efficacy to take action and make a
Climate Change Futures Summary

       Participants generally found it difficult to
       imagine the future, particularly in the context
       of climate change in 50 years time.
       Regardless of their level of knowledge or
      B.difficulty in imagining the future, all
       participants had rich opinions to offer.

      C.- Media
      D.- Personal experience
      E.- Imagination
Climate Change Futures Summary

       Where climate change was apparently not a
      B.salient issue to participants, they were more
       likely to describe abstract, wild and
       catastrophic imagery, based on timescales
       beyond the life of the current generation.

      C.Where climate change was apparently more
       salient, visualizations ranged between being
       scientific to being more national, local and
Follow-up Study
       A.A follow-up study will be based on an image
        sorting exercise and then a series of focus
        groups, which will give participants the
        opportunity to discuss, criticize and respond
        to a range of images provided for them in
        terms of their senses of climate change
        salience and personal self-efficacy. These
        will span a variety of formats and will be
        selected on the basis of criteria constructed
        on the
       B.basis of the interview data and consultation
        with an expert panel.

        The ultimate outcome is intended to offer
        guidelines and contribute to research in the
        field of climate change visualisation, and
Case Study

      The Antelope Brush Grasslands
Case Study
Pocket Desert Alliance group takes on Aquila
By Leslie Plaskett

Editor’s note: due to space limitations Aquila’s response to the questions raised by this article will be
published next week.

At a public meeting held last Thursday evening the Pocket Desert Preservation Alliance (PDPA) brought a
packed house up to speed on their view of the Aquila substation project slated for construction on the
power company’s privately owned land, north of Gallagher Lake, in the winter of 2003/04.

In a maneuver reminiscent of David and Goliath, the PDPA, a small newly formed group of biologists and
environmentalists, is taking on the corporate giant and taking it to task for centering the South Okanagan
Supply Reinforcement Project on endangered antelope brush habitat.

Andrew Frank, Kevin Dunn and Janelle Parchomchuk headed up the session that was held in the
community centre on June 26, with Frank acting as spokesperson throughout the evening.

Stating from the outset that their purpose was to inform the public about the risks the project poses to the
habitat and its resident species, they outlined what they felt to be a more viable alternative, and
underscored their mandate to raise awareness about this option.
Case Study
And one of their initial criticisms of the company, Frank said, was that “Aquila, during its public
information sessions, did not focus on issues that were important to people and it didn’t present the
alternatives to a substation – and there are alternatives. It’s only fair that since its going to be
affecting our community we be aware of the alternatives that were passed over before this thing gets
put in.”

To set the environmental stage for their rationale, PDPA member and biologist, Janelle Parchomchuk,
described the habitat (antelope brush shrub steppe) that will be affected by the substation as one that has
been chipped away at over time and is now provincially and federally endangered. “The valley bottom,
favoured by wildlife and plants, is also favoured by people and has experienced considerable losses over
the last 100 years.”

The narrow valley is unique in all of Canada, she explained and “particularly where it bottlenecks at
Vaseaux Lake it is an important migration corridor for sheep and birds that funnel through. The cliffs are
important for species of bats, some of which are found only here in Canada.”

The area also has other features, “Socio-economically speaking this beauty attracts people here. They come
for its natural attributes and it adds to the quality of life for local citizens.” And she warns that it has been a
“focus for conservation for years.”

It is within this area, considered by many to be a national treasure, that the substation will be built. And this
explains why there is heightened sensitivity regarding the habitat that will be lost during construction.
Frank says this will amount to 10 acres of antelope brush “being bulldozed to the ground,” a figure he says
represents one per cent of the total remaining ecosystem. And when it is rare and endangered, one per cent
is perceived as too high a loss.
Case Study
It is a source of frustration for the PDPA who believe the additional power required for the area could be
provided by “the Warfield to Penticton line instead.” Frank says Aquila has chosen the substation because
“it is the easiest and least expensive option for the company.” He says that the other alternative, the
Warfield to Penticton line, which would run parallel to existing BC Hydro lines, “cuts through habitat that
is not endangered and is already being logged.”

Frank points out that a 1999 screening test that compares the viability of the two options was
withheld from their group, “Aquila put a hold on this – they were not open to disclosure.”

Another thorn in their side regarding the substation goes beyond the ground it will raze to the sound that is
part and parcel of the project. “A substation taps into existing 500 KV lines, converts it into 250 then sends
it back up to their lines. Transformers do this and they operate 24 hours a day seven days a week.”
And it is the noise, 80 decibels, which concerns the group. “This is the equivalent to the highway noise of
the 401 in Toronto or freeway in Vancouver.”

Explaining the effects of bioacoustics he says that sound radiates out and that decibels grow exponentially,
as well there is reverberation off the cliffs. The bottom line is that “sound levels affect animals adversely.
Sheep and elk can be driven out of an area by loud random noises.” He proposes that this can affect the
rutting and lambing of the California Bighorn Sheep that rely on the habitat in this area.
Case Study
Besides the affects on the sheep there are problems for the adjacent landowners, “In order to tap into
the lines the poles will be 100 feet high and that is not aesthetically pleasing. Property values will

He also says that the 25 acre fenced compound can be seen from the highway and cuts the corridor
for the sheep right in half.

The group also challenges Aquila’s methodology in determining sound levels. “There were many
inadequacies. Reflection and reverberation were not addressed and the report on noise was not conducted
by a credible source – it was not done by a member of the Canadian Acoustical Society.”
As well the PDPA notes that nothing was compiled on individual species such as bats, raptors, snakes or
butterflies. “Noise is a big deal. The 25 acre footprint may not include peripheral noise,” Kevin Dunn
explains, “This needs to be revisited by professionals.”

Another concern of the PDPA was the fact that test pits were dug before the environmental assessment was
complete and “this in effect renders the environmental impact statement null and void.” The group also
mentioned that the area is “bulldozed right to the creek bed without a 30 meter buffer zone.”
Dallas Plensky, who is studying the California Bighorn Sheep as part of her Master of Science degree,
provided a synopsis of the sheep population and their progress since the pneumonia die off a few years
ago.“… habitat quality is essential to their survival,” she says noting that there are only 200 animals
counted from Penticton Creek to the border. “Loss of habitat is not in line with their recovery. They are not
a big healthy herd.”
Case Study
While there are many issues in question here, the PDPA is focusing now on a meeting at the Regional
District of the Okanagan Similkameen (RDOS) that takes place at their office on July 3 at either 11:00 a.m.
or 1:00 p.m. “The RDOS can turn down Aquila’s application for a variance permit and this will hold
up the process for six months,” Frank says. The permit is about the height of the towers, “they are
applying for a change from 15 to 36 meters.”

Frank is concerned that if the application goes through “the permit will be seen as a green light.”
Dan Ashton, chair of the RDOS, and Joe Cardoso, Area ‘C’ Director, were both in attendance and while
Ashton said that only adjacent property owners could attend the meeting he welcomed submissions from
the public, “There are two sides to every story,” he said, “but we are here. We’ve come down to hear this.”

Along with many others who shared her sentiment, Celia Newman commented after questioning why the
general public could not attend, “This is a huge concern for tourism, for ecotourism, naturalists and birders.
It would be a gross travesty to lose any part of it.”

Eva Durance who leads many Meadowlark Festival tours in the area voiced her chagrin over the towers,
saying they would be a detriment to naturalists or anyone taking in the view. But she also concluded at the
end of the meeting that conservation of power is everyone’s responsibility and if people don’t start to
monitor their use of this resource, “we will face this (situation) over and over again.”

   Thoughts about improving objectivity?

   Thoughts about relationship between science
    visualization (making science material) and actual
    practice of science?

   Thoughts about resolving role of the expert in
    research more generally?

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