Systems Diagram: Ability to Work

In the process of diagramming systems, whether a hydroponic system or the ability to concentrate and do work, I have found myself continually in need of a better means to represent relationships and system components.  Although Meadows’ stock and flow diagrams are relatively easy to understand for simple systems, I am beginning to feel as though even a step beyond straightforward feedback loops demands reinterpretation and re-representation.  There are many intricate and complex relationships even in relatively simple systems, evident perhaps in my apparent need to add pluses and minuses to the diagram above and my inability to fully pursue the interrelationships of farming systems in the previous post, which arose partly due to a desire to avoid an illegible network of lines and arrows that would have demanded finger-tracing to follow.  Instead, I am beginning to wonder whether arrows and inputs and outputs are enough, and am interested in applying what I recently read of Tufte’s work.  Mapping systems, surely, comes under the realm of the information graphic, and his recommendations are worth further exploration.


3 thoughts on “Systems Diagram: Ability to Work

  1. I LOVE Tufty – his graphics are incredible. I also agree that it was difficult to describe the systems in enough detail through Meadow’s stale stock and flow diagrams. I felt that her text and examples were far more interesting than her diagrams (which really turned me off). However, as I tried to diagram a system in our class discussion on the chalk board in our outdoor classroom it became more apparent to me that this is no simple task- to convey clearly and yet with spirit…

    Your page looks great!

  2. I find that Meadows’ systems diagrams approach incoherence when she introduced three or more stocks or feedback loops. Perhaps this is due to the limitations of her two-dimensional representation (even Tufte tends towards the “superflat”). Though we must commend her for attempting to rationalize complex systems into simple diagrammatic forms, a more appropriate approach may be three-dimensional, immersive, and interactive… The work of MVRDV springs to mind. So does data visualization like Grasshopper and VirTools.

  3. Jack Attack

    I have a comment about those things you would consider “distractions” in your systems diagram about the ability to do work. I would argue that this particular arrow should be oriented in the opposite direction. Distractions are a blessing. They inevitably help you learn more about the world than doing your work ever could.

    As Bill Sherman reminded us during the discussion on Tuesday, it is important that we take advantages of opportunities to learn outside of the traditional classroom setting. Think of your distractions in this same way where you get to experience the spontaneity of interactions outside of your work that ultimately give you the tools you need to become a more proficient worker. Distractions not only give you the chance to learn new ways of coming up with solutions, they also allow you to manage your time better so you work more efficiently.

    Just a thought.


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