This is the second of four reflections by Benjamin Carr on principles which allow simulations and visualizations to help us understand complex systems.
Visualization can enable the user to make sense of a lot of data in a short period of time. Ideally, a well-designed structure is displayed which an individual can use to organize incoming information. Rather than having to take in many separate pieces of information and organize them individually, the information is already arranged coherently. This facilitates the task of remembering and comprehension.
A Sankey diagram demonstrates this well. You can easily see where the money is coming from, who the ultimate beneficiaries are, and what intermediate steps exist. A coherent structure is created which aids the user to understand, organize and remember an otherwise overwhelming amount of information.
Benjamin Carr is doing his undergraduate work in Knowledge Integration at the University of Waterloo. He participated in both the Sudbury and Toronto simulation intensives.