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Seeing and believing: examining the role of visualization technology in decision-making about the future

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Images are ubiquitous in communicating complex information about the future. From political messages to extreme weather warnings, they generate understanding, incite action, and inform expectations with real impact today. The

Images are ubiquitous in communicating complex information about the future. From political messages to extreme weather warnings, they generate understanding, incite action, and inform expectations with real impact today. The future has come into sharp focus in recent years. Issues like climate change, gene editing, and smart cities are pushing policy makers, scientists, and designers to rethink how society plans and prepares for tomorrow. While academic and practice communities have increasingly turned their gaze toward the future, little attention is paid to how it is depicted and even less to the role visualization technologies play in depicting it. Visualization technologies are those that transform non-visual information into 2D or 3D imagery and generate depictions of certain phenomena, real or perceived. This research helps to fill this gap by examining the role visualization technologies play in how individuals know and make decisions about the future.

This study draws from three phases of research set in the context of urban development, where images of the future are generated by architects and circulated by built environment professionals to affect client and public decision-making. I begin with a systematic review of professional design literature to identify norms related to visualization. I then conduct in-depth interviews with expert architects to draw out how visualization technologies are used to influence client decision-making. I dive into how different tools manage the future and generate different forms of certainty, uncertainty, persuasion, and risk. Complementing the review and interviews is a case study on ASU at Mesa City Center, a development project aimed at revitalizing downtown Mesa, Arizona. Analysis highlights how project-specific visual tools affect decision-making and the role that client imagination and inference play in understanding and preference. This research unpacks the social, technical, and emotional knowledge embedded in visualization technologies and reveals how they affect decision-making. Information about the future is uniquely mediated by each technology with decision-making bound up in larger sociopolitical processes aimed at reducing uncertainty, building trust, and managing expectations. This suggests that the visual tools we use to depict the future are much more dynamic and influential than they are given credit for.

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Date Created
  • 2019

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Narrative Imaginaries: A Transdisciplinary Approach to Mapping Sustainable Futures for the Cantareira System

Description

Tucked peacefully into mountains just north of the City of São Paulo, the largest metropolitan area in South America, sits the Cantareira Reservoir System. This massive water catchment network received

Tucked peacefully into mountains just north of the City of São Paulo, the largest metropolitan area in South America, sits the Cantareira Reservoir System. This massive water catchment network received worldwide coverage in 2014 and 2015 as one of the worst droughts in a century hit the region, threatening to collapse the system. In the years since the peak of the drought, the media has changed its focus, the reservoirs have begun a slow recovery, but the people of the region have had to live with the consequences of this difficult period. Faced with an uncertain future, the people continue to grapple with the historic struggles of rural life, while being faced by new threats to the social, environmental, and technological order that has for a long time stabilized the region. My thesis explores the narrative imaginaries that individuals have pertaining to their personal future and that of the region. It delves into the identity of the Rural Producer, the battle to conserve and preserve native forest, issues surrounding the governance of common resources, and what actors perceive to be the biggest advantages and threats to the sustainable future of the region. Utilizing a set of twenty expert elicitation interviews, data was collected from a variety of actors representing a number of roles and positions within the system. My analysis connects disparate individual narratives, illuminating how they connect together with the narratives of other respondents, creating a regional narrative that illustrates a set of desired outcomes for the region. This paper does not attempt to operationalize solutions for the issues that face the region, it does however serve to provide a context for the historical and contemporary issues that exist, a means by which to consider how they may be approached, and ultimately as a tool for policy makers to make more informed decisions going forward.

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Created

Date Created
  • 2019