The verbal description of the communication process has to use words, like “pack” and “unpack” a thought, which keep suggesting the misconception that the content is invariably transported across the communication channel (which, in turn, suggests a false supremacy of content). The visual, by contrast, immediately shows how different and how much richer the ideas at both sides of the “pipe” are, and that the connection may be more important than the content.
Interestingly, the emergence of the less rich medium as preferred least common denominator, just repeated itself with the discussion about this visual: Dave posted it on a blog (text plus image), on Flickr (image plus text), and on a forum (just text). Guess where the replies arrived: on the least rich medium where the most traffic is.
George’s second question “And where is the research” is harder. Probably, visuals don’t work for everybody, and a study sampled across the different types could end up with the notorious “no significant difference”. It is certainly difficult and risky to design such a study.