What can visuals do

George Siemens asks “What can visuals do that text can’t?”, and Dave Gray just presented such a visual about text that answers the question.

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.

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2 Responses to What can visuals do

  1. Dave Gray says:

    There’s some great research that supports visual learning in Multimedia Learning by Richard Mayer, who conducted the research described in the book.

    There’s also a paper here and some great research-based presentation principles by Andrew Abela here.

  2. x28 says:

    Thank you very much for the pointers to new argumentation support, here and in your updated reading list.
    I was shying away from reading Mayer because of the complicated controversies such as this one, but I should try and understand it.

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