Visualising Ideas – “Crisis of Credit Visualized”

Yesterday, I came across the Crisis of Credit Visualized video, made by Jonathan Jarvis. This animated story was part of his MA dissertation in the Media Design Program, a graduate studio at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California.

It is very interesting to see how the use of diagrams, sketches and animation can visualise ideas and make them more understandable. Effective communication, clear visual narrative, relevant visualisation, audio narrative, audio and visual effects, all play their role in this visual storytelling. Jonathan explains some of the ideas behind the project in his website. At the same time, the issue of visual representantion of groups of people in this media presentation can be challenging, if not contested. See for example, how the investors or the two “types of families” are visualised/symbolised in the video.

I am wondering whether/how this media representation can work in a museum exhibition. It seems or can be a very good way to simplify ideas in an engaging and easily digested manner. At the same time, the issue of visual representation (of ideas, cultures, groups of people) can be quite problematic. Visualisation can make an idea (more) credible; it gives it a singular form – think of movies that draw on historical events and how those are often dismissed by scholarship as oversimplified or just ‘untrue’. Museums have already used similar visual representations: dioramas, artistic portraits of places and people, reconstructions, first person interpretation etc. To a large extent, those tell us more about the ‘representers’ rather than the ‘represented’ and in the case of museums, emphasise also their authority.

Nevertheless, the animated narrative looks and feels too good to be easily dismissed…and, in any case, I think that I understand now better the credit crunch mess…