Representations are tools for thought that make it possible to handle problems that would otherwise be difficult or impossible. A familiar example is using written numbers to perform calculations that people could not handle via mental arithmetic.

We use a range of representations. Although most of the ones we have worked with are visual, we’ve also examined forms of systematic representation across a range of senses.

The example below shows a representation that we often use. It shows liking and disliking as two separate scales, making it easy to establish whether something evokes strong mixed feelings (top right corner) or indifference (bottom left) etc. This plot shows feedback from users on an early version of a software design.

Some fields where different representations give new insights (links to our WordPress blog)

Liking, disliking and aestheticsTreating e.g. ugliness and attractiveness as separate concepts, not opposites

Visually representing hostility and reconciliation within conversations: Clearer insights into the dynamics

Crisp and fuzzy categorisation: Better ways of handling problematic cases

Visualising complexity: Making it easier to understand where the real complications lie

Representing lesson structure graphically: Showing the underlying structure of a text via images

Representing argumentation via diagrams: Showing the underlying structure of systematic use of evidence

Visualising gendered language: A visual representation shows features that would be missed by content analysis

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