icm2re logo. icm2:re (I Changed My Mind Reviewing Everything) is an 

ongoing web column edited and published by Brunella Longo

This column deals with some aspects of change management processes experienced almost in any industry impacted by the digital revolution: how to select, create, gather, manage, interpret, share data and information either because of internal and usually incremental scope - such learning, educational and re-engineering processes - or because of external forces, like mergers and acquisitions, restructuring goals, new regulations or disruptive technologies.

The title - I Changed My Mind Reviewing Everything - is a tribute to authors and scientists from different disciplinary fields that have illuminated my understanding of intentional change and decision making processes during the last thirty years, explaining how we think - or how we think about the way we think. The logo is a bit of a divertissement, from the latin divertere that means turn in separate ways.

Chronological Index | Subject Index

A picture is worth a thousand words - or zero

About the challenges of visual communication in an hyper-connected global digital world

How to cite this article?
Longo, Brunella (2012). A picture is worth a thousand words - or zero. About the challenges of visual communication in an hyper-connected global digital world. icm2re [I Changed my Mind Reviewing Everything ISSN 2059-688X (Print)], 1.1 (March)

How to cite this article?
Longo, Brunella (2012). A picture is worth a thousand words - or zero. About the challenges of visual communication in an hyper-connected global digital world. icm2re [I Changed my Mind Reviewing Everything ISSN 2059-688X (Online)], 1.1 (March).
Full-text accessible at http://www.brunellalongo.co.uk/

March 2012. - Earlier this year I had to prepare some short (15 / 30 minutes) presentations of my Data Project Management methodology - that is not such an easy product neither to buy nor to sell.

On top of that, I like written words - that usually take time to be understood. Wherever you put them, they shape your world like sculptures do with their surrounding air. But is reading still an habit for the challenged mind of young professionals I have to work with? and which words can reach the fast educated brain of their executives and programme managers? Can we effectively communicate technical and managerial notions with traditional languages even in rushing, deceptive and blunt times?

In this respect, there is no evidence that the arts, literature, theatre, narrative can offer better approaches to knowledge translation and management but they are surely positively biased approaches (at least, compared with mathematics, physics or even history).

Visual communication has been so effective in persuading people for millennia and in so many disparate cultures that you do not need me to explain this concept any further.

Similarly, it is quite obvious why we often prefer other languages, symbols and signs when a matter of reasoning arises, especially in the law, science or accountancy domains.

A proverb well known in several countries and languages says "A picture is worth a thousand words". There is an English version of the same proverb that adds "and yet picture books are for infants": I think we should also include after infants, the aged, the disabled and... the Chief Executives!

The story: referral fees and defamation of character

I learned a story about an old man who went brainwashed by a group of attachment therapists, close friends of his second wife (a psychologist). He was persuaded that the daughter he had from his first wife had become a lesbian and excluded her from his will, being that sexual orientation completely at odds with his religious beliefs. The decision was made after he was shown with a picture of his daughter resembling her mother together with her mother's partner (the unfortunate father divorced from his first wife after the woman actually left him for another woman). But as a matter of fact, the daughter was not at all a lesbian.

Being excluded from her father's will, the daughter was persuaded by a lawyer to start a defamation claim against her step-mother who allegedly architected the whole conspiracy. Of course, the claim failed as it was absolutely ungrounded but the poor lady spent a lot of the money she inherited after his father’s death to pay the lawyer with just the little moral satisfaction of learning, years later, that the same solicitor was suspended and barred from practicing for abuse of trust and misconduct in several other cases.

This is a feuilleton-case in which personal data acquired through a divorce case have been passed from a lawyers’ firm to another one, abusing of the referral fees mechanism, and used to fabricate a real case of defamation of character impacting several innocent people in two families: a picture is just worth as any other picture out of its context, especially if it is a fake put in the wrong pot of family law: zero. It had had no value in changing anything. But engagement experts and social media activists seem pretty much able to socially engineer whatsoever has the power to entertain people (and for ages, exploiting repetition and sequel mechanisms) transforming bunches of data and stories in zero-valued goods: built upon faked evidences with arguable profitability, such stories can generate traffic and misrepresent people, products, places, events, relationships with secondary purposes.

Is change management just a matter of changing perceptions?

Seeing is believing, and it can spoil or corrupt even a father's love - but it cannot easily change the law.

The story, together with other reasoning on the best ways to translate knowledge in our busy digital times, and particularly in the creative industries and cultural heritage sectors, led me to prepare these funny slides about my Data Project Management methodology (London, National Maritime Museum, MLA Group Meeting, 22 March 2012) choosing an unusual and little dissonant combination of languages: on one side, my speech was concentrating on some precise concepts derived from normative, policy or procedural findings of my own research. On the other, the images projected were very rich in meaning although not particularly pertinent with the notions I had to communicate. These images seemed to have a special quality in that: in whatever way I tried to stretch them or to manipulate them they did not lose the original power of representing concepts they had in their first instance or original context (sometimes together with their title, descriptions and copyright notes) - or at least this was the prevalent opinion of the few people I showed them before making my own decisions. That to say that the images could bring to your attention more suggestions and ideas, besides what I say during my talk or presentation. You yourself are likely to find new reasons why you should be interested in my methodology no matter the languages, standards and media you currently use to deal with data.

Conclusions

We humans, especially in some of the most developed Countries, have reached such a perfection in communication tasks and interaction skills that the languages we use have often lost their properties, impact and power to teach something outside a specific frame or context.

Most of the times our conversations and interactions risk therefore to be trapped in a zero-value game.

So in a nutshell, what you may wish to concentrate on is your own learning outcome, no matter what I say in fifteen or thirty minutes.

Post scriptum: The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) introduced a ban on referral fees in personal injury cases in England and Wales , that came into effect on 1 April 2013 although it is known that it has not stopped the unethical practice of trading personal damages cases, very common among legal firms.