Posted on October 16, 2013 | in Featured | by

A Picture Paints a Thousand Words
Drawing out the detail through visual interpretation

As you may already know, the University of Edinburgh, through Library and University Collections, is one of the partners in the Europeana Cloud Project. Now in its eighth month, the project is tasked with establishing a cloud-based infrastructure for Europeana and its aggregators, and with facilitating access to content and tools for researchers. This is an enormous task, which requires consultation with a wide range of stakeholders.

The latest round of consultation happened in here Edinburgh, earlier this month, where two one day workshops were held to explore the legal and economic issues facing the project. For the latter, the value of the Cloud was discussed from the perspective of each of the stakeholders: content providers, research infrastructures, aggregators and researchers. One of the most interesting aspects of the workshop was the use of an independent visual interpreter, brought in by the Europeana team from an Amsterdam based company called Jam. As the discussion progressed, his role was to capture and visualise the ideas and then to draw out the values of the Cloud for each of the stakeholders.

Translating the discussion in to something visual led to the identification of problems as well as misunderstandings. That one person with a pen and paper was able to encapsulate what twenty five people had talked through over the course of a few hours was astonishing, especially as he had little prior knowledge of the complex issues around the project. We were, at least in a literal sense, on the same page.


The visualisation renewed and clarified discussions and helped us to agree further actions to be taken. There are few things more amorphous than a cloud and the concept of a Cloud based infrastructure is a difficult one to thrash through.

Using a simple tool such as illustration can make a huge difference in terms of achieving clarity and focusing discussions. It’s a tool I would highly recommend to anyone struggling to reach consensus around high level concepts.

Norman Rodger, Programmes, Projects and Innovations Manager

Adapted from an original blog by Susan Reilly, EU Projects Officer at LIBER

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