Last week, as I was looking for good websites and twitter users to follow the students’ movement in Quebec, its support by and links to the other worldwide opposition movements, and to try to assess how it could evolve, I found this really useful, informative and beautiful website displaying a timeline of the events done by Xavier K. Richard, @xkr.
Today, I found that this timeline, or rather the incredible tool to make such a timeline, TimelineJS, created by VéritéCo, is a free web-based application. I could not resist the temptation to try it, continuing on the series of timelines created for “the Tragic Events that strike Everstate.” It is truly very easy to use (just use the Google spreadsheet template provided on the website, and enter your data instead of those given as example), then follow the directions given on the TimelineJS website and, finally, embed it on your website. You can include videos and photographs, and, compared with the two others that were previously tried, you can create as many timelines as you want, which is a great advantage.
Maps are both necessary tools for analysis and crucial delivery visuals for foresight and warning products. They constitute a very powerful type of delivery form, as they change both the world and the mind.
The pivotal importance of maps and of the process of mapping has notably been shown, in the case of the birth of nations and of nationalism, by two remarkable books: Imagined Communities by Benedict Anderson and Siam Mapped: A History of the Geo-Body of a Nation by Winichakul Thongchai. Building upon the findings of those master-works, as well as on my own (PhD) research, this post explains the power of maps and then outlines contemporary evolutions, examples and possibilities.
Why are maps special instruments of power?
As maps influence our way to perceive the world, they also allow for the creation of new political actions, and make possible what hitherto had been unthinkable of.
Try to imagine the world, the space around you, before one could calculate latitude and then longitude (the measurement of longitude, notably, remained unsolved and impossible until the eighteenth century), and thus before maps could be created.
What you would get is something like this, where only the most salient geographical features that allow for bearings are marked:
However, with latitude and longitude, with the work and skills of geographers, as exemplified by Alistair Leak, “Book review: The map that changed the world,” and most of the time with a host of interactions between various powers (Thongchai 1994, Lavoix 2005), maps very similar to those we know today were born. The process of mapping itself is never innocuous and changes, forever, awareness, perception, worldview and how we inhabit the world. It also makes for fascinating stories. What we could obtain was very different from pre-longitude maps and could look like this:
Such maps, are much more useful in terms of international relations, as, notably, they allow for the accurate drawing of boundaries. They are crucial for wars, as they improve strategy and tactics: they are precise, allow for measurement of time in terms of movement, including logistics, for specific positioning of troops, logistics or artillery, etc. They are indispensable to govern, as they allow for a better – and stronger – administrative rule, which, in turn, leads to more security for citizens, however with some loss of freedom. Meanwhile, as land is mapped, as borders are created, our representation thus our perception of the world changes. With maps, the Earth became a globe subdivided into countries, territorial, independent and sovereign nation-states.
Maps are thus instruments and vectors of power, which, above all, construct mental perceptions, indeed cognitive maps.
Creating a new world? Satellite, crowd-sourcing and ocean floor maps
Nowadays, with satellite and more recently crowd-sourcing (see, for example OpenStreetMap), we obtain incredibly accurate and up-to-date maps. If we take the example of our first map, the region of Kong Pissey in Cambodia, today, we can get the three maps on the right hand side, with a click of the mouse, instantaneously.
The power that is given to anyone is incredible, compared with what was available only three centuries or even fifty years ago, even if, most of the time, we are not aware of it and take it for granted.
Indeed, for example, the announcement by Google that it would not only map the ocean floor within five years but also track any ship and make this knowledge available to anyone (Daily Mail, May 2012) is a major revision of the current various balances of power. The consequences are not only enormous in terms of maritime security, strategy and tactics, but also could touch the exploitation of maritime resources, notably deep-sea mining of polymetallic nodules (e.g. Ifremer campaign, may 2012), and generate new tensions for zones where maritime boundaries are ill-defined or disputed.
If the mapping of the ocean floor was achieved and included with corresponding resources, in maps displaying maritime boundaries, our cognitive map of geopolitics and power could well be substantially redefined. (Nota: An interesting map “Global distribution of marine mineral resources known at this early stage of ocean exploration” by P. Rona (2003) can be found on the web but is restricted to personal usage; it thus cannot be reproduced here nor hyperlinked for copyrights reason, which underlines again, for other reasons, the revolutionary quality of Google’s project).
Maps and cartograms
Maps can also, evidently, be combined with many data when dealing with specific issues, as, for example, in the case of water security.
Even more interesting in terms changing cognitive maps, latest mapping techniques allow us to transform a map in a cartogram, i.e. according to those specific data, as done by World Mapper. For example, on the website Show(R)World you can create your own maps according to data provided by various international organisations. The maps can then be downloaded or embedded. As another example, Benjamin D. Hennig based at the University of Sheffield, creates extraordinary maps, as displayed above, and publishes them on his blog, Views of the World (under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0).
With such power, maps are privileged visual tools we must use when we deliver foresight and warning products as they will actively contribute to redraw the cognitive map of our clients, and thus help them hear and pay heed to warnings.
Featured image: General map of the distances and the historic capitals (chinese: Hunyi jiangli lidai guodu zhi tu; japanese: Kon’itsu kyoori rekidai kokuto no zu), Korea, roughly 1402. Ink and paint on paper. By Kim Sahyung, Lee Moo, Lee Hui [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
You will find below a selection of maps related to global water security, which are useful for both analysis and delivery of products.
Maps are both necessary tools for analysis and crucial delivery visuals for our foresight and warning products. They constitute a category of delivery form, which can, furthermore, be combined with other categories to suit at best our needs.
The maps under copyrights that do not allow fair free use (C.C.) are filed at the bottom of the post.
AQUASTAT is FAO’s global information system on water and agriculture, developed by the Land and Water Division. The maps section “contains global maps with key data on water and agriculture. They can be consulted in an interactive way or downloaded as a PDF file.” Maps per country, region, river-basins, rivers.
“Compendium of important hydrological information on major basins in India. It provides updated site wise data for 12 non-classified basins that covers aspects such as location, drainage area, population, temperature, average runoff, seasonal water flow, historical water levels, average sediment load, water quality parameters and land use statistics. The statistics of year 2006-07 to 2009-10 are used as the base for the data mentioned in the book.” (India Water Portal, 2012).
“Quantitative, spatially explicit information on groundwater in Africa is required to characterize this resource in ways that can usefully inform strategies to adapt to growing water demand associated not only with population growth but also climate variability and change. Current continent-wide groundwater maps provide only qualitative information on the likely extent of aquifers (Struckmeier and Richts 2008, Seguin 2008, MacDonald and Calow 2009). As such, key quantitative information outlining the dimensions of the continent’s groundwater resources have, to date, remained unresolved. We address this significant knowledge gap by developing the first quantitative maps of groundwater storage and potential groundwater yields in Africa.” (Introduction).
2012: Very useful and beautiful mapping application, with an export function allowing to draw global maps according to various parameters and two river basins, the Yellow river basin and the Orange-Senqu river basin.
It is a final product as it displays the ranking of countries according to a water stress index they have created and calculated “by evaluating renewable supplies of water from precipitation, streams and rivers against domestic, industrial and agricultural use. The Water Stress Index also includes an interactive sub-national map, which has been developed to pinpoint areas of extreme water stress that pose significant risks to populations and business operations at a local level right down to 10km² .” (Maplecroft, 2012).
As usual, there is no simple answer to this question, and if the classical bibliography will most probably have to be kept for a while, Pearltrees also appears as a perfect bibliographic tool.
Inevitable classical bibliography
Because delivery of product must consider both the product’s material support and the recipient or customer, then the traditional way to write a bibliography will probably have to be kept for some time.
Indeed, for anything that uses paper and print as support, the usual, alphabetical bibliography is best.
It is furthermore the most practical way to find a reference as quickly as possible, especially for long bibliographies. Indeed, for long and complex topics and thus references, we enter the categorization problem, as usual. If we take the example of an energy flow chart, does it belong to energy demand or energy supply? How can we categorize the energy security problem that would stem from a conflict with Iran: oil price, oil transportation, oil shortage, but also all other impacts on other sources of energy, etc.
Finally, a classical bibliography is also adapted to people who may be change-adverse and who attribute, even unconsciously, specific qualities to a classical bibliography (e.g. serious, scientific).
A multifunction visual bibliographic tool: Pearltrees
Yet, using a map, graph or tree, could also be very convenient to show linkages and organize thoughts, as long as the cognitive map thus created remains flexible. It would thus be a first step towards modelling, while also participating in changing the cognitive map of the recipient, notably if the customer becomes a user who can interact with the bibliographic tree. Considering the huge availability of information and analyses, such a map would be truly helpful, notably during the first step of research. @Afrikasources, aka Philip Payet, when we discussed this, suggested to try Pearltrees.
I have been exploring this platform those last days, notably testing it by converting the bibliography on energy security foresight (click on the Pearl to access the result), and it corresponds almost perfectly and more to what I had in mind.
It is extremely user-friendly, beautiful and allows for entering a short editorial and a specific avatar (picture) for each tree. Posts or “pearls” (nodes) can be moved very easily from one place to another. The design is elegant in its simplicity and the visualisation easy and modular, as shown in the various screenshots.
When putting the mouse over a pearl, a small window opens and displays the webpage picked as pearl; a click opens the webpage.
Interestingly, the way to capture or pick up a pearl (post or piece of information), has to be installed on your browser (this seems to be a trend currently in the sharing and curation’s world, which will change even more the idea of “delivery of product”). Once Pearltrees added to your browser, you do not even have to open the link of a page to add it, but can right-click on its hyperlink, which allows for very speedy action if you convert a bibliography of plan to read the post later (which is essential for all impatient people). You can also choose to which of your tree to add your new pearl or just put it in your tray and sort it out later.
The possible interactions are a very interesting feature of Pearltrees: you can find similar trees and pearls through the “related interests” feature, which is a plus in terms of horizon scanning and research, as you benefit from others’ knowledge, as in most social networking and curation’s platforms. Then you can pick a pearl or a tree of another user (while the initial curator gets the benefit as his work is referenced as being “picked” and receives a corresponding message). Finally, you can set up teams to work collaboratively on similar issues.
You can also link your Facebook and Twitter accounts to your Pearltrees’ and have all your posts there added to your trees, while of course sharing trees and pearls on Facebook and Twitter, by mail or with other Pearltrees users with whom you team up. Those features are crucial in terms of product delivery.
You can embed your Pearltrees into a website, as a pearl or as the full tree. It is likely that we shall increasingly see pearls appearing on posts to indicate that a related Pearltree is available, as done above.
Last, but not least, Pearltrees has a beautiful dedicated app for Ipad, which works perfectly well.
The potential improvements could be
to allow linking nodes of different trees or branches, maybe with different types of links, as well as to have two or more parents for a same child.
to be able to export the tree to a format other than .rdf (which I could not manage to do, despite research on the web), to allow for exchanges with other social network analysis software, as well as for conversion into a classical bibliography. As far as the latter is concerned, I am afraid that, right now, there is no other way than using the painstaking cut and paste option.
As a whole, Pearltrees is a great tool, certainly the best I have tried and found so far for this usage. Don’t hesitate to share your experience in the comments below and to use and interact with the Pearltrees created.
The tragic events that strike Everstate are instances of the various conditions presiding to Everstate’s destiny, considering what has been done, or not, globally, regionally and within Everstate. The same set of events will be used to stress test each scenario (respecting, of course, the logic of the scenario, in case it impacts the plausibility of the event), starting with the Mamominarch scenario. Keeping in mind the importance of design and delivery of product, two web-applications to present timelines have also been tested in this post (see pictures below, click or use embedded app – warning: the embedded app returns an error message on tablets and mobiles, sorry, just skip it until the text).*
A typical year
Pressures and events that could take place in the short to medium-term future (up to 10 years).
In May, tornadoes, which, previously, had never occurred in Everstate, devastate for a few days some parts of the West. A few cities are badly hit. (1)
Tornadoes are followed by a 6 months long heat wave and drought. (2)
During the same summer, oil prices surge with some spikes even reaching 200$ a barrel. (3)
Novcybio is a foreign international company developing new biotechnologies; an Everstatan company, Novcybio Everstate, has various commercial and industrial relations with Novcybio. In August, global media report that a terrorist group has infiltrated a Novcybio laboratory in its home country, stolen some deadly engineered pathogens and manipulated some of the genes experimented, altering and recombining the DNA sequence of some of the transgenic plants created. (4)
In October, a new episode of the global financial crisis starts. (5)
In November a war starts in the Middle East.
Ideally, up-to-date and available scientific knowledge should guide the choice of events and the design of their occurrence. The related variables in the initial model (e.g. ecological setting, natural new events/conditions/evolution, new external military threats, etc.), which are actually cluster variables, could themselves be developed as specific models for each issue. The different models could then be synthesised to obtain a better understanding and foresight capability. For example, what we know of sea level rise could be linked to the model developed here. Ideally, assuming sufficient resources, we should aim towards the creation of such synthesised models.
Most of the time, when impacts are envisioned, it tends to be done according to only one perspective; in the case of environmental changes, this means most of the time direct costs, sometimes with a larger economic perspective. Even current fashionable approaches through vulnerability and resilience tend not to be holistic enough, sometimes giving up on foresight and warning, most of the time oblivious of political and geopolitical dynamics. Such partial approaches are absolutely insufficient. Indeed, as we shall test with the three scenarios here, and as shown by the cases of Haiti and Japan, both ravaged by deadly earthquakes (2010 Haiti earthquake, 7Mw – 2011 Tohoku Earthquake, 9Mw), it is more than likely that polities in different political conditions will use different capabilities, in various terms, to face changes and duress. Likewise, what will result will probably differ. Only such multidisciplinary approaches can let us hope to reach resilience.
It follows that the timing of those events will generate different consequences. We are again faced with the same challenge as usual, timing (see research note and Evertime). Ideally again, considering different sets of likelihood and timing for each event should allow us combining different sets of events. Each should be tested against the conditions of the polity for this very specific timing. Adequate computing facilities would be necessary.
Anticipating other events
You can imagine other sets of events that could befall Everstate the same year, or the following years. Then, the method and the various posts can be used to develop other sets of narratives.
* For the first test, click on the image to open it in Tiki-Toki and experiment with the timeline. Only one free timeline can be created. For the second, Timeglider, the timeline can be embedded in a webpage with the free version, which is a great advantage. It is however best seen in full screen. Three free timelines can be created. Credits to photos will be given at the bottom of the post as they do not appear in Timeglider.
“Observations suggest that drought in Europe has occurred more frequently in the latter part of the 20th century, however the scientific understanding of the driving forces behind largescale droughts is incomplete. Climate change projections for Europe further indicate that drought is likely to become more frequent and more severe due to warmer northern winters and a warmer and drier Mediterranean region…”
(3) Scenarios on oil prices related to a potential war with Iran and the closing of the Strait of Ormuz led to the following forecasts
“i) Scenario 1: Exports minimally effected. Concerns would drive initial price response; Oil could spike initially to $130 to $140 per barrel and then settle in a higher range, around $120 to $125; ii) Scenario 2: Iranian exports cut off for one month. In this case, we would expect prices could reach previous all-time highs of $145/bbl or even higher depending on issues with shipping; iii) Scenario 3: Iranian exports are lost for half a year. We think oil prices could probably rally and average $150 for the six months, with notable spikes above that level; iv) Scenario 4: Greater loss of production from around the region, either through subsequent Iranian response or due to lack of ability to move oil through Straits of Hormuz. This is the Armageddon scenario in which oil prices could soar, significantly constraining global growth…”
1) “Scenario 1: EU enacts a full ban on 0.6 Mb/d of imports of Iranian crude. In this scenario, we would expect Brent crude prices to surge into the $125-150 range.” 2) “Scenario 2: Iran shuts down the Straits of Hormuz, disrupting 15 Mb/d of crude flows. In this scenario, we would expect Brent prices to spike into the $150-200 range for a limited time period….”
(5) This renewed financial crisis would come from the assumption that nothing – beyond reducing state expenses – or not much has really been endeavoured in the word to tackle the financial crisis started in 2007. Thus the crisis regularly surges after temporary lulls. It would be worsened by the impact of oil prices’ increase and spikes on the real economy; read, for a recent paper on this latter point: Dr. Mingqi Li (associate professor of economics at the University of Utah), “Has the Global Economy Become Less Vulnerable to Oil Price Shocks?” The OilDrum, 14 March 2012.
When an image is featured and is meant to represent the totality of a foresight or anticipatory product, or a large section of it, it must capture the gist of the product. Symbols and symbolism are then crucial to transmit messages. This importance of symbols should anyway be considered for any use of image (as well as when developing a scenario narrative, for example when choosing names). This will be exemplified here with the Chronicles of Everstate.
The image aims at capturing symbolically the features of the contemporary (early 21st century) modern nation-state: It, of course, is an heir to Hobbes Leviathan. However, compared with the original image, the head of the sovereign is not displayed as even in the remaining monarchies, the regimes are constitutional and democratic. The cross (left hand) and the sword (right hand) that symbolise the powers of church and sword are decapitated. Indeed, if both orders remain crucial for any polity, our era upholds peace rather than war as value, and has a difficult relation to religions; other elite groups may also be crucial. The body is composed of a multitude of small human beings, which may be seen as represent the people, citizens, the nation and thus portray both democracy and the ruled.
The triptych The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch is used for the featured images for the whole narrative of the Chronicles of Everstate, each detail chosen according to the content of the narrative. The creation of Everstate uses the top of the left panel, as symbolising a world still virgin of human interactions.
The top of the central panel is chosen to show a world now inhabited by various actors, happy, light, full of promises, of complexity and appearing as relatively benign.
The lower middle part of the central panel is chosen for the Mamominarch scenario, to represent a world where interactions among actors and their decisions have had a strong impact (hence the size of the characters) and to symbolise a libertarian atmosphere that may be imagined as following from actions minimizing the power of the state.
The top of the right panel of the triptych The Garden of Earthly Delights is chosen to depict the tragic events that befell Everstate, as well as the impacts of those events on the polity. The top of the panel is chosen as it hardly portrays any actor, and if it does they are isolated, individuals. Indeed, the feeling most people would have when hit by such catastrophes as chosen here, is one of powerlessness and being the victim of a fate beyond their control and responsibility. Yet, this is only a perception, hence the use of the logic of choosing the whole triptych, as all these events are actually anthropogenic. One of the terrible fatality human beings have to face is to become aware of their individual responsibility, to act accordingly and yet, most of the time, still suffer because of others’ refusal to do as much or because of belated awakenings.
The other featured images will be added as the various scenarios unfold.
The use of an ancient map is meant to depict location and specification, criteria materialising a country being nothing else than a cognitive map. The choice of the Weltchronik (world chronicles) was appropriate for a foresight analysis named similarly and that aims at being adaptable to any country in the world (as ideal-type).
Each original image in its entirety is free of rights. They are reworked under C.C. 3.0.
Delivery to clients of strategic foresight and warning (SF&W) or futures related products is, as we saw, a crucial part of the overall SF&W process. Without delivery, there is neither warning nor foresight, however accurate and brilliant the underlying analyses.
As crucial, although very difficult to achieve, is the fact that clients or customers must pay heed to the foresight product or to the warning. Initially, according to the intelligence literature, notably on surprise, or to exchanges with practitioners, this part of the process is seen as so difficult indeed that it is not considered as being the responsibility of the foresight and warning – or risk – analyst, officer or of the scientist if we include science in SF&W, given the predictive quality science must have to qualify as science.
However, lately, we are moving towards a new emphasis on the importance to do everything possible to obtain the right attention from the customers or clients.
This demands identifying one’s customers, knowing them as best as possible, from their biases to the network of decision-making within which they are embedded, and then incorporating this understanding in a real strategy to deliver foresight and warning products.
A small part of this great scheme implies using visual tools, design, and images, which will be formally part of the final product. As previously argued, some of those tools are as well instruments of analysis.
This section of the website will be dedicated to images, design and visual tools that could be useful to deliver predictive or anticipatory products to clients and to illustrate posts and documents on strategic foresight and warning and related predictive activities, starting immediately with images related to the delivery of foresight products.
A first cursory look at the images below let us identify a first possibility of categorisation of classical types of delivery’s forms, with possible mix between categories: boards, briefings, memos and reports, maps, charts.