Saturday, March 3, 2012

The importance of visualization

One of the hardest things in my life is finding the motivation to complete a certain task, especially when it is a creative project started by myself. Currently on my hard drive there are three songs that are half composed, no less than four novels in varying stages of disrepair and neglect, five comics that are half finished and just need to be inked, not to mention the countless articles that I wanted to write about deadly diseases that never got past the first draft...

I've been thinking a lot about why I finished one project (a novel) and not any of these others. I found that there is an interesting connection between deadlines and completion... but oddly enough the main reason I think that this project was completed was because I thought about it all the time because one of the main plot elements in the book were things that I physically dealt with on a daily basis... it was actually seeing the objects (or in this case actually talking a martial arts class and doing what the character could do)

Then I remembered my time as a microbiology TA for the intro level class... I talked to those students for hours and hours trying to explain a process that seemed simple to me... but it wasn't until I got fed up and just drew the procedure on the whiteboard. Indubitably, every time I drew the process they were confused about they figured out the problem. Forget about analogies to familiar every day things, as soon as I showed them a picture of what they needed to do it got done... and done well.

What other processes can be aided by visualization... whether it be physically doing something or just looking at a diagram. According to some graphic designers the visualization turns something as abstract as the Krebs cycle or the infection pattern of cryptosporidium into concrete details that the people can then intake in more than one part of their brain and enable them to do so much more. The chart here explains the many different chemical pathways that one could go through to see the different processes that could happen in a t-cell receptor, even showing the chemicals that are in common. Writing diagrams like this actually helped me do well in my cellular biology class because I could see where all the chemicals were and where they were going.
I wonder if as we create things and connect them visually if we will see more competent scientists who can make more creative adjustments... because in research, education is important, but sometimes education can be over rulled by creativity mixed with a little curiosity.

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