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1.3.2 Systems diagrams and diagrams helpful for systems work

Diagrams are used extensively in systems thinking and practice. All of those types included in the animated tutorial, as well as other types not covered there, can or have been used in systems studies. As mentioned at the beginning of the unit the use of diagrams is very personal. For instance I find it helpful to group diagrams into three sorts depending on when they are to be used:

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1.2.5 Thinking through diagrams

One of the features that characterises complex situations is the interconnectedness of the components within them. Understanding such situations can defeat our descriptive abilities. Words alone either confuse still further or misrepresent the situation altogether. For this reason, diagrams are a characteristic feature of systems approaches to understanding complex situations. Diagrams allow the relationships between parts of the situation to be seen at the same time as the parts themselves.
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1.1.2 Diagrams as models

Diagrams come in many forms and uses, but for systems thinking and practice it is useful to think of them as models (meaning ‘representations of reality’ in everyday usage). The term ‘model’ is used in a variety of contexts, even when there is a more commonly used term especially appropriate to its own context: models of terrain are usually called ‘maps’; models of electrical components wired together are usually called ‘circuit diagrams’; and models of the configuratio
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Learning outcomes

After reading this unit you should be able to:

  • appreciate diagrams as a powerful aid to thinking and acting;

  • distinguish between systems diagrams and diagrams helpful in systems work;

  • demonstrate sufficient skills to ‘read’ and ‘draw’ a wide range of diagrams, following given conventions, that help improve your understanding of a situation;

  • select diagrams suited to the needs of the situation you are investigating and the purp
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Introduction

Pictures speak louder than words. But how can you use diagrams to help you? This unit looks at how diagrams can be used to represent information and ideas about complex situations. You will learn how to read, draw and present diagrams to help illustrate how ideas or processes are connected.

This unit is from our archive and is an adapted extract from Systems thinking and practice: diagramming (T552) which is no longer taught by The Open University. If you want to study formally with us
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14 Summary

Products that display some type of human interaction acknowledge that human beings have a physical form. Our human form gives rise to design restrictions and limitations. Our physical forms differ considerably from one person to the next and our own physical form changes over time. As a consequence of our different physical forms we have different physical abilities. For example, we differ in our reach, our strength, our ability to grip and our ability to sustain effort. To draw a distinction
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11.1 he four pleasures

In consumerist societies, buying, using and displaying products has come to represent a certain type of pleasure. This pleasure principle has to be acknowledged in new product development and design. The designer Kenneth Grange has said that a guiding design principle for him is that a product should be ‘a pleasure to use’.

The pleasures of using a product are derived from the perceived benefits it offers to the user. Can we be more explicit in planning product benefits that are ple
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9.1.5 Immersion

Click on the 'View document' link below to read Jordan on 'Immersion'.

View document16.1KB PDF document<
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6 Inclusive design

This section reveals the importance of designing things to suit all potential users.

Inclusive design (or universal design) means designing products so that they can be used easily by as many people as wish to do so. This may sound an obvious goal, but the fact is that many people – some estimates suggest as many as one-fifth of all adults – have difficulty carrying out ordinary tasks with everyday products.

Many elderly and disabled people cannot carry out – certainly with
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5 Why not design for the ‘average’ user

This section explains why it can be misleading to design for an average user; a complete user population should be considered, and often it is more relevant to design for the smallest, tallest, weakest etc. Designing to include extreme users can also benefit the great majority of users.

Even when user needs are being considered in design, it is still relatively easy for the designer to fall into the trap of designing for the average user. On the face of it, it seems a good idea to desig
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4 Who are the users?

This section reveals that ‘users’ can include a wide variety of people – not just the final purchasers or consumers of a product. The section also makes the case for strong user representation in the design process.

Of course, it is not only me who uses the various products in my home; other people use them as well, both members of the family and visitors. Sometimes the range of users of a product, and their different needs, can be diverse. And in addition to the obvious or intend
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3.3 Physical characteristics of natural waters

A river's physical characteristics include:

  • clarity/turbidity

  • colour

  • speed of flow/turbulence

  • odour

  • the presence of plants and macroscopic animal life.

The physical characteristics are determined by location, geology and climate of the catchment area. In turn they influence the chemical and biological characteristics of the watercourse.

The physical appearance m
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2.10 Aquifers

Groundwater is water that, after infiltrating and percolating through surface soils, flows into an aquifer, an underground water-bearing layer of porous rock. About one-third of the UK's drinking water is drawn from aquifers.

To permit economic development, an aquifer must be able to transmit large quantities of water from one point to another and therefore it must have a high permeability. The groundwater contained in aquifers is released from springs an
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2.5 Air circulation

At this stage, air circulation enters and plays a dual role. Firstly, winds transmit moisture horizontally from one location to another. In this way, moisture derived from oceanic evaporation can be transported many miles to a land mass. Secondly, convective or vertical currents arising from unequal heating or cooling can transmit moisture upwards. When it cools, some of the water vapour condenses. It is from these currents that most precipitation develops.


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2.2 Evaporation

At an interface with the atmosphere, water changes its state from a liquid to a vapour in response to an increase in temperature caused by an external heat source. This temperature change is normally the result of solar radiation. The transfer of moisture into the air is called evaporation. The process is also controlled by the relative humidity, or level of vapour saturation, of the air. The greater the relative humidity of the air, the less likely it is that evaporation will take place for
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Acknowledgements

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Grateful acknowledgement is made to the following sources for permission to reproduce material in this text:

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4.2 New ways of thinking and acting: systems practice

There are a wide variety of concepts and theories relating to management and managing. This unit is centred on the ideas and techniques that we believe define systems thinking, but it also draws upon concepts and theories from other areas where these are deemed to be useful. On top of this we see systems practice as requiring a readiness to use the experiential model of learning set out by Kolb, bringing theory and practice together in a meaningful way.

It may be helpful to set out what
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2 1 Different conceptions of learning

(Please refer to Reading 2: What is learning?, by Mary Thorpe) Although we spend large amounts of our lives learning, intentionally and otherwise, it is quite unusual to spend any time thinking about what learning actually is. This reading gives you an opportunity to do so, and to consider whether how we choose to learn is always appropriate for what we are trying to learn.

Spending time thinking about what learning is, how we define it and what it involves, is important for two reasons
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1.7 Conclusions

Could both of these students have got more from their involvement with the course if they had taken time to reflect on their goals and their strengths and weaknesses, especially at the beginning of study? Alan, whose reaction to the course was positive, for example, could have learned more about how the course succeeded if he had reflected rather more in the beginning about his initial scepticism and his preference for communicating verbally rather than in writing. What was the reason for his
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