Anthropological diagrams

One of the continuing challenges in my work is adapting my ethnographic findings and my anthropological analyses to the consulent format of choice: The Powerpoint slide.

Slides are infinitely better suited to gaudy visuals and photos, so often, the best to get an analytical point across is to compose a model or a diagram to illustrate it. I did a few of these for my thesis, but it’s not really something that I’ve been taught how to do at university. All I had to work with is how the anthropologists of old have done it. Luckily, Dori Tunstall recently blogged about a great collection of anthropological diagrams on Flickr.

Some of them are simple, others are complex. The best ones, I think, are the ones, which conveys complex ideas in a simple manner, such as these:

Kroebers trees

Evans-Pritchard's concentric circles of Nuer association

When a link to these diagrams were posted on the Anthrodesign-mailing list, it was soon followed up by references to Edward Tufte and his work in information aesthetics.

Where the anthropological diagrams focus on presenting complex ideas, Tufte focuses on presenting complex statistical information visually. There’s a good blog gathering examples of good uses of infosthetics.

Leave a Reply