What We Do Not Know: Using Information Murals to Portray Scientific Ignorance, 2005

Horn, R. E., What We Don't Know: Using Information Murals to Portray Scientific Ignorance, Futures 2005

Increasingly, complex socio-technical public policy issues involve scientific uncertainty and even complete ignorance of phenomena. The lack of crisp description of uncertainties often leads to lack of trust by the general public, which in turn impedes solving serious public policy issues. One-sided ideas of “sound science” that do not carefully describe uncertainties and degrees of unknowns also confuse public discussion. They all increase the need for ways to understand and display what we don't know as well as what we do know.

Future studies are by definition about the unknown. We try to understand key features about possible futures with a variety of techniques from simulation to scenarios, forecasts to conjectures. Many of these methods attempt to say what might happen, but not how we will get to know what is unknown. Rarely are we content to simply say what we do not know. Rarely do we specify the paths to knowing more about unknowns. However, the approach to stating what we don't know is beginning to be explored through the creation of visual information murals.

This journal article describes the origin and creation of a new kind of information dispaly, the “unknowns map” (or depending on its size “unknowns mural.”) It is the first attempt to portray a large scale visualization of what we don't know.


1. To download the article (in PDF format) click here.

To view the mural which is used as an illustration:

2. Download by clicking here.
NOTE: This is a large PDF file. It may take a few minutes to download.

3. Open the mural in Adobe Acrobat Reader.
If you don't have Adobe Acrobat Reader, you can download the Adobe Acrobat Reader FREE.

Zoom. You can zoom to any part of this map by using the icon with the number and percent (125%) in the lower left hand corner of the Adobe Acrobat page and click the up arrow to zoom in and down arrow to zoom out.

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