The last lecture of Professor Poglia: the world in 6 dimensions

February 24, 2013

Last Thursday Professor Edo Poglia of the University of Lugano gave his Lezione di Commiato, which in English is usually called – with a more engaging title-  The Last Lecture.
In one hour he had the challenging talk of talking us through his life in research, having now reached the retiring age of 70.
The ideas, thoughts, findings and provocative statements flew at a very fast pace throughout the talk, engaging the audience with his pungent humor and clear  evidence based on hard data. The inputs for thoughts were many, intense, dense and surprising. The argumentation was clear and fast paced, so intense to leave at times the audience disconcerted in front of all that knowledge coming to the brain at such a high-speed that it was arduous to absorb.

Hi double background in Engineering and Sociology must have give him the impressively broad view on the different streams of research, which he illustrated through the metaphor of geological faults. He emphasised the need to observe social reality from different angles. For this reason he created a model, a schema of analysis, consisting of six dimensions:

He has used this schema since the 80s to drive his research, and the findings are impressive.
A summary of his work and of the talk is an impossible task, ranging from education, to migrants, to intercultural communication; I would just like to give a couple of examples.

For instance he investigated the values of students of different cultures and disciplines, to understand if differences in values are given more by culture of origin, or by the discipline.

In the picture below we can see that people belonging to the sector “industry and constructions” compared to the sector “communication and marketing” give very different answers regarding their “proximity” to different cultures. From the radar diagram we can readily see that communication students feel closed to all cultures, and in particular they feel much closer to the European, Anglo-Saxon and French culture.


In another studies he compared the attitude of Europeans (in yellow color) and Moroccan (in gray color) students: he found that liberty of expression is more relevant for Europeans, and that politics is not relevant for any of the two cultural groups, and even less for the Europeans.

In addition the will for self-realization (or self fulfilment) is much stronger for Europeans than for Moroccans.


In conclusion, the depth and breadth of Prof. Poglia research can be seen as a leading example for young researchers.
The visionary and impressively broad view of research of Professor Emeritus Poglia is certainly an inspiration for all of us.

Metaphors of culture: Kazakhstan

February 24, 2013

How can we describe the culture of a country?
The traditional approach is to use dimensions, and in particular Hofstede dimensions.

Yet there are several problems with this approach. For instance, how can we describe the culture of Kazakhstan,  a country with 17 million inhabitants and a territory of 2,727,300 square kilometres (larger than Western Europe)? Hofstede’s study doesn’t offer data for this country. And even if we know that it has a medium level of collectiving, high poer distance and high masculinity, what would we really know about the country?

Some researchers have proposed to use metaphors to describe cultures, including Gannon which proposes American Football for the American culture, the Symphnoy for German culture, and the Chinese family altat to describe Chinese culture. I thus always propose this exercise to my students, and results can be very surprising and insightful. As a result, this semester I even had a ‘visual’ metaphor of Kazakhstan, ideaded and drawn by Daniyar Davletbayev: the Wolf Pack.


Families and close friends act like a walf pack, always alert, scanning the territory, and defending the in-group.

From the metaphor you can get a feeling of the unsafety, suspicion and mistrust climate which are dominant in the country.

Economic complexity visualized in a treemap

February 10, 2013

The observatory of Economic complexity is a website created by MIT Media lab to display visually the economic complexity of countries.

You can compare infovis of exports of different countries to grasp the differences: my favourite is the treemap, a powerful information visualization technique invented by Ben Schneiderman and refined by his collaborators through the years.

Let’s see Switzerland:


Quite surprisingly the major export of Switzerland is gold! Followed by chemicals, medicaments and “human and animal blood”! Who would have guessed so?

And now let’s compare it to India:


India is also exporting precious jewellery. with a qucick look you can compare colours and the size of the rectangles to have an overview of the differnt sectors the two coutries specialize in. See the interactive version on the MIT website, and you can also trace change in time of coutries’ economic complexity.

PhD position at the University of St. Gallen: Diagramming in Management

February 4, 2013

A PhD position is open at the University of St. Gallen, institute of Media and Communications Management. The call is for a graduate student, fluent in German and English, interested in exploring the potential of Visualization and Diagrams in Management.

See the official call on the HSG website

“Am Lehrstuhl für Kommunikationsmanagement (Prof. Dr. Martin J. Eppler) der Universität St.Gallen wird zum 1. April 2013 eine

Assistenzstelle/Doktorandenstelle 70%
Arbeitsschwerpunkt: Dynagrams – Dynamic Diagramming in Management
Zur Verstärkung unseres interdisziplinär ausgerichteten Forschungsteams zur Rolle von interaktiven Diagrammen in Problemlösungsprozessen suchen wir eine engagierte Doktorandin /einen engagierten Doktoranden, der unser Team insbesondere im Forschungsbereich Wissensvisualisierung für Managementteams verstärkt.


  • Sehr guter Universitätsabschluss in Wirtschaftswissenschaften oder einer verwandten Fachrichtung wie Ingenieurwesen, Psychologie, (Wirtschafts-) Informatik oder Kommunikationswissenschaften mit Wirtschaftswissenschaften im Nebenfach (mindestens 5.0, entspricht 2.0 in Deutschland und Österreich)
  • Affinität zu interaktiver Visualisierung und Problemlösungs- und Planungs-diagrammen sowie Kenntnisse relevanter Entwicklungen in diesen Bereichen.
  • Bereitschaft zur Mitarbeit an interdisziplinären Forschungsprojekten mit internationalen Praxis-Partnern
  • Vorgängige Publikationstätigkeiten in Englisch sind von Vorteil
  • Gute Kenntnisse multivariater Analysemethoden. Idealerweise konnten Sie bereits Erfahrungen in der Bearbeitung quantitativer Fragestellungen sammeln. Zudem sollten Sie sicher im Umgang mit der gängigen Analysesoftware (SPSS) sein. Kenntnisse im Umgang mit Visualisierungssoftware sind von Vorteil.

Wir bieten:

  • Möglichkeit zur Promotion zum Dr. oec. / PhD an der Universität St.Gallen
  • Integration in den Forschungs- und Lehrbetrieb der Universität St.Gallen
  • Vielseitige und anspruchsvolle Tätigkeit mit intensiven Praxiskontakten
  • Ein gutes Umfeld für eine produktive Publikationsarbeit auf hohem Niveau

Haben wir Ihr Interesse geweckt? Bitte senden Sie Ihre Bewerbungsunterlagen (Lebenslauf, Zeugnisse, Motivationsschreiben, Referenzschreiben) per E- Mail an Gerne beantworten wir auch Ihre Fragen unter dieser Adresse.”

Visual thinking: why and how

February 2, 2013

A number of useful resources on visual thinking are collected at this link:

For an e-course on communicating visually see

Visual techniques can help academics

February 2, 2013

Visual mapping can help in organizing ideas, communicating clearly and planning the future. Academics can find visualization very useful for their work, in particular:

– for notetaking: i.e., with mindmapping or with the Cornell notes template – divide the page into 3 sections: keywords, notes and summary

– for mapping your audience (see example )

– for organizing the themes of your literature review in a matrix structure

-and finally for gettings things done by making your plans visible to everyone (i.e., sketching your goals on a whiteboard)

Thanks Sebastian for the references!

Visualizing migration and diversity data

February 2, 2013

The Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity is developing very interesting interactive visualizations to show migration patterns and other diversity related data.

They show global migration flows with innovative interactive visual techniques, which are dynamic – showing changes over time. It is also possible to compare two countries and analyze the gender breakdown. Visualizing data with these innovative visual perspectives provides impressive insights! Policy makes and politicians should look more often at the data, and so they will find the “diversification of diversity”. Data are provided by the World bank, United Nations and other global institutions.

You can experience their interactive software online and and make interesting discoveries. For instance in Switzerland one of the biggest immigration groups are Portuguese. Also the balance between immigration and emigration to/from Switzerland is not unsurprising. In Italy the largest group of immigrants are from Morocco, followed by Albanians.



Yet I think a white background could improve readability.

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