Communicating evolution with a Dynamic Evolutionary Map

Sonia H. Stephens (JCOM)

Metaphors and visualizations are important for science communication, though they may have limitations. This paper describes the development and evaluation of a novel interactive visualization, the “Dynamic Evolutionary Map”‘ (DEM), which communicates biological evolution using a non-standard metaphor. The DEM uses a map metaphor and interactivity to address conceptual limitations of traditional tree-based evolutionary representations. In a pilot evaluation biology novices used the DEM to answer questions about evolution. The results suggest that this visualization communicates some conceptual affordances differently than trees. Therefore, the described approach of building alternative visual metaphors for challenging concepts appears useful for science communication.

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