SIKS is the Dutch Research School for Information and Knowledge Systems. As an alumnus, I attended the annual "SIKS Day" in Utrecht on October 2. It's always a nice event to reconnect with my scientific peers and to keep in tune with state of the art research in my domain through the presentations given by SIKS members.
One presentation of particular interest to me was the one given by Wil van der Aalst on "Creating Better Information Systems with Process Mining". Process mining allows one to analyze business processes using event logs. What really struck a chord were Wil's ideas on visualizing workflow processes as a means for better understanding them. Most workflow modeling notations are abstract, based on standard control flow nodes and edges. In such "sterile" notations, all activities are modeled the same way.
However, for human beings to better understand often very complex realistic workflow logs or models and the business processes of which they are a part, additional cues are necessary. Geographical maps are a category of visualizations from which much could be learned about visualizing such processes. Such maps aggregate, leave out irrelevant details, and stress relevant aspects. How such geographical map properties could or should be transferred to the workflow domain is still an open question.
I am really intrigued by this idea, as I see many applications in my own field of communicative workflow modeling, such as studied in the Language/Action Perspective and Pragmatic Web research communities. Especially in collaborative communities, in which coordinated communication processes are key and ever changing, proper visualizations could be essential in better facilitating their evolution. Such "rich visualizations" should therefore become an essential element of effective methodologies for community communication systems development.