Landkarten des Ungewissen/Maps of uncertainty
The moderate success of scientific models and explanations of crises and disasters are often cause for dissatisfaction, blame, helplessness and fatalism towards these extreme events. A more recent example is the disaster at the Duisburg Love Parade, where despite previous simulation by a recognized researcher insufficient safety precautions have been taken. It is not surprising that the models were perceived as useless and resulted in doubt as to the competence and reliability of the scientist in question and his discipline as a whole. In this case, the mismatch between simulation and reality is easy to explain: not only were possibly poorly-assessed parameters on the number of expected visitors used, the models used in the simulation of masses (actor-based similar to liquid physics) which patterned human behaviour in the way in which event then occurred (scaling and tumbling from ladders), didn’t match up. This is also a communication problem: in advance, only the fact that the behaviour was modelled was communicated, meaning lots of things weren’t called to attention.
This project Landkarten des Ungewissen aims at the development and communication of concise visualizations of the unknown or gaps in current knowledge on extreme events, to illustrate the limitations of existing scientific knowledge in the field of extreme events and to promote a public debate on how to deal with ignorance. Awareness of the current limits of scientific analyses and explanations should strengthen confidence in the system of scientific statements on extreme events in the long term. It wants to explore limitations and gaps of the current state of knowledge on extreme events as a counterweight to the existing scientific communication and simultaneously map the sea of ignorance. This is specifically not about detecting new research questions, but rather to convey the inherent blind spots of the disciplines and the limitations and controversies of models and explanations and predictions. This knowledge, which is otherwise only known and available in scientific disciplines themselves, will be made available to a wider public. It can therefore help to avoid false expectations in science and lead to a concrete discussion of research gaps and the need for further research fields.
In this project visual representations or infographics, i.e. maps,
will serve as an easily accessible means of communication. These maps
will illustrate in clear images, what is known for specific extreme
event types throughout the sciences, and what not.