by Juan C. DŁrsteler @ infovis.net

Global simulation games do not abound in the Internet. Logicaland uses a simple yet very effective visualisation.

Logicaland, that is written as [./logicaland], is an interesting collaborative global simulation game that I was aware of thanks to Carlos Scolari, from Ars Media in Italy.

Logicaland: Snapshot of the screen in World Map mode. Every country is represented by a square which area is proportional to the value of the represented magnitude, in this case the income per capita. Click on the image to enlarge it.

Ok, but whatís a collaborative global simulation game? Simply put, itís an interactive game that simulates the way the planet behaves in terms of economy, society, politics, environment and demography in which every one in the world with an Internet connection can participate with the only limitation of contributing once per day to the simulation.

The game is based on a model developed in the 70ís by Fred Kile and Arnold Rabehl in the University of Wisconsin, USA. This model is just a computer program that simulates the world in a broad sense, encompassing the whole planet geography and setting a series of links between the above mentioned aspects like economy, politics, etc.

The goal is to improve the understanding of the processes that model the world situation and to study the possibility of sustainable growth. (For more information see for example geni.org)

In the game all the users have an equivalent and minimal influence, since they can only make a daily contribution to the model. Each contribution is made up of the definition of a set of parameters for one or more countries.

Among them you can find investment distribution in high technology, industry, agriculture or other goals, the % of food surplus devoted to development aid or the % of utilities surplus that will be provided as development aid. With all this data the program recalculates the model and does so for each contribution.

The interesting thing is that for the data entry and for the visualisation of the vast amount of information of the model (all the countries with 10 parameters each, including the gross national product, education, energy consumption, etc) a very elegant yet intuitive visualisation system is used.

You can select one among three types of visualisation for each one of the 10 parameters.

  • World map, an abstract map where each country is depicted by a square proportional in area to the magnitude of the parameter in question, centred in its geographic location.
  • Bar chart: as its name indicates, the classical bar chart.
  • North & South: a chart where the balance or unbalance between the northern and southern hemisphere countries is shown by means of a tilted plane for the reference parameter. Each country is represented by a small, fixed size, square that when hovered by the mouse, shows you the value of the parameter.

Each visualisation includes a bar that indicates the year we are considering (in the game each day is a full year, when Iím writing this article Logicaland is in 2048). By moving the cursor we can see how all the countries change as time goes by. The system extrapolates the values towards the future as well.

Specially revealing to me is the North & South visualisation, since the idea of associating the balance or unbalance to a tilted plane rotating on an axis that coincides with the equator is a powerful metaphor that summarises a vast amount of information of a large sample of countries.

Logicaland: Snapshot of the screen in North & South mode.

Every country is represented by a fixed area square placed in its geographic location

The angle of the plane is proportional to the magnitude of the values placed in each half. The rotation axis is in the equator

In this case the variable is te income per capita, clearly unbalanced in favour of the northern countries.

Click on the image to enlarge it.

Logicaland evolves at the pace of the contributions and, hence, of the opinions and wishes (be them explicit or not) of anonymous contributors.

Looking at the dramatical persistence of the North-South unbalance in so many parameters I wonder if this is the product of structural and historical factors that weighs down the south, or the result of the modelís idiosyncrasy or, most probably, of what we believe or we want to believe that our future will be.

Maybe if there were more Internet connections in the south the model of Logicaland would show another balance?. I donít know. In any case Logicaland has a powerful visualisation system for it is very simple, elegant and devastatingly intuitive.

Logicaland is a prototype but it intends on becoming a worldwide social game.

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