When visuals are boundary objects in system dynamics work


  • Accepted by Luis Luna-Reyes

Correspondence to: Laura J. Black, Montana State University, PO Box 173040, Bozeman, MT 59717-3040, U.S.A. E-mail: lblack@montana.edu


Using modeling representations as boundary objects provides an important aid to collective meaning-making. By understanding the construct of boundary objects, which arises from sociological studies of cross-boundary work, we can increase our effectiveness in using visual representations to facilitate shared understanding for joint action. This paper draws on theories of social construction, distributed cognition, and boundary objects to build the argument that visual representations provide the crucial pivot between the system dynamics modeling method and socially constructing shared meaning. I highlight the role of visuals particularly in the context of group model building because it provides an explicit occasion devoted to shared meaning-making through facilitated execution of the system dynamics method. Many system dynamicists use the model-building process and simulation analyses to socially construct shared understanding among people with differing domain expertise, and the theoretical principles and practical guidelines described here can usefully inform efforts beyond participatory modeling workshops. Copyright © 2013 System Dynamics Society