cover systemic imageIn The Systemic Image - A New Theory of Interactive Real-Time Simulations, Inge Hinterwaldner considers not only the technical components of dynamic computer simulations but also the sensory aspects of the realization. Examining the optic, the acoustic, the tactile, and the sensorimotor impressions that interactive real-time simulations provide, she finds that iconicity plays a dominant yet unexpected role. 

The Systemic Image - A New Theory of Interactive Real-Time Simulations


Inge Hinterwaldner


 MIT Press

392 pages | 2017 | ISBN: 9780262035040


Reviewed By

Jeff Thurston

With continuous digital innovations, the growing imagery market is filled with new forms of graphical content. These include basic images, photographs, animations, virtual reality and mixed reality. Interactive visualizations are particularly interesting because they aim to interact with users and perceptions. Moreover, they are increasingly becoming more real-time oriented, with sensor technologies and other data creation tools playing a larger, influencial and often misunderstood role. All of these changes are new, and causing us to investigate, consider and research their effectiveness and usefulness.

Author Inge Hinterwaldner "explores the expressive possibilities that can be achieved under the condition of continuously calculated explicit changes. She distinguishes among four levels of forming: the systems perspective, as a process and schema that establishes the most general framework of simulations; the mathematical model, which marks off the boundaries of the simulation’s actualization; the iconization and its orientation toward the user; and interaction design, necessary for the full unfolding of the simulation."

This text opens with a debate between what, traditionally, has been viewed as pure form of visual simulation and those methods that contribute toward a less pure form of simulation. Process is stated in terms of a change of state. Systems refers to both clalculated process itself, as well as systems that perform simulation within systems. A mathematical based simulation is termed a theoretical simulation, while a computer based simulation is simply referred to as a computer simulation. Consequently, it is argued that computer based simulations only originate in binary formats, and are therefore functionally, at least, limited. As a result, for all those scientists wishinjg to abstract phenomenon, most will find it limiting and not adequately meeting their desired potentials. Programmers create many models, changing behaviours and creating different logical controls. No matter which way they turn, they are inherently embedded into a mathematical structure and form of expression.

Some representations from "live" applications, are not suitable to taking on representative forms. The ability to navigate throug representations, this book argues, is not particularly innovative. One expects different perspectives afterall. However, the ability to more and navigate, while generating new forms of perception or alternative interactive process within models, would be something new and innovative. There can be "spaces of interactions" or "interactive space." Rules play a prominent role in mathematical modeling, while jurisdiction and autonomy also offer a unique role in representations. As most of us know already, complex simulations draw upon more rules in an attempt to reach higher levels of realistic interaction. But mathematics does not seem capable of reaching the realistic levels that natural processes themselves present.

This text is constantly debating reality versus simulation. Just when we think we understand it, reasonably well, the author adds yet another piece into the discussion to cause readers to re-think, and dare I say, re-calibrate what we think is reality, process, systems and representations. It is this careful presentation that Hinterwaldner seems to provide that continually nudges readers forward toward thinking in a new way and with a different approach that gives rise to the title of this book. Our current thoughts are constantly challenged and impacted with new debate. 

She dives into the topic of communication itself, discussing what communication involves, how it is processed and perceived, while also suggesting that communication is a process that is designed, with both an understanding of process systems and the human interaction that can be achieved - at the same time - or during the process. The author asks, "how is simulation processuality manifest?

Simulation dynamics and sensorialization are discussed and the author describes how they relate to each other. Particular emphasis is placed on the dynamic nature of simulations the elements that contribute toward it's effective scope. This is becoming more important as LED technology has led toward greater use of visualizations and graphics in the advertising market and routing market that helps people to navigate through airports and so on. 

One quickly learns that the use of different techniques to engage and simulate reality is quickly growing, From surface form to shininess and relatedness, visual cues are constantly being changed, implemented and altered, toward the aim of engaging users with a higher level of interactivity and understanding about the things they see, and the environments they are within. Terms like building actions and situations, contemporalities, situationality, manifold variations, degrees of freedom, calculability and reaction omitted are included with descriptions provided. New approaches for creating higher levels of iconicity within computer simulations are also provided. We also learn about spatial versus temporal distancing. 

All in all, The Systemic Image - A New Theory of Interactive Real-Time Simulations is a genuine and original review of the current literature and methods for understanding simulation interactions. It provides a wealth of information, discussion and debate about raising the level of awareness on this topic, and also provides in-depth knowledge for understanding how simulation and process works. Many readers will find this work has pragmatic value for creating more useful interactions with their own work. Students will find this book transformative, helping them to understand who effective simulations are created - and used. The author has done an admirable job to raise awareness with this book, and to stimulate discussion and further investigation.