Lezing Wageningen

System dynamic mapping as a heuristic method

Lecture University Wageningen October 2010

“System dynamic mapping as a heuristic method”


Every science has developed a scientific method to do research. There is no doubt about this. In this lecture, attention is drawn to the possibilities of visual thinking and mapping as a possible helpful instrument in scientific thinking. Good research can’t be performed without lucid and distinct thinking, regular a discipline in philosophy. Systems theory and system dynamic thinking bring new instruments to design concepts and frameworks. It can complete the so called heuristic method: the theory in learning that every researcher would discover things for himself.


The lecture intends to introduce mind mapping as one of the approaches of visual thinking.

The other possibilities are design mapping, concept mapping and frame mapping (diagram 6, 8). These big four are useful in action research, the empirical cycle and the phenomenological cycle (diagram12).

The main question of this lecture is to show how to organize the different levels in visual thinking and mapping. The possibilities could be combined in a system dynamic approach, therefore we call it system dynamic mapping (diagram11), more than mind mapping or concept mapping. Mind mapping could be a start in a brainstorm session and concept mapping is more useful to reorganize theoretical knowledge. However, to create compatible models on several levels of mapping the researcher has to learn to construct a framework. A framework is a visual model based on visual thinking rules (diagram9).

Visual thinking uses an open (and a closed) system model, a cycle diagram with 2 axes and 4 quadrants that represents different positions and relations. Rules create possibilities to construct a system dynamic frame as a fractal iterative system. The researcher can order and structure practical (inductive) and theoretical (deductive) knowledge (diagram 2). This system dynamic framework gives the opportunity to explore the formulation of hypothesis in an inductive or deductive approach (diagram 3). The more you know, the more you need a system dynamic approach to reorganize complex information (4). Complex conceptual information can be restored in compatible visual open and closed system models. The goal is to do better research with a constructive approach.

The use of the diagrams

This lecture is visualized in 12 diagrams, they are based on analogous visual fields. Each diagram shows a part of the content of the lecture. Every position in the diagrams can be read as an explanation for the same position in any given diagram (fractal iterative system). Between the different positions in one field you can discover relations analogous to the relations between positions in other fields or diagrams. Each diagram contents a concept, analogous ordered in relation to other concepts. For better understanding we keep it simple, only the main things are explained.

The researcher starts with reading from one diagram to another, reading forward and backward. Within a diagram he is aware of the 4 quadrants as less or more complicated levels of mind mapping. If he is curious, firstly, he reads diagram number 11, where he finds a summary of the differences between the four forms of mapping in a system dynamic approach. Intense reading these diagrams is the beginning of the development of visual thinking. In diagram number 9 the meaning of the positions, the axes and the visual relations between the positions according several abstract rules can be found. This diagram is just an example and not a complete construct.

We wish researchers a pleasant introduction in visual thinking and system dynamic mapping.

Artes-Sophiae, Alfons Vandeursen.


The following 12 diagrams will lead you through the possibilities of visual thinking and mapping. All these diagrams are structured by the system dynamic approach of Artes-Sophiae. After studying the 12 diagrams, with diagram 11 as summary, you'll discover System dynamic mapping as a very usefull and practical instrument to perform better research.